Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Hannah Hoch was a prominent female artist within the Dada movement in Germany after WWI.  Her photomontage “Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany” reflected her views of the political and social issues that arose during this transitional time in German society. The long drawn out war that had focused the countries attention for so long was lost and Germany was left in a state of political chaos. There was a clash between the old Weimar government and the uprising of a new left-wing communist party called the Spartasists. Hoch’s title for this piece illustrates her critique of the “bloated and heavy handed” nature of the male dominated Weimer republic and German military. She chooses to give specifications, such as kitchen knife and beer-belly, to make it clear that this piece is social commentary regarding gender issues in post-war Germany. The Dada movement wished to critically examine German culture by not glossing over the negative aspects, but rather accentuating them. Hoch cut out pieces of images and text found in magazines, advertisements, newspapers and journals. She carefully pieced all these clippings back together in a way that made sense to her and as she felt appropriately served her purpose of critical examination.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 1

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Known for her incisively political collage and photomontage works, Dada artist Hannah Höch appropriated and rearranged images and text from the mass media to critique the failings of the Weimar German Government. Höch drew inspiration from the collage work of Pablo Picasso and fellow Dada exponent Kurt Schwitters, and her own compositions share with those artists a similarly dynamic and layered style. Höch preferred metaphoric imagery to the more direct, text-based confrontational approach of her contemporary John Heartfield, whose work she found “tendentious.” She rejected the German government, but often focused her criticism more narrowly on gender issues, and is recognized as a pioneering feminist artist for works such as Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl), , an evocative visual reaction to the birth of industrial advertising and ideals of beauty it furthered. Höch was, for a period of time, the partner of Dada artist Raoul Haussman.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 2

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Known for her incisively political collage and photomontage works, Dada artist Hannah Höch appropriated and rearranged images and text from the mass media to critique the failings of the Weimar German Government. Höch drew inspiration from the collage work of Pablo Picasso and fellow Dada exponent Kurt Schwitters, and her own compositions share with those artists a similarly dynamic and layered style. Höch preferred metaphoric imagery to the more direct, text-based confrontational approach of her contemporary John Heartfield, whose work she found “tendentious.” She rejected the German government, but often focused her criticism more narrowly on gender issues, and is recognized as a pioneering feminist artist for works such as Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl), , an evocative visual reaction to the birth of industrial advertising and ideals of beauty it furthered. Höch was, for a period of time, the partner of Dada artist Raoul Haussman. German, 1889-1978, Gotha, Germany, based in Berlin, Germany
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 3

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Hannah Höch was born Anna Therese Johanne Höch in Gotha, Germany. Although she attended school, domesticity took precedence in the Höch household. In 1904, Höch was taken out of the Höhere Töchterschule in Gotha to care for her youngest sibling, Marianne. In 1912 she began classes at the School of Applied Arts in Berlin under the guidance of glass designer Harold Bergen. She had chosen the curriculum in glass design and graphic arts, rather than fine arts, to please her father.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 4

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Dada as a movement was inherently political in nature. Dada artists often used political satires to address the issues of the time. They attempted to push art to the limits of humanity and to convey the chaos in post-war (World War I, which did not yet have this title) Germany. “Many of Höch’s overtly political photomontages caricatured the pretended socialism of the new republic and linked female liberation with leftist political revolution” (Lavin). Perhaps Höch’s most well known piece Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Beer-Belly of the Weimar Republic symbolizes her cutting through the patriarchal society. The piece is a direct criticism of the failed attempt at democracy imposed by the Weimar Republic. Cut with the Kitchen Knife is “an explosive agglomeration of cut-up images, bang in the middle of the most well-known photograph of the seminal First International Dada Fair in 1920” (Hudson). This photomontage is an excellent example of a piece that combines these three central themes in Höch’s works: androgyny, the “New Woman” and political discourse. It combines images of political leaders with sports stars, mechanized images of the city, and Dada artists.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 5

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Hoch leaves a clue in the bottom-right corner of the piece; a map showing countries in Europe at this time where women were allowed to vote. This clue reminds the viewer of her interest in pointing out gender issues and inequality within the Dada/art world, but also within society as a whole. Hoch uses gender in “Cut with the Kitchen Knife…” to play games with the viewers perception, and create juxtaposing and sometimes confusing messages. She couples the heads of prominent male political figures with the bodies of female dancers and showgirls to emasculate them and strip them of their power.   “Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany” gained Hoch a lot of attention, and is to this day considered one of her most popular pieces. The photomontage symbolizes the piecing together of German society after WWI, and the social, political and even artistic hypocrisies that existed in this era.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 6

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Höch was the lone woman among the Berlin Dada group, although Sophie Täuber, Beatrice Wood, and Baroness Else von Freytag-Loringhoven were also important, if overlooked, Dada figures. Höch references the hypocrisy of the Berlin Dada group and German society as a whole in her photomontage, Da-Dandy. Höch also wrote about the hypocrisy of men in the Dada movement in her short essay “The Painter”, published in 1920, in which she portrays a modern couple that embraces gender equality in their relationship, a novel and shocking concept for the time. This is an example of how Höch was able to transcend one particular medium and convey her social ideals in many forms.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 7

Hannah Hoch Cut With The Kitchen Knife

Artwork description & Analysis: Lebensbild or Life Portrait is Höch’s last work, and a fitting end to her career. It is a photomontage containing multiple images of the artist herself, always sporting her characteristic severely bobbed hair, which made her an emblem of the “New Woman” in her youth. In this unusual self-portrait of sorts, she revisits several themes that she had explored over the course of her career, including fashion templates and patterns, African sculpture and decontextualized images from newspapers. She also makes use of imagery that concerned her later in her life, such as that especially of nature, of plants and animals.The piece acts as a meditation on Höch’s position as an artist, and how that changed over the course of her lifetime. It asks questions about the nature of spectacle and imagery, and particularly how that relates to both art and women, whom Höch is able to view through the same lens. This example of her extreme self-portraiture here presages that of other women artists who developed elaborate projects of self-photography, such as those by Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke.
hannah hoch cut with the kitchen knife 8

Artwork description & Analysis: Heads of State is built around a newspaper photograph of the German president Friedrich Ebert and his Minister of Defense, Gustav Noske. Having carefully cut the men out, Höch proceeded to create a composition with characteristically disjunctive and unexpected outcomes. The two statesmen look decidedly foolish out of context in their bathing suits, and Höch places them against a background of an iron-on embroidery pattern of flowers and butterflies surrounding a woman. At this point, in time she was still working for magazines designing similar patterns, and this work is testament to her ability to converge her disparate experiences to create new and striking images.The effect is deliberately comical, but it also sends a powerful message. The President and his minister, who had recently and ruthlessly put down the Spartacist Rebellion, are presented frolicking in a whimsical fantasy land, as if they are unaware of the intense hardships and political and financial problems being faced by Germany and its citizens during this period.The embroidery-pattern background alludes to a source of income and occupation for many German women at this time, including Höch herself, and serves to contrast the role of women with that of men. The collage is arranged so that it looks like the two figures have been caught in the net of the embroidery pattern, and it positions these paunchy heads of state as worthy of ridicule in the process of stripping them of their usual trappings of masculinity. At the same time, the composition attacks the patriarchy and questions the arbitrary values projected onto different art forms by society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *