Dissertation- Berlin.

I visited Berlin on from the 8th – 12th January. I planned to visit the Berlinische Galerie where around 12,000 of Hannah Hoch’s works and items related are archived. I was disappointed to find that the gallery will be closed due to renovation until May. I emailed the gallery to see if there were any other exhibitions or archives I could visit while I was there. Dr. Ralf Burmeister,
Head of the Artists’ Archives   emailed me back recommending I go to see an exhibition at Gallery Aurel Scheibler and to visit Kupferstichkabinett/SMB but unfortunately I arrived back home the day before his response.

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While I was there I visited numerous war memorials, museums, and historical sites to gain a deeper understanding of how life must have been before, during and after the time of WW2. I can’t begin to imagine how people lived with the level of fear engulfing their ever day. I felt incredible sad reading the facts, people’s stories of trying to escape, persecution and surveillance. The photographs brought the horror to life. One photograph stands out in my mind of a group of Jewish people being rounded up and a police man is pointing a gun at a boy, I estimate around 8 years of age. The fear in his face as he stands with his hands up, it broke my heart. I listened to people’s stories after the war about how a girl wanted to visit family in another country. She was living at the time in West Berlin. She had to apply to leave and she was called before the authorities where her application was denied. She was told they didn’t trust her reasons for leaving and questioned places she visited and family and friends she had in West Berlin. She could not believe they were paying so much attention to her movements when she was just an average German girl. She knew then it was time for her to escape. She left with her mother and said goodbye to her grandmother as she knew she would never see her again. They escaped to the West. A simple story of wanting to go on holiday led me to think of how Hoch lived under surveillance of the Secret State Police hiding an abundance of Dada artifacts and degenerate art and what would have happened to her if she would have been found with them.

The bravery of the artists and people who stood up against both wars has really been brought home to me during this trip and although I didn’t get to see her work or collections I have gained a different understanding.

Dissertation; The Images I Have Chosen to Critique.

These are the two images by Hannah Hoch that I have chosen to critique and use to validate my point that her work is timeless. I will also use these to describe how they have inspired my own piece that my dissertation will support.

indianfemaledancer

Indische Tanzerin (Aus einem ethnographischen Museum)                                        Indian Dancer (From an Ethnographic Museum) 1930.                                                                                                                            Collage with ink and metalic foil.

youth

Aus der Sammlung; Aus einem ethnographischen Museum                                        From the Collection: From and Ethnographic Museum.                                          1929.                                                                                                                         Collage and gouache on paper.

Dissertation Chapter 2 Notes.

Chapter 2 notes;

COMPOSITION;

In reference to compositional consideration and aesthetics; “ The imagery used in the text is evocative of Hoch’s collages of the time. Leaving the wild and unruly style of Dada collages behind… more narrative…”

Hannah Hoch, pg 11.

backs up my opinion on how her work is illustrative and conveying messages to the viewer rather than for art’s sake.

She looked towards nature when drawing out her compositions. Said in the film shown at Whitechapel. See if I can find this film anywhere.

Refers to Hoch’s approach, what her work predominantly featured, eyes, lips, oversized heads. Also, suggesting the work be psychological rather than narrative and can’t be read only as autobiographical due to the public nature of the material.

TPOHH, pg 12.

Colour and composition;

TPOHH, pg 62. 4th paragraph; pg 135. (Horizontal lines, visual rhymes).

GROTESQUE;

The relation of grotesque to the west; “On one hand this belies modernist and primitivist myths of universality, but also demonstrates the extent to which the grotesque is rooted in the powerful mind-body duality of western thought.”

Modern Art and the Grotesque, pg 6

(Also refer to my note attached to page 4).

…Bathkin summed up the nature of the grotesque body…all the parts and processes that are suppressed by social codes of behaviour.”

..Bathkin interpreted carnivalesque as the voice of the people… for the suppressed and regulated proletariat”.

Her material, classed as vulgar and superficial/ low art. Lack of understanding, respect and regard.

TPOHH, pg 11.

DADA;

if needed; Contradictions of Dada being open to all and experimental and with no authority yet nearly all consisting of men.

Dada’s Women; pg 94.

about being left out of Hausmann’s memoirs. Also on how hard it was to be a woman; quote from 1959.

Dada’s Women, pg.92.. Quote also TPOHH, pg 8.

About her ‘greatest sin in the eyes of her fellow Dadaists- her respect for the notion of art.

The Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, pg.8.

My own notes on her timelessness;

Dada’s Women, pg, 99, 106.

My own notes on technique;

Dada’s Women; pg, 99, 107.

SUBJECTS AND TIMELESSNESS;

Dada’s Women; pg 124. My own notes on timeless quality. Her subjects continuing beyond Dada; Gender, Sexuality, Love, Relationships. Issues that are all still present and/or relatable today. Is it her subject matter that makes her timeless rather than compositional consideration or materials?

Adding to my opinion on timelessness; “Hoch, whose life spanned…. historical figure with a particularly contemporary voice….social construction and gender roles- speaking directly to the concerns of many artists and scholars working today.”

The Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, director’s foreword, pg, 4.

her influences and how they impacted her work;

Living in the countryside of Gotha,

Father was a gardner,

studied calligraphy,

mixed media glass design,

embroidery,

Splicing fine arts and applied.

Studied in the Graphic and book art division.

Played with the fact women had been liberated by law but this wasn’t carried out fully within society and definitely not within the household. Still under scrutiny, still oppressed.

TPOHH, 65.

Work evolved as different people came into her life, like surrealists and constructivists and also as her personal life evolved. Even if the subject matter was not directly autobiographical, the influence still filtered through.

Personal note; Our long for nostalgia meets with the past’s need for advancement. Old imagery-coloured imagery.

TPOHH, pg 147.

Personal note; Journey;

Politically aimed/Dada

Gender issues

Social issues

Homosexuality

Confinement- led to fantasy

Freedom- abstract/compositional experiments.

Always evolving.

TPOHH, pg, 139.

Reoccurring themes; women, dance, revisited the work of the weimar period but with a fantasy spin.

Note, TPOHH, pg 136.

IMAGES;

Negerplastik, 1929, after Dada. Questions societies ideals of expected beauty and how the people of Germany were rushing to have surgery or go through anti-ageing process to meet these ideals.

Subject is on a platform.

Primitive mask, questioning Western beauty, placed on the body of an infant. Expressing the process has gone too far.

The eye looking back asking for approval of the male.

The poles around the platform can be read as a cage, maybe of a zoo, or of some sort of spectacle, even circus? An arena for people to look and judge.

The grotesque again being used to question expectations of beauty.

 

For notes see Hannah Hoch. Pg, 28.

Indian Dancer; 1930.

A still from the film Joan of Arc.

The crown representing a moment in the film but can also read as the weight of domesticity still placed upon women.

The imposed mask looks suffocating and silencing. Also looks like it is made of stone; also adds weight. A burden. The mask also appears masculine. She hasn’t added her usual exaggerated eyes or lips to express femininit

Dissertation Progress.

I feel like I need to go back and re-read all of my notes and what I have already written for my dissertation. I was progressing rapidly with my reading and about to start my second chapter when Christmas came and I took a break to go home.

Before the break the research had gripped me and the more I read, the more fascinated I became with the whole social situation of Berlin at the time as well as Hoch’s life. There are numerous avenues to go down and research; both World Wars, sexism and the oppression of women, to name a few. I need to remember this is my problem; I run about trying to collect everything I can when I need to stay focused and remember exactly what it is I am stating. Everything I write about needs to support my opinion that Hoch’s work has a timeless quality and why I believe this. The other research can be picked up at a later date and I do believe I will continue with it beyond university.

I am really pleased with the way my research for dissertation and my (research for) practical work have met in the middle. Reading about Hoch’s work and life beyond Dada; her concerns with gender issues and her questions about society were as mine are now. It has become a lot more than looking to her work and process for inspiration, her means and intentions speak to me. Although my practical work has taken a back seat, everything I am doing to do with dissertation will help my work in the future. It as if the writing needs to be done to help my practical side and my work will become richer for it. Theory and practical are not two separate things running parallel, it is more of a circle.

Everyday Sexism; New Shoes.

My images have been slow in turn around due to reading for my dissertation. It’s frustrating me as the more I am reading, the more I want to create. I am in a good place with the dissertation at the moment, so I don’t want to disrupt the flow. However, my interest in subject has turned out to be completely in tune with my dissertation. I am still constantly feeding the knowledge into my practice.

My next piece has been based around a quote in the book; Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates. “As she expounded her tough stance on immigration she stood in shoes worthy of the front row at Paris fashion week”; The Guardian, on Home Secretary Theresa May.

I have played with a couple of different edits, not all great, but thought I would include the journey anyway. I started by adding a painted background colour similar to the last images but I felt it didn’t work. Perhaps this is because there was more communication in this image and it was swamped with the addition of paint. I wanted to use the line of ladies legs to reference the fashion show and create a horizon line. I added two people in suits (associated with men but are actually women and sitting in a suggested feminine pose) sitting on top in a judgemental fashion. The politician (I didn’t want to personally reference May) is sat on a chair, be it to hold the spot light or receive judgement. The image is of a young German girl who was crowned beauty queen in the 1920’s. I wanted the man in the suit who sits in a powerful pose juxtaposed with the girl to suggest femininity also.

After reading more on Hoch’s imagery, I can see how she challenged gender and stereotypes within society. She would assemble sexless subjects or place stereotypically female items within a masculine arena questioning society’s way of seeing.

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New-Shoes

New-Shoes-3

New-Shoes-2

For my final image I will choose the later image. I feel it relays the feeling of judgement. I am also aware I need to keep the background simple if there is a lot of photomontage. I chose to add coloured shapes looking towards each other in conversation rather than more photography. I wanted the right hand side to draw the image in so this would keep the left side lighter. The eye is showing the man is aware of the (unnecessary) judgement.

Dissertation is Finally Sorted!

I met with Ashley and told her my concerns about my dissertation proposal. It was originally to be questioning whether it is easier to offend people using collage and investigating controversy within collage. I was looking at the artists Hannah Hoch, Joe Orton and Ceal Warnants. It was to be the 10,000 word option. I felt even when writing up the proposal that this could be too messy, too many artists, too broad. I also think I need to write about and investigate something that will help me find my visual language.

Ashley sat with me and I talked about Hannah Hoch and how I am drawn to her work, she threw questions at me which prompted answers which were then reiterated and formed into ideas and avenues for investigation and we agreed to take the 6000 word and a final piece of work option. I mentioned how her work is timeless even though it was produced using photomontage which belongs to a certain time. I need to unravel what makes her timeless, her subjects, her compositions, he selected use of materials and colours, her issues with society?

I’m feeling a lot more focused now and enthusiastic to research. I need to have my introduction and the most I can possibly get done on chapter planning/writing and visual examples for the end of October.

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Second visit to the Hannah Hoch exhibition. Whitechapel Gallery, London.

I spent another hour and a half here and again, I feel it wasn’t enough time and will have to call in again before the end of the month. I had a schedule to stick to so I had to grab what I could. This time I spent more time looking at the abstract work upstairs and watching the short interview where she spoke about forms in nature and how she never completes a collage in one sitting, she has to keep going back to it. I can relate to that, sometimes I need to look back on it with fresh eyes as if I carry on, I risk settling for the wrong components just for the sake of ‘finishing’.

I want to go again, to read more the captions and descriptions and understand more about the pieces and the sections of the exhibitions. I did take some photographs… even though you’re not allowed…

tyranny photomontage life portrait 4 abstraction 12 years7 654.143212.62.52.42.32.22.1

 

From the last visit;

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http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/hannah-hch

 

Hannah Hoch at Whitechapel Gallery.

I visited London at the weekend. I got off the tube station at Aldgate East as told and decided to take the exit that directed you to Whitechapel Gallery (obviously). As I waited I went inside the Gallery to find there was an exhibition of the full works of Hannah Hoch. I couldn’t believe it! I could of spent hours there given the time. I was completely blown away by her work. It helped me seeing the pieces I have saw on the internet actually in the flesh. Sometimes I struggle with my collage with what to put in the backgrounds, how to give the pieces something else with out over complicating things. Seeing hers gave me ideas. She used a lot of simple shapes that she had painted with water colour then cut out which simply complimented her photo montage rather than complicating it and taking focus away from the area she wanted you to be directed to. Her colours were simple and comfortable to look at when the image as busy enough and on others, like her abstract work, the colours drew you in.
Another thing I will take away is the idea of a ‘finished’ piece of work. I have struggled with this, I feel like the have to be of a large size and a bit too perfect and planned. These pieces still felt raw and organic. It was the way they were presented that made them accepted as final pieces. They were of all different sizes, but mounted on the wall in frames. The space around the pieces acted like a pedestal, the board within the frame that blocked out the rest of the paper, a bit like a large viewfinder, was authoritative, showing you exactly what was important, blocking out any rough edges. It was refreshing to see that. It made me think that you can come up with a piece in a sketch book or on a random piece of paper, but it’s the extra things separate from the work itself that make the work be final and presented.

What blows me away about her work is how timeless it is. To think that some of the pieces are 80-90 years old is incredible. I am looking at contemporary illustrators that are creating similar work now! I am also drawn to her personality, the bold steps she took, the controversy, how she was brave enough to put her work out there and speak through it and have people take note to the point she had to hide herself away for fear of prosecution. It’s especially admirable for the time.

I made a lot of quick sketches while walking around and sketched over some again once I had left the gallery and pondered over what I had just saw. The notes made were rushed and will be barely legible to anyone but me, but will hall me remember things more clearly when I come to looking back at my book for my dissertation. I can’t believe I spoke about her work for my dissertation on Friday and stumbled on this on Saturday, it couldn’t of worked out any better!

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large face

indian dancer

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baby body

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monkey and bird

abstract

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http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/hannah-hch