Modern Artist or Visual Politician?- Dada (part 5)

Analysis of ‘Cut with the kitchen knife Dada through the last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany’ by Hannah Höch 

Last summer I was lucky enough to visit Berlin with my family, who I am still having to apologise to after turning our 4 day family holiday into an intense gallery hunt, as I was determined to visit each and every famous art museum. During this visit I was lucky enough to find a gallery that specialised in Dada art and was able to see my favourite piece of artwork by Höch, which is not only my favourite for its narrative qualities but also for it absurdly long title, ‘Cut with the kitchen knife Dada through the last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany’ (Cut with the Kitchen Knife), made in 1919[1]. Höch purposely bombards the viewer visually with a mass of images and slogans in order to create a sense of being overwhelmed, thus reflecting how the mass media was constantly churning out manufactured slogans and representations of ‘the ideal’. The feeling of confusion that one is supposed to feel when standing in front of this piece, and which I can confirm is effectively achieved, is supposed to reflect the complex nature of politicians and politics as a whole.Picture4.pngHöch, Hannah. Cut with the kitchen knife Dada through the last Epoch of Weimar Beer-Belly Culture in Germany. 1919. Photomontage. Staaliche Museum, Berlin (photo taken by me while visiting)

Mario Haves; writer of ‘A daughter of Dada: Hannah Höch at MOMA’[2], wrote that “Not only was this piece a testament to the Dada movement but was a political commentary that highlighted feminism and gender issues among its content”.[3] The piece can be split into four quarters with the top right hand side consisting of ‘Anti-Dadaists’, top left made of ‘Dada Propaganda’, bottom left ‘Dada Persuasion’ and bottom right ‘Dadaists’[4]. Höch has assigned an easily recognizable public [5]figure to each section so that even with all the visual chaos the viewer can still relate to the piece. In politics is easier for the public to understand a ‘campaign’ if there is a face to put to the ideology. For example, when asked about the UK Conservative party the face of Theresa May or David Cameron springs to mind. When trying to understand politics one can often find it to be complex and confusing, which Höch mimics through the mass of images that confronts the viewer.[6] Therefore, in order to maintain the focalisation of her message; which i will address in the following paragraph, Höch adopts the same technique of a political party and, quite literally in this case, sticks a face to the campaign.

   Picture4small      Picture4small2

The large figure found in the ‘Dada Propaganda’ section can easily be identified as Albert Einstein[7] surrounded by slogans that can be translated as ‘invest your money in dada!’[8] and ‘he he, young man…dada is not an art trend’[9]. In the ‘Anti-Dadaists’ section you can recognise the face of the German politician,  Friedrich Ebert[10] , who Höch has humorously depicted as having the body of a topless woman. When analysing ‘Cut with the Kitchen Knife’ one will very quickly notice that there is a common motif throughout the piece, that being of the head of a man attached to the female body[11]. For example, in the section ‘Dadaists’, Dada artists such as George Grosz, Herzfelde, Johana Baader and Karl Radek, the leader of communist Party in Germany, can all be found to have the body of small female dancers. It is through the use of this motif that Höch is able to addresses the topic of gender issues and inequality.[12] In Weimar society Höch, through her own experience of being regularly ignored or patronised by her fellow Dadaists, had observed how by simply being of the male gender one is automatically deemed to be more dominant than a woman. Therefore, Höch chooses to display her male comrades, and other male figures as having the body of females. In the act of doing so the viewer’s perception of gender is obscured, thus stripping her male comrades of their masculinity and in turn stripping them of their power.[14]

‘Cut with the Kitchen Knife’ is arguably one of Höch’s most personal and important pieces, as it addresses not only the inequality that all women suffered in Weimar Germany but also directly addresses Höch’s own personal experiences, as she was constantly seen as ‘lesser’ than other male Dadaists. Therefore, I would conclude that ‘Cut with the Kitchen Knife’ does have a political narrative, but in this moment Höch is not trying to embody the role of the Visual Politician, but is simply using her artwork to express her own anger and frustration that she felt towards the society that placed restrictions upon her own artistic progression.

[1] “Feminist Artist”. Une Femme. N.p., 2013. Web. 14 August. 2016.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] “Cut With The Kitchen Knife”. Utopia/Dystopia. N.p., 2013. Web. 13 August. 2016.

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Cumming, Laura. “Hannah Höch- Review”. The Guardian. N.p.,2014. Web. 16 August. 2016.

[12] “Cut With The Kitchen Knife”. Utopia/Dystopia. N.p., 2013. Web. 13 August. 2016.

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

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