BERLIN DADAISM REVOLUTIONARY ART DURING THE GERMAN REVOLUTION OF 1918-19. AN APPRECIATION OF JOHN HEARTFIELD (1891-1968) HANNAH HOCH (1889-1978) GEORGE GROSZ (1893-1959) AND RAOUL HAUSMANN (1886-1971) BERLIN ARTISTS WHO FOUGHT TO USE DADA AS A POLITICAL WEAPON AGAINST THE RISING TIDE OF REACTION AND FASCISM PART 2.

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In part two I will continue considering the role of Hannah Hoch and the revolutionary artists who constituted Berlin Dadaism.  ” Hannah Hoch cut with the kitchen knife 1919 presents a slice through the epoch and the forces of anti Dadaism (Ebert gravedigger of the German Revolution) with those of Dada associated with Revolutionary figures  Karl Marx , Vladimir Lenin and Karl Radek”. [1].

Hoch insisted in her Revolutionary Manifesto what the purpose of Berlin Dadaism represented . ” We have not become artists in order to have a comfortable and irresponsible life living off the exploiters demand for luxury. We feel solidarity with the proletariats struggle for the realisation of a humane society in which there is no oppression”. [2].

The November revolution showed what was possible and proved that in a period of revolutionary ferment workers would show that they  are a Revolutionary class. ” the November revolution of 1918 during which soviets (workers councils) of soldiers , sailors and workers took control of most major German cities”. [3]. ” All of these events were to have an effect on the Berlin Dadaists George Grosz , John Heartfield  and Heartfields brother Wieland Herzelde who joined the Communist party (KPD). [4].

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The Berlin Dadaists unlike others in Europe were avowedly Communist in their outlook , it was not a fad but very serious and their art consciously aided the Revolutionary movement of the Spartacists and workers who were being tortured and murdered by the Freikorps( Fascist Gangs). ” the emphasis on Communism and Bolshevism marked out Berlin Dada”. [5]. ” The Berlin Dadaists would conduct their campaign through the press , using it as a channel for publishing their activities”. [6].

Grosz and Heartfield as leading KPD members were hiding in different houses to escape the police and the state who hunted for any opposition to their oppressive rule. ” The Socialist ( social democratic) led Weimar government was Dada’s political enemy. Modernist art was its cultural adversary”. [7].

The reason that Modernists like Greenberg and Fried opposed movements like Dada was its mass appeal and attraction of mass culture. The American modernists tried to create a high art which was only for the bourgeois  and the rich. This is the reason for the Modernists opposition to any movement that sought mass appeal and was revolutionary in content.” Grosz and Heartfield were not repelled by mass culture rather they embraced and celebrated it introducing it into the area of high culture”. [8].

” For the Berlin group the barbarism was played out on the streets -they witnessed war and revolution”.[9].

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As I explained in part 1 Hoch wrote about the origin of Photomontage , other commentators and art critics have further showed the historical role of photomontage with reference to Berlin Dadaism. ” Photomontage emerged as an avant garde form within Berlin Dada where John Heartfield , George GroszJohannes Baader ,Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Hoch produced artworks and illustrations for Avant -Garde magazines”.[10]. ” In Dada montage the gaps and the discontinuities are emphasied , alerting the viewer to their construction”. [11].

Hannah Hoch stood out from the rest .She was able through mockery  in her montage , poking fun and make her adversaries appear stupid and extremely reactionary in their outlook. Hoch was an ardent feminist and wanted to show particularly the exploitation of women in capitalist society. ” Hoch employed the method of grotesque mockery in an important series of montages with which she explored the position of women in society”. [12].

Gustave Klucis a Soviet artist who unfortunately helped further  the development of Stalinist art(Socialist Realism) in the emerging Soviet Union. Despite this he used montage as a powerful weapon and much of his Revolutionary posters show how posters and photo montage can be used as a powerful political weapon.  Klucis who  was a very promising artist had allusions about Stalin and it has been  proved that he was murdered by the GPU because Stalin perceived him as a threat.

” Klucis who though photomontage was not a form but a method sought as a way of visualising the dialectical unfolding of a theme of the given subject, the dialectical unity between political slogan and representation”. [13].

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Art historians have noted the importance of Heartfield and have dubbed him as a ‘Left Modernist’. ” Communist artists carried the ideas in the direction of militant and political photomontage , perhaps the most brilliant exponent of ‘Left Modernism’ was John Heartfield ” . [14].

” During the 1920’s Heartfield devoted himself almost exclusively to working in photomontage for the communist publishing houses and party press”. [15].

Ernst Bloch  was a Stalinist philosopher who engaged in disputes with Georg Lukacs over the relative merits of realism and modernism. Bloch considered Montage a useful tool to be used for Communists in their fight against reaction and Fascism.

” For Bloch it was important , therefore for communists to grasp the possibilities offered by montage and employ it in the fight against Fascism”. [16].

In this concluding part of my article on Dadaism I have considered it as an important weapon in the fight against Fascism and totally opposed to Modernism which fundamentally after the second world war would represent the status  quo. The artists who espoused Dadaism in Berlin were Revolutionaries in the true sense of the word. They rejected Modernism and all its cultural significance. The divide between Modernism and mass culture would be shown during the 1960’s and 1970’s in the United States. Ferocious debates about the relative merits of Modernism and Popular culture continue to this day.

REFERENCES

1 ART OF THE AVANT GARDE ART LOVE AND SOCIAL EMMANCIPATION PG 320

2 DITTO PG 321

3 ART OF THE AVANT GARDE NARRATING THE DADA GAME MARTIN GAUGHAM PG 347

4  DITTO PG 347

5  DITTO PG 347

6  DITTO PG 348

7 DITTO  PG 348

8  DITTO  PG 352

9  DITTO   PG 355

10 DITTO PG 414

11 DITTO PG 414

12  DITTO  PG 416

13   DITTO 419

14   DITTO PG 420

15    DITTO PG  420

16    DITTO PG 421

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