On June 9, 1978, an obituary appeared with the headline "On the death of Hannah Hoch, the bob-haired muse of the Men's Club." For much of her life, Hoch had been characterized as the "It Girl" of the macho Berlin art... [more]
On June 9, 1978, an obituary appeared with the headline "On the death of Hannah Hoch, the bob-haired muse of the Men's Club." For much of her life, Hoch had been characterized as the "It Girl" of the macho Berlin art circle dominated by George Grosz, John Heartfield, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Raoul Hausmann (Hoch's onetime lover). These boys formed the Club Dada in 1918 and launched an all-out attack on German bourgeois culture. But Hoch was much more than their moll or muse.
Hoch's impact on Berlin Dada was profound. She was a master practitioner of photomontage -- a technique that all the dadaists adopted. With its roots in the kitsch tradition of splicing heads from family photos onto magazine pictures of ideal soldiers or angelic women, photomontage took images and type from the popular press and combined them in ways to reveal the fissures that ran through middle-class ideology.
Hoch's most famous work, "Cut with the Kitchen Knife: Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-belly Cultural Epoch of Germany" (1919), is a 3' x 4' collage bursting with images of German industry, military figures, and recreational gaieties. Amid these pictures, the word "dada" cuts like a knife, exposing the ludicrous contradictions that were Weimar. Other works such as "Hochfinanz" (High Finance) directly critique the connection between bankers, industrialists, and the military.
Over time (and she was an active artist into the 1970s), Hoch 's work evolved from the propagandistic banner into a reflection on the politics of the self. Her views concerning women and the idea of beauty were seeds for many pieces that used mass media images to fracture canonical concepts of womanhood. Her "Ethnography Museum" series combined photos of African and Asian sculpture with photos of Western body parts in order to probe stereotypes of the "primitive" and "exotic" as opposed to the "civilized."
Hoch was a social archaeologist working in reverse. Her montages break down what we see and know, and put the fragments back together in a way that makes us question the concepts of identity, culture, and subjectivity. Hoch found the self in the Other in order to deconstruct racism, sexism, and politics. She didn't limit herself to angry anti-bourgeois messages or the macho posturing of some of the male dadaists, but expanded the scope of her work to mine the intersection between public images and private selves. And on top of all that, she did have an excellent bob. [show less]