Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hannah Höch - Feminist Artist

Hannah Höch was one of the few women who participated in the Dada movement that happened in Berlin. She was the only female artist to show at the First International Dada fair in 1920. (Printz, 2010) "...one of Höch's primary preoccupations was the representation of the 'new woman' of the Weimar Republic, whose social role and person identity were in a complex process of redefinition in the postwar period. ... Juxtaposing photographs and text to both endorse and critique existing mass-media representations, Höch parodied elements bourgeois living and morals and also probed the new, unstable definitions of femininity that were so widespread in postwar media culture." (Dickerman, 2005)

For some reason, I've always been drawn to the Dada artists. I love the 1920s era and I love the absurdity of the Dada artists. They were anti-art, but yet they created an art movement. Höch was one of the artists who perfected the photomontage. I love looking at her pieces because there is so much to look at. You could spend a good amount of time looking at every aspect of one of her photomontages.

The piece on the right is titled Cut With the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany.(1919-1920) It's hard to see anything with the picture being so small, so click on the link to see a bigger version.
Strewn throughout the piece are sayings about the Dada movement that have been cut and pasted from newspaper articles. One says, roughly, "He he, the young man / Dada is no art movement" and "the anti Dada." The photos she's put together are some of a woman's body with a man's head, a dancer who's head has been removed and put into her arms, a woman who's face has been cut out, and so forth. She really likes to remove other people's heads and place them on different bodies. This is an example of how closely you must look at one of her photomontages to see everything she's done.

The next image on the right is called DADA-Dance. (1919-1921) Chadwick states: "Höch's DADA-Dance juxtaposes machine parts with a female dancer and a model who is elegantly dressed and posed but whose head has been replaced by that of a black. Violent distortions of scale and a rejection of conventionalized femininity undermined the commodification of the idealized female body and its relationship to mass-produced goods." (Chadwick, 2007)
This idea of challenging the view of the idealized female body seems ever present in Höch's work. This seems to fit with the ideas of the 1920s. Women were become, really, more free. You had the flappers and women expressing their sexuality more freely. You also have the industrial age starting too, so this feeling of the 'mass-produced goods' is very present in her work as well. She's using images taken from newspapers or magizenes to make her work, which are, of course, mass-produced. You can also easily make the connection from Höch and the photomontagists to Warhol and the Pop Artists as well.

One major drawback for me with the Dadaists is the language barrier. If you don't know German or French, then you're not going to get the satire in the piece. Höch incorporates so much text into her pieces, I see it as an important part of understanding her message. The piece on the right, Proverbs to Live By (1922), I really wish I could understand what she's written on it.
But even despite this, I still love the Dadaists. I think that they're such a unique movement with so much to say. If only I could understand it...

Chadwick, Whitney. Women, Art, and Society. 4th. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson World of Art, 2007. 270-271. Print.

Dickerman, Leah. DADA. New York, NY: National Gallery of Art, Washington and D.A.P. Inc, 2005. 90-93, 474-475. Print.

Printz, Ali. "The Dada Movement." Dada and Dadaism: Berlin. Dadart, 20 Apr 2010. Web. 20 Apr 2010. http://www.dadart.com/dadaism/dada/022-dada-berlin.html.

1 comment:

  1. Hannah was a genius. The artistic equivalent of Gertrude Stein. Both were trail-blazing women of their time. What we have today are placid imitators ... pretenders to their unoccupied thrones. Looking around, gallery to gallery to gallery ... it's the shock of the missing ... the notion that modern writers and artists are as bereft of inspiration as the Hirst and Koons concubines. We wait patiently for the new daughters to appear over the horizon. Hopefully, not in vain.