Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, 1919-20

Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, 1919-20


(jazz music) Voiceover: This amazing photo montage is by German artist Hannah Hoch
and it’s from 1919 to about 1920 and it has an extremely long title. Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly
Cultural Epoch of Germany. It was displayed in First
International Dada Fair. Voiceover: 1919-1920, that was
a really pretty frought moment. What was going on? Voiceover: Political chaos. Voiceover: Okay, she seems
to have captured that. Voiceover: She has captured it (crosstalk) Voiceover: What kind of political chaos? Voiceover: Well, the government has been completely changed after World War I. There’s a lot of conflict
between the Spartacists, which is the far left wing communist, some of which of those
people are featured in this. There are conflicts between
those groups and the [fry court]. The [fry court] was
encouraged to attack people by members of the government. There are all these clashes and a
lot of people end up getting arrested and some people end up getting killed and that’s just one particular moment. That’s January of 1919, all
of that fighting happens. Voiceover: All this fragmentation
is just beautifully captured here. The contrast from the kind of long war, which would have really
focused the country’s attention and then this complete breakdown. The contrast is just stunning. Voiceover: It’s really a sort
of tabula rosa here (crosstalk) Voiceover: That’s a very important point. There’s a lot of little
pieces that are left over. That’s exactly what Hoch
is working with here. All the political players
(crosstalk) between them. If you think about the title,
Cut with the Kitchen Knife, think about the idea of
cutting things literally. That works for the photo montage
and she’s sort of cutting a swath through all this and
piecing things back together in ways that make sense to her. Focusing on the fragmentation as
defining culture at that moment. Voiceover: But I love
that it’s a photo montage and I’m assuming most of
these photographs came from newspapers from magazines, so it’s all immediate and topical
and all relevant in this moment, but it’s being reconstructed. Voiceover: But I love
that it’s a kitchen knife. Voiceover: She’s very focused
also the role of women artists. She talked a lot about it
and she wrote about it. As a Dadaist, how was she treated? She wasn’t treated very well. I think one of the things she
actually had a problem with is a lot of male Dadaists had grand ideas about changing cultural morays
and views and gender equity, but then in their practice
of that, they did nothing. There was a couple of ways
that is visualized here. If we look at the very central image, we actually see one of the foremost German expressionist
artists Käthe Kollwitz Voiceover: It’s also been severed. Voiceover: And the body underneath
her is dancer Niddi Impekoven and if you look at the way
that that forms a central point around which everything else rotates and there is a sense of movement
happening all at the same time. Voiceover: Well, I noticed a
lot wheels and gears (crosstalk) Voiceover: It’s a machine. If you think about the machinery of – Voiceover: Government. Voiceover: Government, the
machinery of culture of … If you think of the machine
itself, even the machine of Dada. Voiceover: But the machine, to me,
has a very male connotation to it. Voiceover: One thing I always think
is really interesting to point out if we zoom in and look in
the far right lower corner. This tiny little head right
here is actually Hannah Hoch. Instead of putting her signature,
she puts a little portrait of herself and what it is is it’s actually
pasted on to the corner of a map which shows the countries in Europe that had women’s voting
rights at the time, so that’s one of the ways
that we know she was thinking about the role of women in
society and in the art world. One of the best ways to deal
with a picture of this scale, where there’s so much happening
is to look at this other version that I actually annotated. Voiceover: We’re in Flickr now. Voiceover: We’re in Flickr right
now and I created this image, which has a lot of notes on it. Voiceover: If you want to
see this, you can just go to the SmartHistory group in Flickr. Voiceover: In Flickr and
you can find this image. Then what happens is we wave over it and we see all these different things. First of all, if you think about
this image in terms of quadrants. There’s an upper right and a lower right
and a lower left and an upper left. I’ve decided to name the left side,
even though they’re not usually named. Usually the right side is
known as the anti-Dadaists and if you look, she’s called that
“di anti-dadists” right over here. She’s cut out a lot of text,
as well, and that’s up here. The people that are in
the anti-Dadaist corner are obviously politicians
and former politicians. Kaiser Wilhelm is right here. His head is really big and
this figure is quite large. Voiceover: And Kaiser
Wilhelm has been deposed. Voiceover: He’s abdicated in Holland. Voiceover: Okay. (crosstalk) And he’s led the country into World War I. Voiceover: Yes, into
disaster, so he’s gone. Voiceover: I just want
to be clear who he was. Not a nice man. Voiceover: Not a nice man and there’s
a lot of satire going on in this. Then there are also
other political figures. There’s General von
Hindenberg, the head of him on the body of this exotic dancer. Voiceover: She took a male general
and put him on a female body and castrated him in a way. Voiceover: She makes fun of Kaiser
Wilhelm with this little figure of two wrestlers that are
creating the mustache. Down here there is German
Minister of Defense Gustav Noske. He’s talking to another general over here and this general up here
is standing on their heads. Voiceover: Another man
who led them into war. Voiceover: Yeah. Voiceover: Sort of like the
Donald Rumsfeld, (crosstalk) Voiceover: If you think about
pictures of our contemporary US. Voiceover: These are people (crosstalk) Voiceover: And some of
them were still in power. They’re working with
reformulating the government, which is not … There’s no way any sense of
organization fragmented in many ways and all these people are grasping
for power that they did have before and trying to figure out ways
to pull the country together, but if we go down here,
in the lower right corner, we see the world of the Dadaists. “Die welt Dada” and right here
it says “Dada isten” right there. This is the corner that has
Hannah Hoch and the map. Then it also has other Dadaist figures. There is the Dadaist Raoul Hausmann. Hannah Hoch had a relationship
with Hausmann for a while, not her whole life, and for a long
time all the literature on Hoch focused on her relationship. She was always referred to as
the wife of Raoul Hausmann. Voiceover: What’s interesting is that
visually the bottom right corner, the Dadaist corner is much
less dense (crosstalk) Voiceover: Here you see the two
heads of Dadaists George Grosz and Wielande Herzfelde. Wielande Herzfelde is the
brother of John Heartfield. John Heartfield changed his
name, he anglicized his name and Niddi Impekoven, the same
dancer that’s in the center here, is now over here bathing John
Heartfield in this bathtub. Voiceover: It seems to be demeaning men. Voiceover: She is, I
think very specifically, trying to reverse as much – Voiceover: Power relations. Voiceover: Yeah, power
relations as much as she can. In here we have in the
center Lenin is over here, kind of in the center, you
can’t really see it right now and then there’s another
Dadaist, Johannes Baader and then you see one of the
communist party leaders, Karl Radek and he was back and forth
between Russia and Germany, so he’s very involved with the
communist party in Germany. Those three together, there’s Karl Marx, because we always have to
have Marx, then over here is the head of modern art critic
and writer Theodore Däubler and his head is on top of
a baby’s body (laughing) Voiceover: A huge baby’s body. (crosstalk) Voiceover: It’s pretty funny. Voiceover: So really
infantilizing all of these people. Voiceover: And they’re all
men, all these Dadists are men. Voiceover: And her colleagues. Voiceover: What I’ve decided
is that on the left side, they’re forms of Dada. This is Dada propaganda. This is Einstein right here, actually. And he is saying a couple
of different things. Right here, this little
bit of text is in German and it says, “He he, young
man, Dada is not an art trend.” It’s not just something
that’s coming and going and that it’s actually
something more meaningful and that it’s about (crosstalk). Voiceover: Political
and worldy and timely. Voiceover: Up in the corner
this is another thing. (crosstalk) Voiceover: Propagandistic
messages designed to tap into the idea of art making is
a money venture, it’s an investment. Voiceover: But it’s
also clearly absurdist. Voiceover: It’s just
mocking the entire venture. Voiceover: Down here, there’s a
lot of scenes of mass gathering. We see in the center here this figure. This is Karl Liebknecht, one of
the German communist party leaders, along with Rosa Luxembourg,
who were, as it says, jailed, tortured, and then
assassinated in January 1919. That was a moment that
really brought together – Voiceover: Galvanized the left. Voiceover: Galvanized the left. These are all photographs that
she’s taken out of popular press. She’s taken that figure of him and
right here, he’s saying, “Join Dada.” This is why I think it’s
a kind of Dada persuasion. These are persuasive messages, right? This is all about – Voiceover: Resist these, resist that. Voiceover: After all, these images
came out of a commercial magazine. It was – Voiceover: Product magazines
also and popular women’s journals and the Berliner Illustrated Zeitung, which is the illustrated press of Berlin. Voiceover: Dada had only been
around for a couple of years at this point, for just a few years. How was this being received? What kind of audience did this have? Voiceover: This had the audience of
other Dadaists (laughing) in Berlin. Dada is going on all over Europe and
there are different centers of Dada. There is a Dada movement in Paris – Voiceover: Zurich (crosstalk) Voiceover: And Hanover and in Berlin. They all have different
art making practices and photo montage was central
to the Berlin Dadaists. Voiceover: What is the the Last
Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch mean? Voiceover: Abundance and
gluttony and beer, of course, being, to me, very German,
having a beer-belly and those last vestiges
of that bourgeois – Voiceover: Wealthy, stable
culture that had allowed the first World War to really happen. There were some artists
that were actually looking at traditional painting as
having been, in some ways, responsible for the violence
of the war, and responsible for the culture that
could’ve produced this war and art having some – Voiceover: Or holding up those values. Voiceover: Holding up those
values, exactly (crosstalk) Commodity of (crosstalk) Would have allowed for the hierarchy
to create this kind of violence. Voiceover: Another kind
of armchair bourgeois. Voiceover: Yeah, that’s right, and what is art’s responsibility
within that cultural framework? Voiceover: in the upper right we
have a political establishment, but on the lower left (crosstalk)
that’s a huge contrast. That tension remains (crosstalk) Voiceover: Dada cutting a
swath, in a way, (crosstalk) Voiceover: The word
“Dada” in the upper left through the word “Dada”
again in the lower right and her own self portrait with
Kollwitz in the middle there. Voiceover: Dividing those classes. Voiceover: Women, in a way. Voiceover: And women, I think,
she puts in places of power, or at least as a destabilizing force. Voiceover: The whole notion of the
kitchen knife is really empowering. Voiceover: The idea of
domesticity as being something that could undermine cultural values. It’s an amazing idea. Voiceover: Yeah. Voiceover: It’s brilliant, I love it. Voiceover: I love it. Voiceover: It’s cool. (jazz music)

11 thoughts on “Hannah Höch, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, 1919-20

  1. Hiyaaaa! Have you ever tried – fast abs magic (Have a quick look on google cant remember the place now)? Ive heard some amazing things about it and my cousin got ripped 6 pack abs and lost crazy amounts of weight with it.

  2. A great breakdown on this collage. My only complaint are the 2 voices that are constantly stepping on the lady that is trying to navigate us through this, it's really annoying.

  3. where can i find the image annotation on flickr? it doesn't seem to be up anywhere? can someone send a link through if they have it? or any good links to an annotation, thanks!

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