Art &Technology
- Dada

An important proponent of Dada in Berlin, Höch worked amongst a radical group of agitators who opposed the notion of common or shared artistic style. In the 1920s, at a time of rising social and political unrest in Germany, the Berlin Dadaists sought to negate the chaos of war and revolution through the rejection of dominant cultural and political values primarily those of the Weimar Republic. Höch, like her colleagues, was concerned with maintaining her individuality and freedom of opinion - concerns which are clearly born out in her art.

A lifelong preoccupation, collage was also manipulated by Höch to evoke strange and fantastical worlds. She was fascinated by the 'otherness' of flowers and frequently employed their forms and those of the organic environment to create landscapes, such as Light sails (1943 - 46), which were at once unexpected, enchanting and threatening.
Branded a degenerate under the Nazi regime and forced to live in exile, Höch saved from confiscation not only her own works but much material from the Dada period in Berlin.

Hannah Höch: Grotesque 1963

Fig.: Hannah Höch
Grotesque 1963
collage 25 x 17cm



Hannah Höch on Dada Photo Montages:

"Actually, we borrowed the idea from a trick of the official photographer of the Prussian army regiments. They used to have elaborate oleolithographed mounts, representing a group of uniformed men with a barracks or a landscape in the background, but with the faces cut out; in these mounts, the photographers then inserted photographic portraits of the faces of their customers, generally coloring them later by hand. But the aesthetic purpose, if any, of this very primitive kind of photo montage was to idealize reality, whereas the Dada photo monteur set out to give to something entirely unreal all the appearances of something real that had actually been photographed....
Our whole purpose was to integrate objects from the world of machines and industry in the world of art. Our typographical collages or montages set out to achieve this by imposing, on something which could only be produced by hand, the appearances of something that had been entirely composed by a machine; in an imaginative composition, we used to bring together elements borrowed from books, newspapers, posters, or leaflets, in an arrangement that no machine could yet compose."

By composing images of differing scales and contexts, photomontage altered pictorial conventions, challenged rules of representation and, by virtue of its unsophisticated means, the assumed status of the artist as a trained specialist. Photomontage similarly had a strong propagandist force.

"Its dissolution of pictorial composition resonated with the real state of collapse in post-war Germany's social order... Among Dada artists, linear perspective implied a rationalist system, which was bound to the logical and utilitarian outlook of Western capitalism, an outlook that in their view had reduced the working classes to industrial wage slaves and produced a deadly war machine. They also viewed realism in painting as adopting a passive relationship to the world; merely copying it, not changing it. In contrast, photomontage combined the photograph's proximity to objective reality with a dynamic process of reordering which enacted, at least metaphorically, the revolutionary reordering of society."

(Toby Clarke)