On the cold night of 23 January 1917, a group of bohemian performers and actors, including the avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), broke into the Washington Arch, located in Washington Square in Greenwich Village, lower Manhattan, New York. This group, who would be named by the artist and participant John Sloan as the ‘Arch Conspirators’, ascended the internal staircase of the monument, which was built in 1892 to mark the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration. Atop the arch, this collective began celebrating their proclamation of a ‘Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square’.1 As cap guns were fired, lanterns lit and hot water bottles distributed, the group announced their declaration of autonomy, a document composed entirely of the word ‘whereas’. This nonconformist venture went largely unnoticed by the residents of Washington Square, let alone the rest of the city. However, the gesture was not without meaning; the area of Greenwich Village was the home to an alternative society, not just in the performers and political radicals that inhabited the lower-cost housing, but also to the immigrant communities that had settled in New York over the preceding century.2 In this context, Greenwich Village represented the city of New York in direct contrast to the wider continental United States; an island of ‘another America’ where expressions of place, belonging, identity and citizenship were far more fluid. This declaration must also be regarded in the context of the war that was at that moment raging on the battlefields of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In a conflict fought for the preservation of the independent rights of small nations, a cause to which Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, would pledge his country’s full support, the statement of a small group of artists and intellectuals can be seen to be reflective of the causes of the First World War.