Cut with a Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany
This pioneering collage by the Dada artist Hannah Höch uses clippings from newspapers and magazines to convey the absurdity and corruption of contemporary German culture. As Anahid Nersessia notes, for Höch "the collage is a highly suggestive act of bricolage, a piecing together of materials that come to represent the fragmented nature of the culture from whose debris they are drawn." The work exposes the cultural polarities and fissures of post-war Berlin. Among the clippings are recognizable images of artist Käthe Kollwitz, silent film star Pola Negri, and political thinkers and leaders, including Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. In the lower right corner, a small map of Europe depicts the countries where women have the right to vote.
As art historian Heidi Hirschl Orley writes, Höch was "known for her incisively political collages and photomontages (a form she helped pioneer)", in which she "appropr
iated and recombined images and text from mass media to critique popular culture, the failings of the Weimar Republic, and the socially constructed roles of women." Höch's innovative use of photomontage to fundamentally challenge social, cultural, and aesthetic traditions made her a leading figure of early Dada, and an exemplary avant-garde figure in the more socially engaged sense of the term. In Berlin in 1920, she exhibited this work, as well as others, at the First International Dada Fair in 1920, where her work was acclaimed, even though her male colleagues had originally attempted to discourage her from participation.
Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, 1919, photomontage, 114 × 90 cm (Staatliche Museen, Berlin)
The use of photomontage became widely influential and was adopted by subsequent movements throughout the 20th century, from Surrealism to Fluxus. As Heidi Hirschl Orley notes, "Höch's bold collisions and combinations of fragments of widely circulated images connected her work to the world and captured the rebellious, critical spirit of the interwar period, which felt to many like a new age. Through her radical experimentations, she developed an essential artistic language of the avant-garde that reverberates to this day."
Cut paper collage - National Gallery, State Museum of Berlin
Text from https://www.theartstory.org/definition/avant-garde/