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books

UP THE ANTI

Hannah Höch, Dada Tanz (Dada Dance), 1922, collage on paper, 12 5/8 × 9 1/8". © Hannah Höch/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Germany.

Dada: Art and Anti-Art, by Hans Richter, introduced and annotated by Michael White. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016. 376 pages.

IN HIS INTRODUCTION to Dada: Art and Anti-Art (1964), a book that fifty years later still frames much of our understanding of the movement, Hans Richter claims that without a few vigilant ants among the “carefree grasshoppers” who constituted most of Dada’s main characters, proof of its uninhibited provocations might not exist. Richter’s allusion to the classic fable suggests at least some respect for the diligent ants, and perhaps even—contra Aesop—a rapprochement between the two. His second mention of the fable, however, makes it clear just how tiresome he finds the ants to be. With a patronizing dismissal of Hannah Höch as a “little girl,” Richter deigns to give her the role of preservationist of Berlin Dada: “She is the indispensable ant, and

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