Hannah Hoch shows her critical view of middle-class Germany in her photomontage Bourgeois Wedding Couple. With a rise of industry during and post-WWI came the rise of a new social middle-class made up of insatiable consumers acting as the perfect sponges for the exact culture Dadaists sought to dismantle. Reformers within the Weimar Republic claimed Germany had arrived into the modern era in regards to gender equality, sexuality and the roles of women, but Hoch and other Dadaist saw the reality of marriage as a bourgeois means of social status and respectability amongst the middle-class.
Bourgeois Wedding Couple is set upon a faded tan background that gives the entire piece an aged, antique look. Directly in the middle is a cluster of images that include the letters P and O as well as many modern domestic appliances serving as a chaotic backdrop for the asinine bride and groom figures. On the left is a bathing suit-clad female torso with knee-high boots and the head of a distressed infant. To the right of the female figure is a man seemingly caught in a ridiculous struggle with the oversized trendy women’s hat atop his head. The images of this photomontage appear fragmented and robotic with blunt edges and crude piecing together that removes any humanist aspects and replaces them with a feeling of a monotonously mechanical function.
Hannah Hoch was among many artists who turned a critical eye towards the new social middle-class that was evolving in Germany as a result of its transition into mass consumer culture. The term “bourgeois” is often used negatively in regards to this new middle-class due to their obsession with material interests and general complacency with commonness. Dadaist set out to shock the bourgeois middle-class of Germany out of mediocrity with their new style of art.
Hoch uses many clues to reveal her own opinions towards the absurd materialism of marriage and its anti-liberal social value to the common middle-class in Bourgeois Wedding Couple. Both the bride and the groom are displayed as figures lacking dignity and individual identity; their only identity is presented as a character or role. The female figure appears clueless and empty with no neck creating the appearance of a shrug and arms and legs hanging straight and stiff. The head of the infant symbolizes her lack of independent identity as she plays out the charade of helplessly dependent and thoughtless wife. Hoch uses the oversized hat to cast a large shadow over the grooms face making his identity indistinguishable so that he too only represents a clueless, passionless, puppet-like husband. Our troubled couple is placed amongst a chaotic plain of scattered domestic machines that symbolizes their misled focus as consumerism and makes them appear as slaves to the will of industry.
Hannah Hoch chooses subjects for her pieces that are often very relevant to her own experiences as a conscious female in Germany. Hoch did not settle with mediocrity in her own life by using marriage to establish her place in society, but rather worked hard to pioneer her own way as an artist despite the adversity and condescension she experienced from the male-dominated environment in with she worked. It is not surprising that Hoch would feel personal disgust with the complacency of the bourgeois middle-class women who not only bought in to the sexist structures such as marriage that profited only men, but were also completely oblivious to their own self-degradation .
Meskimmon, Marsha. We Weren’t Modern Enough: Women Artists and the Limits of
German Modernism. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999.