Hannah Hoch...Dada

Hannah Hoch...Dada 

Hannah Hoch,
Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar-Beer
Belly of the Cultural Epoch of Germany, 1919
Form: Collage, photomontage. Photomontage is a process by which a direct print is made from objects placed directly on photographic plates. It is also a type of collage because of the way that objects are placed together, overlapping, and creating interesting and unusual juxtapositions of objects and text. Collage was used extensively by DaDaists because of the way it allowed them to escape the confines of traditional figure painting methods, and in doing so help to reinforce their stance as 'anti-art.' Hoch had spent time working at Ullstein Press, a publishing company that printed womens magazines, and so had an unlimited supply of photographic source material.Iconography: Hoch was interested not just in politics, but in women's roles in both society and the world of art. In the title she refers to a 'kitchen knife', which, in her time frame, was primarily a tool used by the woman of the home when preparing meals. For her, a knife was also an instrument of creativity, as it can be the blade used for slicing images out of magazines or photographs. By pointing out that it was a kitchen knife being used, she imbued the knife with a connotation of female gender, making a statement that she was a woman and was just as capable of making an artistic statement about the world she lived in as the male DaDaists. There are repeating themes of wheels, cogs and bearings, which may have been in reference to industry and/or the ongoing war. The figurative images she used fluctuate between stern faced officials, and the heads of men placed on dancing ballerina bodies, showing an obvious disdain for 'authority' figures. The repeating text deals mainly with stating 'DaDa', or conversely, 'anti-Dada', perhaps in reference to the feelings of the time of  'art'  vs. 'anti-art'. In following with the tenets of DaDa as being nonsensical and purporting to not mean anything, the potential political seriousness of this work is offset by the whimsical, charming nature of the dancing figures and irreverent juxtapositions of people and objects in relation to one another. In being serious she also shows that she refuses to take herself too seriously, which may fully sum up what the DaDaists ultimately wished to achieve, nonsense.
Context: World War I was the historical precedent that brought about the cultural and artistic movement known collectively as DaDa. Many european nations were affected by the harsh realities of this war, and the artists who were livng in these countries felt that their world no longer made sense. This caused a shift in their thinking about the work they had been creating, and in response they decided that if their world was no longer going to make sense, then their art wouldn't either. In this work, Hannah Hoch is making a statement about the cultural upheaval happening in Germany during this time period. The Weimar Republic is
the place in germany ran by a Friedrich Ebert during World War I, and one of the places where Bauhaus found it's roots. Ebert both supported the war and had been involved in his early years with trade unionism. He was also eventually convicted after the war of having committed high treason, and towards the end of his run as president of the Weimar Republic had fallen out of favor with the same people whom had voted him into office. 


Hannah Hoch, The Beautiful Woman.1919
Form: Collage, photomontage. Photomontage is a process by which a direct print is made from objects placed directly on photographic plates. It is also a type of collage because of the way that objects are placed together, overlapping, and creating interesting and unusual juxtapositions of objects and text. Collage was used extensively by DaDaists because of the way it allowed them to escape the confines of traditional figure painting methods, and in doing so help to reinforce their stance as 'anti-art.' (same as above.)Iconography: Hoch is again dealing with objects of modernity and industrial society. She gives us a wheel, a BMW insignia, a watch, machinery, and the woman herself, whose head has ben replaced by a light bulb. Involved with the ideas and hardships of being a female artist, it has been suggested that she was interested in an overall critique of a womans place in society. The woman is wearing a bathing suit, and has a teased up, feminine 'bouffant' hairstyle, both modern indicators of female beauty. However, with a lightbulb for a head, the viewer is left to wonder if the artifice of what is considered beautiful has left the woman any time to make her mind as beautiful as her outward facade. The face of a woman peers out from behind the pile of insignias and machinery, perhaps as a reminder that while modernity and the luxuries it may afford a woman of the time may seem tempting, it is important that she not lose her head, so to speak. There is also the disquiteing figure of a boxer leaning through the tire, placed so that he appears to be looking at the seated woman. It is as aggresively masculine as the woman portrayed is passively feminine. Hoch may be underscoring the idea that by making oneself so involved with a male ideal of female beauty, one is also making themselves fit a role where they do not have the upper hand.
Context: Put into the context of our times, Hannah Hoch would be called a feminist. As a woman, she was very interested in what changes the war was bringing to the societal structure of Germany and the roles women played within that structure. She felt, and perhaps rightly so, that women were not put on an equal basis with men. Being a female artist associated with a group of artists that was comprised mostly of men, she had to work very hard to get her work noticed and have her voice heard.


Hannah Hoch. Scenes from the Ethnographic Museum. 1930's
Form: Collage, photomontage. Photomontage is a process by which a direct print is made from objects placed directly on photographic plates. It is also a type of collage because of the way that objects are placed together, overlapping, and creating interesting and unusual juxtapositions of objects and text. Collage was used extensively by DaDaists because of the way it allowed them to escape the confines of traditional figure painting methods, and in doing so help to reinforce their stance as 'anti-art.' (same as above.)Iconography: These two works are juxtaposing the female face and figure with ethnic or 'primitive' imagery. Though we are aware in our times of the inherent craftsmanship and artistry in the types of ethnographic work Hoch used in these pieces, at this time in Germany they were representative of primitiveness or savagery. It has been suggested by some art historians that Hoch was commenting on how slowly modern German culture allowed women to progress and become as equals to the men. Hence, modern women were still stuck in the primitive age.
Context: According to the online magazine Zabtuze, which deals with art and cultural imagery, these works, and especially "Indian Female Dancer" may be summed up in context as follows, " Germany after the first world war experienced a new form of government, backed by American money. Moving away from imperialism to capitalism opened the door for rapid industrialization and consumerism's. This created an explosion in two areas: first a rapid growth in mass media and, second, a dramatic redefinition of the social roles of women. In response to this new culture a group of Berlin artists called the Dada Painters questioned the political situation and social ramifications amid the disillusionment of war and a dying imperialist government. Through a juxtapositioning of embracing modernism and criticizing modernism they reflected the hopes and fears of a new society. Within this framework Hannah Hoch created a remarkable group of photomontages. Taking photographs from magazines such as Biz, form whom she worked, she juxtapositioned the modern German-woman with the colonial German woman. In doing so she challenged cultural representations of women raising questions regarding women's sexuality as well as their gender role in this new society. Through her images Hoch creates an unsettling view as she addresses the fears, and hopes for new possibilities for the modern German women."


Form: Poetry, performance art. Poetry was just one of the many ways that the DaDaists chose t express themselves. In the same way that they discarded the craft of figurative and other accepted forms of painting for their photomontages, the DaDaists rejected the structured prose and meaningful lyricism of accepted forms of poetry, and instead focused on the sounds of the parts of words, and their patterns of speaking. In defining DaDa, some of the artists have said, "DaDa is beautiful like the night, who cradles the young day in her arms." - Hans Arp   "DADA speaks with you, it is everything, it envelops everything, it belongs to every religion, can be neither victory or defeat, it lives in space and not in time."  Francis Picabia.  "Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police." - Richard Huelsenbeck 
To read more DaDa poems, go to ; "According to Hugo Ball, inventor of dadaist phonetic poetry, we must withdraw into the deepest alchemy of words, reserving to poetry its most sacred ground" Ball recited this 'nonsense' poem at the Cafe Voltaire in Zurich, " his "Verses without words" (were) based on the equilibrium of vowels, regulated and distributed exclusively in relation to the phonic value of the initial line. Clothed in azure, scarlet and golden cardboard, with a cylindrical shaman's hat on his head - it
is Ball's own description - "I began with:*" 
Happenings, or performance art, was simply another way for the Dadaists to communicate their 'anti-art'. Though we are aware of performance art in the context of how we live in modern times, it must be remebered that in 1917 this was a rare sight. It is interesting to note that though the art is not supposed to 'mean' anything, Ball was extremely aware of each sound and vowel in relation to the next, and the poem itself is quite structured. What made it nonsense, more than anything else, was his choice of attire while performing it.
Context: "Hugo Ball was born at Pirmasens in the Rhineland in 1886 into a family of practising Catholics. His father was a leather dealer and had to maintain six children, all well versed in music. "In our family", Hugo Ball recalled, "one played music more than one talked". As a young boy he was influenced by a mystical sister of his mother who later entered a convent. After finishing secondary school he entered the tanning trade but studied philosophy, history and art at night. After he had suffered a serious nervous breakdown, his parents, on the doctor's advice, sent him to continue his studies at the university, studies which were never completed because, while a student at Munich, he met Max Reinhardt, the well-known director, after which he entered the theatrical profession. First Reinhardt's assistant, he became the director of the M√ľnchener Kammerspiel, which owes him its name, and he published two theatrical works. He was tall and thin, with long legs, a thin neck and an ascetic air. At Munich he met Emmy Hernnings, poet and reciter at the Cabaret Simplicissimus, who became his comanion and, after his death, dedicated her life to is memory and published his works. At the beginning of the First World War, Hugo Hall, influenced by patriotic propaganda, joined the army as a volunteer, But, after the invasion of Belgium, was disillusioned and soon rebelled: "The war is founded on a glaring mistake, he wrote, men have been confused with machines". The discovery of Bakunin helped him to see reality in a different light: his intuitive thought turned against the world.Considered a traitor in his country, he crossed the frontier with his wife and settled in Zurich, where at first the couple lived in a state of great misery. His dadaist adventure lasted only two years, after which this man who was at the same time anarchist, ascetic and buffoon withdrew from the world and became profoundly mystical. He died at Sant'Abbondio, Switzerland, in 1927."

Theatre of the Absurd
Scene from "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett.
Directed by Roger Blin. Theatre de Babylone, Paris, 1952.
Form: A play written by Samuel Beckett, in the style of the 'Theatre of the Absurd" 
 "Absurdism is an idea commonly associated with existentialism. Beginning in the 19th century, mainly through the influence of Soren Kierkegaard, religion was often described as absurd because it could not be justified on rational principles; rather, it was considered as based on what Kierkegaard called "a leap of faith." In their discussions of consciousness, Martin Heidegger and
Jean Paul Sartre described the human consciousness as facing an apparently absurd world--absurd because it finds itself at the crossroads of Being and Nothingness, baffled by the meaninglessness of the human condition..." --by Karl BecksonIconography: In this play, the two main characers, Estagon and Vladimir meet up at the tree and are waiting for something to alleviate their boredom as they wait for Godot to arrive. As they wait they engage each other in meaninigless, non-related chit-chat. Two others, Pozzo and Lucky show up, and the chit-chat now cotinues with two others in the scene. Over the course of the the two acts, the idle chatter ranges from eating chicken to hanging oneself from a tree, in essence, from one extreme to the next. They want to leave, but can't, they have to wait for Godot. A boy who has been sent by Godot comes to check with them, leaves, and when he returns the next day doesn't remember having met either Estragon nor Vladimir. Again, they want to leave, but cannot since they have to wait for Godot. They play is absurd, and banal, as everyday mundane life is, but Beckett wanted to make a clear statement about this meaninglessness of life, of how everyone waits for something that may never show up.
Context: "The Theater of the Absurd refers to tendencies in dramatic literature that emerged in Paris during the late 1940s and early '50s in the plays of Arthur Adamov, Fernando Arrabal, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, and Jean Tardieu. Its roots can be found in the allegorical morality plays of the Middle Ages and the autos sacramentales (allegorical religious dramas) of baroque Spain; the nonsense literature of writers like Lewis Carroll; the dream plays of Strindberg and the dream novels of James Joyce and Franz Kafka, the grotesque drama of Alfred Jarry; and the frantic farces of Georges Feydeau. Its direct forerunners were the Dada movement and the surrealism of the 1920s and '30s. One of its most potent theoretical sources was The Theater and Its Double (1938; Eng. trans., 1958) by Antonin Artaud. The term theater of the absurd derives from the philosophical use of the word absurd by such existentialist thinkers as Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. Camus, particularly, argued that humanity had to resign itself to recognizing that a fully satisfying rational explanation of the universe was beyond its reach; in that sense, the world must ultimately be seen as absurd.
The playwrights loosely grouped under the label of the absurd endeavor to convey their sense of bewilderment, anxiety, and wonder in the face of an inexplicable universe. They rely heavily on poetic metaphor as a means of projecting outward their innermost states of mind. Hence, the images of the theater of the absurd tend to assume the quality of fantasy, dream, and nightmare; they do not so much portray the outward appearance of reality as the playwright's emotional perception of an inner reality. Thus Beckett's Happy Days (1961) expresses a generalized human anxiety about the approach of death through the concrete image of a woman sunk waist-deep in the ground in the first act and neck-deep in the second; and Ionesco's Rhinoceros (1960; Eng.
 trans., 1960) demonstrates the playwright's anxiety about the spread of inhuman totalitarian tendencies in society by showing the population of a city turning into savage pachyderms.
 Writers outside France who show the influence of the theater of the absurd include Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard in England; Gunter Grass and Peter Weiss in Germany; Edward Albee, Israel Horovitz, and Sam Shepard in the United States; and the Czech playwright-turned-statesman Vaclav Havel." --Martin Esslin


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