hoch 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] She carefully pieced all these clippings back together in a way that made sense to her[4] and as she felt appropriately served her purpose of critical examination.

At the time of this pieces creation in 1919 and 1920, Germany was experiencing political chaos after losing WWI. There was a struggle between two political parties, as German society navigated its way out of the old Weimer Republic and into the left-wing Communist movement. Dada artists used photomontage to express messages of critique that censorship would not allow to be put into words, as stated by George Grosz.[5] “Cut with the Kitchen Knife…” has a feeling of rapid progress portrayed through a mocking and satirical tone. Pieces of machine are exploding throughout the montage to symbolize booming industry and culture within an urban area. This booming progress is not displayed in a proud, exciting and dignified manner however, but rather in a circus-like environment. The mood is whimsical to the point of ridiculous, with theatrical expressions and dramatic body language mixed in with images of political figures serving as a critique of the political free-for-all between the old Weimer leaders and the new left-wing communist agenda.

Dr. Juliana Kreinik simplified analysis of this photomontage by dividing it into four distinct sections. She called the upper-left corner “Dada Propaganda”, the lower-left corner “Dada Persuasion”, the lower-right corner “Dadaists” or “Dada World”, and the upper-right corner “Anti-Dadaists”. [6] In the center of the montage is an image of the head of Kathe Kollwitz, a German expressionist, floating above its dancer body. The dynamic movement of this central image seems to tie in the chaos that surrounds it and give a sense of movement and revolution to the busy montage.

Within the section Kreinik called “Dada Propaganda” there is a large head of Albert Einstein framed by two German newspaper clippings that translate to “invest your money in dada!” and “he he, young man…dada is not an art trend”.[7] To the right of Einstein is the head of Friedrich Ebert pasted upon a topless female performer’s body. The lower-left corner referred to as “Dada Persuasion” is covered with images of crowds, and emerging from the midst of them is Karl Liebknecht. Lieknecht was the leader of the Communist part in Germany, but in 1919 he was arrested and executed due to his role in the Spartasist uprising.[8] The text clipping “join dada!” is bursting forth from his mouth.

The Anti-Dadaist section is full of politicians displayed through Hoch’s satirical and mocking eyes. Most prominent is the large head of Keiser Wilhelm II, who was blamed for leading Germany into the disastrous war.[9] His mustache is replaced with two pairs of wrestling legs spouting from either side of his nose. Below Wilhelm is the head of General Hinderberg attached to the body of a belly dancer. Hannah Hoch included many of her male Dadaist colleagues in the bottom-right section, referred to as “Dada World”. She placed the heads of Dadaists George Grosz and Wielande Herzfelde together on the body of a ballerina. The heads of Lenin, fellow Dadaist Johannas Baader and leader of the Communist Party in Germany, Karl Radek, look caricatured atop small female performers’ bodies. And, directly to the right is the small head of Karl Marx with his mouth open, seeming to say “Die grosse Welt Dada”, which translates to “the big dada world”.[10]  The head of a modern art critic of the time is placed backwards upon the chubby, naked body of an infant.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]   “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.[14]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Kreinik, Juliana, Harris, Beth, & Zucker, Steven. “Höch’s Cut with

the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany.” 1907-1960 Age of Global Conflict. Posted May 29, 2011. Khan Academy. compact disc, http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/hoch-kitchen-knife.html.

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Weltrevolution: Hannah

Hoch.” Last modified 2011. Accessed February 16, 2012. http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/190016952.

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art, “Hannah Hoch: Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the

Last Weimer Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany.” Last modified 2011. Accessed February 16, 2012. http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/audios/29/704.

 

 

West, Shearer. The visual arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and

despair. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2000.

 

 

 

 


[1] Juliana Kreinik et al., “Höch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany.” Khan Academy. May 29, 2011. http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/hoch-kitchen-knife.html.

 

[2] Shearer West, The visual arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and despair (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)

 

[3] The Museum of Modern Art, “Hannah Hoch: Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimer Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany.” (2011) http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/audios/29/704.

 

[4] Kreinik, “Hoch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife”

 

 

[5] The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Weltrevolution: Hannah Hoch.” (2011) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/190016952.

 

[6] Kreinik, “Hoch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife”

 

[7] Kreinik, “Hoch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife”

 

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Weltrevolution: Hannah Hoch”

 

[11] Kreinik, “Hoch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife”

 

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Kreinik, “Hoch’s Cut with the Kitchen Knife”

 

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