Modern Artist or Visual Politician? – Dada (part 4)

Analysis of ‘Dada Ernst’ by Hannah Höch


Höch, Hannah. Dada-Ernst. 1920. Photomontage. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.[1]

In my blog post, ‘Modern Artist or Visual Politician- Dada (part 2)’, I discussed how an artist is able to adapt similar characteristics to that of a politician when cultivating a piece of political artwork that evokes the audience to question the society they live in and the people they entrust the role of leadership to. This is evident in Hannah Höch’s photomontage ‘Dada-Ernst’. Like a politician Höch analyses her environment and transfers the flaws that she observes onto the canvas, thus creating the physical manifestation of her ‘campaign’. Through the medium of photomontage Höch is able to generate a visual message that the public can relate to, as it is consistent with their surroundings.

‘Dada-Ernst’ portrays the two contradictory roles that women were cast in Weimar society.[2] In post-WW1 Germany women were expected to work and the ‘new woman’ was idolised as being independent. However, the mass media was simultaneously promoting romanticised and sexualised images of the ‘ideal woman’. To highlight these two juxtaposing depictions[3] Höch incorporates the two portrayals of women, taken directly from images she had cut from magazines and newspapers. In the bottom left-had corner of ‘Dada-Ernst’ a squatting gymnast can be found, representing the active woman who strives for her goals through hard work and determination.[4] The woman is crouching, like a frog, which is not the traditional, feminine pose you would anticipate a woman to be depicted in. However, the woman found above the crouching woman portrays the traditional romanticised nude found throughout art history; thus creating disparity between the two juxtapositions. Höch is speaking out against; as the title references, the serious misrepresentation of women in Weimar society.

Höch is able to build a strong campaign through both her use of evidence and focalisation. The medium of photomontage is key to Höch’s campaign as it makes it both relatable and convincing. By providing the public with visual evidence of the misrepresentation of women; taking images from public forms of mass media, Höch is able to draw the public’s eye to the flaw she is campaigning against; misrepresentation of women, while using a visual form that cannot be dismissed as being misleading. The figures have been cut straight from the commercial everyday and therefore, unlike when phrasing a sentence, cannot be labelled as being ambiguous or false. Höch has taken the phrase ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ to heart, and delivers the evidence in the visual form so the viewer is forced to confront the romanticised ideal woman. Therefore, Höch’s title could arguably be changed from ‘Modern Artist’ to ‘Visual Politician’ as she has successfully cultivated her campaign and provided a solution for her critique. This sets Höch apart from the modern artist who simply produces artwork that it politically based. The latter, if labelled differently would be called a social critic as they solely analyse society and highlight the flaws. However, they lack the support of a solution for these ills. Like Haussmann’s ‘Dada Siegt’ their message is too broad to focalize on a single solution, and in turn leaves them undeserving of the name ‘Visual Politician’, as they do not meet the criteria needed for the title.

In ‘Modern Artist or Visual Politician- Dada (part 5)’ I will be discussing another one of Höch’s works, which is not only famous for its political narrative but also for its incredibly long name of ‘Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany’.

[1] “Hannah Hoch Dada-Ernst 1920-21”. Dada Portraits. N.p., 2012. Web. 16 August. 2016.

[2] Dillon, Brian. “Hannah Höch: Art’s Original Punk”. the Guardian. N.p.,2014. Web. 13 August 2016

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

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