RT @JimMFelton: To summarise the UK right now… https://t.co/mfTCYas5ia
June 14, 2017 at 10:49AM
RT @JimMFelton: To summarise the UK right now… https://t.co/mfTCYas5iaJune 14, 2017 at 10:49AM
RT @NeinQuarterly: Ask your doctor if Republicans are right for you.
June 25, 2017 at 08:48PM
RT @NeinQuarterly: Ask your doctor if Republicans are right for you.June 25, 2017 at 08:48PM
Introduction: The first time that I came across John Heartfield’s photomontages of the 1920s and 1930s was, if I remember correctly, in history at school. It seemed that his work provided a glimpse of an altogether different Germany at a time when Nazism could all too easily pervade. His photomontages appeared to correspond with a Germany of progressive ideas, of resistance, and of truth, a Germany that was bravely fighting the pompous and retrograde mysticism of Nazi ideology with wit and sarcasm. A proud and tangible connection seemed to put Heartfield’s work into the wider context of German anti-fascist opposition.
We would discuss Hitler’s rise to power and the wholesale failure of large parts of German cultural life to comprehend the inner nature of fascism let alone reject the atavistic, anti-modern romanticism inherent in its manifestations. Looking at a flood of black and white photo documentary images adorning text books to illustrate historic events like Hitler’s election campaigns or the Reichstag fire in 1933, Heartfield’s photomontages seemed to cut through the outer layers of representation and reveal what appeared to be the true nature of Nazism: Hitler swallowing gold and spouting rubbish or Goering with a blood spattered executioner’s axe in front of the burning Reichstag. Yet because of the lack of the structural homogeneity of a news reel photograph and because of the inclusion of hard hitting text in his montages Heartfield’s work never seemed to achieve the same status of ‘historic evidence’ as a photo documentary image. What appeared to be a uniquely fitting way of describing the processes behind Nazi propaganda was itself somewhat discredited as a construction and no less propagandist, or so it seemed. ‘Political Photomontage’ was the label that once applied would neatly stick with his work in a wider context. Further investigations could be conducted under the pretext of ‘Graphic Design’, ‘Dada’, ‘Montage’, ‘Collage’. The limited gamut of debates about John Heartfield’s work over the last 60 years has brought about a predictable contextualisation and often over-simplification of his art:
Heartfield the painter threw away the brush and took up the scissors; but he did not do this as the result of an artistic whim or the playful snobbery of being different at all costs. His aim was to utilise, in the interests of the revolutionary working class, the power of photography to convince; he wanted to utilise the irresistible effectiveness of photography against those who had hitherto misused it , against the exploiters.01
From the first exhibition in Berlin dedicated to the practice and called ‘Fotomontage’02 in 1931 to an exhibition in 1992 at the Barbican Centre in London, readings have primarily focussed on the political nature of his work in opposition to the context of art as an autonomous system.
When Abigail Solomon-Godeau writes in 1990 that ‘the work of John Heartfield retains its crucial importance in any consideration of critical practice insofar as it fulfils the still valid purpose of making the invisible visible and integrally meshing the representation of politics with the politics of representation’03 she also gives expression to an astonishing continuity in the debate since the 1930s and Sergei Tretyakow’s ‘ A photographer who wishes to grasp the social significance of a phenomenon will seek for methods to underline the essential feature, thus correcting the objectivity of the camera, which regards with indifference the just and the unjust.’04 ; and again Hans Hess in 1969: The bourgeois notion of absurdity gave way to the Marxist notion of dialectics, and in that clear light both action and reaction became comprehensible. In fact the idea of absurdity was itself part of the bourgeois fog which was clouding the minds of poets. It was an ideological excuse for inaction on the basis of the incomprehensibility of the world. Once the world was seen to be comprehensible the fog dispersed, and John Heartfield was able to fulfil the great task of art – to make the invisible visible.05
John Heartfield’s photomontages functioning as an exemplary practice of critical, tendentious intervention, a blueprint for work that takes sides, that does not seek to obscure but reveal the inner qualities of phenomena, the very essence of reality. Yet outside the mainstream of debates and practices of the left ‘it has to be asked where’s the Heartfield ? [...] The neglect is almost as famous as he is.’06
It is my intention to place the early work of John Heartfield into the wider context of late Weimar Germany’s burgeoning mass media. I shall seek to project developments in the artistic Avant-Garde of the 1920s against the backdrop of an unprecedented transformation of visual culture in general and printed media in particular. Investigating commercial and artistic strategies brought about and accelerated by dramatic changes in the production, distribution and consumption of photographic imagery, I shall focus on appropriation as a key element for constructing narratives in a modern context.
The Photomechanical Revolution Until the early part of the 20th century etchings and line drawings were widely used to illustrate the pages of newspapers and books. Photographs often provided artists and illustrators with a reference to actuality, yet shortcomings in camera technology meant that photographic sources would only rarely be adequate as a basis for reporting an event. ‘Thus there were no photographs of the sinkings of the Maine, or of the Titanic, or the Lusitania, which were described by millions of words and drawings.’07.
Although photographic production occurred on an industrial scale in the late 1800s, the ability to photo-mechanically reproduce images had not yet been put into place. After the invention of the halftone screen in the 1880s it took another 30-40 years until the process was sufficiently mastered to create the conditions for the shift from word to image that characterized mass-market magazines and papers after WWI. Photography was set to become the ‘dominant illustrative system of the Twentieth Century’ 08.
The advances in printing technology not only brought about an increasing demand for photographic images but they also signified an important departure in the construction of meaning. The hitherto unseen verisimilitude of photographic representation in the reporting of news was tempting enough to be seized upon and utilized. With the inclusion of photographic images the process of disseminating information gradually shifted from the primarily text-based, linguistic system to a pseudo-familiar visual code that established a layered multi-referentiality, offering accessibility for everyone, yet complexity of meaning. The shared code of photographic representation, seemingly situated outside and above cultural conventions, classes and conditions, coupled with the means to mass-reproduce it, constituted a new and modern language in itself.
However its apparent democratic simplicity could not fail to betray the added intricacy that linked word and image combinations in the making of meaning. ‘In other words, and this is an important historical reversal, the image no longer illustrates the words; it is now the words which, structurally, are parasitic on the image.’09 With the shifting balance between word and image, the text becomes the product of an image conditioned by a caption: ‘The objectivity of a photograph is only an illusion. The captions that provide the commentary can change the meaning entirely.’10 Stories of the same image reproduced in entirely different contexts with different captions producing widely divergent meanings abound (Freund, 1974).
While photographs were largely used up until WWI to supersede earlier illustrations, the propagandistic needs of the war effort brought about a new prospect: when the first images of enemy hinterland started to appear, the power of captions was beginning to be comprehensively explored. After a slow start, authorities in Germany realized that a mechanism should be instigated to condition and channel the flow of news back to the Heimat, including photographic images from the front. In keeping with the propagandist mission of the Imperial German War Press Department only a few noteworthy images filtered through. According to the photohistorian Bernd Weise, a certain maturing of attitude towards the printed media can be attributed to the selective media-coverage of the war: Both the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and the Munchner Illustrierte Zeitung explained to their readers that images of atrocities of war had to be kept back for military reasons. Even so, the more the war press department became a cover-up instrument, the less the public believed in the objectivity of the press.11
It could be argued that the widening gulf between first hand accounts by those who were directly involved with the war effort, and the streamlined official stories in the illustrated press back home would facilitate an increasing popular scepticism towards photographic representation in the media. Yet the growing appetite for the photographic visualisation of narratives was to counteract the loss of credibility in its constituents.
With the downfall of the old Imperial order, WWI brought about not only a comprehensive shift of power in Germany but also a dramatic transformation in the production and dissemination of its media. In other words: not only did the political world crumble by the end of WWI with the abdication of Wilhelm II, civil war, widespread hunger and destitution, but it did so amidst a fundamental revolution of its means of representing it.
The proliferation of the photographic language with its emphasis on the visual also changed the context within which information was laid out. The need arose to re-arrange the surface and create graphic juxtapositions, typographic effects and a general re-grouping of content to suit the overall balance. With it emerged the demand for a new type of professional, who could master the heterogeneity of the parts and mould them into a new, modern whole: the art director, the graphic designer, the picture editor:
The photomechanical revolution had added a powerful range of imagery to the arsenal of the printed press. It had also transformed the whole practice of the graphic arts by radically enhancing the ease of copying, enlarging, reducing, and thus combining graphic elements of all kinds, including photographs. This created both a fluid, polymorphous field of imagery and a new profession -what we now call the art director, who shapes and manages the process.12
John Heartfield’s training at the college for applied arts in Munich 1909 until 1912 and his subsequent employment as a graphic designer for a commercial printing company in Mannheim placed him in exactly that modern context well before he moved to Berlin to become a leading figure in Dada. Heartfield’s eventual mastery of photomontage owes much of its technical perfection and its uninhibited use of modern printing technology to these years of ‘apprenticeship’. In fact, many other leading figures of the Avant-Garde would maintain strong links to the developing graphic design and advertising industries throughout their involvement with the artistic movements from the end of WWI until the early 30s: Major contradictions arose between the European Constructivists’ ideological conceptions of the future and their artistic practices in the present. Often, the same aesthetic principles used for socialist projects were employed in the posters, advertising, and typography designed for capitalist industry. The German leftist Avant-Garde in particular was caught between its admiration for the Russian-Constructivist vision of communist society and its commissions from Weimar businesses. 13
By the time Richard Huelsenbeck had returned from Zurich in 1917, where he had been impressed by the art of the circle around Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball with its emphasis on chaos, fragmentation and randomness he found a group of practitioners in Berlin who were well versed in the applications of modern printing technology and the mass-media. The constituents of Dada were in place: a willingness to embrace modernity; an awareness of the power of the mass-media with its headlines, advertising campaigns and marketing strategies; a rejection of old art, easel art – produced in unique originals- that only reflected the status and wealth of the bourgeois connoisseur and a disgust for the hated, authoritarian militarism of the German Empire with all its trappings of culture, church, and fatherland. New visual narratives would be applied against the backdrop of the modern urban experience in all its fragmented simultaneity. However, the momentum of modernity would be ridiculed as well as utilised:
While they were applauding the newly rationalised man – associated in their minds with the machine, the engineer, and the Soviet artist Vladimir Tatlin – they were also satirising man-as-machine idealism, particularly as it had been played out in the carnage of World War I.14
Photomontage and the Proliferation of the Image
According to legend, George Grosz and John Heartfield ‘invented’ photomontage at five o’clock one May morning in 1916 (Ades, 1996). Yet Raoul Haussmann and Hannah Hoch also lay claim on its discovery on a journey to the Baltic coast, with Haussmann later insisting on his sole authorship (Lavin, 1993). Wieland Herzfelde, Heartfield’s brother and life-long collaborator, corroborates his brother’s role but adds:
It is true that George Grosz has recorded that Heartfield and he invented photomontage in 1916; but this name was only attached to the invention some years later. In April 1920, as co-editor of dada 3, Heartfield named himself for the first time ‘Monteur’, or more precisely ‘Monteur Dada’. This was an outspoken rejection of the bohemian-cape-and-flowing-tie school of painters, and a sign of identification with the mechanics and electricians who wear blue overalls.15
In retrospect it seems improbable that one or the other group or individual could be solely responsible for a technique that finds its roots in the photographic practice of the Nineteenth Century. For a long time photographs had already been cut up, painted on and pasted together in a variety of ways (Henisch, 1996). The practice of constructing new photographic narratives out of dislocated and heterogeneous elements was not exclusively an achievement of the Avant-Garde. Fabricated images became positively fashionable with composite picture postcards and seaside souneniers in the late 1800s.
Still, Heartfield and the Berlin Dadaists were certainly successful in realising the potential for disruption and fragmentation that became a recurring feature of their work when they made their first ‘interesting photo-pasting-montage experiments’16 Mass-media provided the raw material, all they needed to do was de-construct, collect and re-assemble. Hence, Dada montages were characterised and distinguished from earlier experiments by their mechanistic utilisation of a modern visual culture, which was continuously replenished by photo-mechanical reproduction. The exploration of the subversive potential that lay in the accumulating multiplicity of cultural artefacts was one of the foremost achievements of the circle around Grosz and Heartfield. They also acknowledged that a photomontage did not need to consist of separate photographic elements that were brought together to form a new whole. Instead the inclusion of a caption or text in an image could achieve the same confiscation of meaning, transforming the photographic image without disrupting its surface. Heartfield would describe ‘[...] these works as photomontages too, on the basis of the selection of the photo, its arrangement, or because of the way in which the text was printed or drawn in the picture.’17 It was this modern interpretation of the significance of selection and arrangement, and of text and image as an evolving system, which placed Heartfield in a unique position to take advantage of the booming Weimar print media.
At the same time when John Heartfield, George Grosz, Hannah Hoch and others were freely experimenting with the new found possibilities of the photo-mechanical revolution, photojournalism was experiencing a dramatic transformation, too. ‘The great period of news photography began after World War I, [...]’18 A whole industry based around the gathering, editing and reproduction of news was quickly taking shape. To feed the ever expanding market for the visual in the 1920s and supply cheap photographic material in large quantities to the growing staple of illustrated titles, numerous photo agencies and picture libraries were set up. ‘From 1919 onwards, some 50 new picture agencies were set up, and there were a further 120 or so press photographers. In the 1920s about 60% of the photographers and 40 of the photo agencies were based in Berlin alone.’19 Many of these came from abroad and soon began to monopolise the market:
These large photo agencies, which had arrived in recent years from London, Paris and the USA, had succeeded in all but ousting the small press photographers thanks to their financial strength and their greater versatility in obtaining and marketing their photographs. Many newspapers and periodicals -not only the publishers, but also the printers who produced the illustrated supplements- obtained most of their material from these agencies, which is why they achieved such a dominant position. One of the largest foreign photo agencies had more than 900 full-time photographers on its payroll in all the major cities of the world. These press photo agencies supplied the publishers on a RM. 150-250 subscription basis with some 600 photos each month, which meant that each photo cost between 25 and 35 pfennigs.20
The large corporate agencies were best positioned to serve the mass-market in high numbers for their day to day operation, with the demand for more specific and unusual coverage satisfied by the bourgeois ‘star-photo-reporter’.
Each of their photographs was signed, indicating the attention that was now being paid to the photographer’s personality. [...] The majority of them were middle class, had university educations and had turned to photography because of the economic difficulties that Germany faced after the War. 21
At the same time novel approaches to the taking of images, brought about by new, small and fast cameras were introduced and led to sensational picture stories which secured individual photographers fame and fortune.
Despite this unprecedented proliferation of the visual, stories about the plight of the disadvantaged were rare. In fact, the vast majority of photo features in the early 1920s were targeted at a middle class readership. The bourgeois power over the image, exercised through the biased repertoire of photoagencies and publishing companies was only seriously challenged with the formation of a media concern by Reichstag deputy and KPD-member Willie Munzenberg in 1924, the ‘Neuer Deutscher Verlag’(NDV). To supply the illustrated pages of its flagship publication ‘Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung’ (AIZ) with photographic images that were concerned with the working class, a photographic competition was announced that led to the setting up of an independent worker-photographer movement. Within 5 years NDV’s AIZ would reach the fourth largest print run in Germany and provide a platform for an autonomous photojournalistic culture. The bourgeois press on the other hand, once challenged, was quick to realise that its own position could be strengthened by incorporating ‘progressive’ ideas and not alienating the working class readership. Magazines were set up, of which the ‘Illustrierte Beobachter’ of the Nazi-movement gained most notoriety for openly copying style and tone of the AIZ., including the use of photomontages.
The comprehensive commodification of the image in the 1920s provided the climate necessary for John Heartfield’s working process to function. Without the build-up of readily available stock of photographic imagery, the construction of alternative narratives in his photomontages would have been slow and impractical. Only the abundance of photographic fragments could make the juxtapositions and combinations possible that were of crucial importance for his work. With the supply of images originating from magazines, periodicals and corporate photoagencies, and the independent resource of the worker-photographer-movement, Heartfield could turn out photographic montages with relative ease. A modern photographic infrastructure allowed him to mould his medium into a flexible, highly topical and hard-hitting weapon of class-warfare. The Hungarian photographer Wolf Reiss (Janos Reissmann; 1905-1976), who collaborated with Heartfield from 1928-1931, has described in a much quoted passage the working process: ‘[...] He burrows in the photo-libraries for hours, for days, looking for a suitable photo of Hermann Muller, Hugenberg, Rohm, whoever is needed – or at least a suitable head, for the rest can be managed.’22 And Wieland Herzfelde recollects:
Often, when he received a commission, it emerged that he had already collected suitable material for the montage. It was typical for Heartfield’s mode of work that he collected, with a view to future use, all sorts of pictures from photo libraries, books, magazines and even newspapers (despite the coarse screen), and also assorted press cuttings. Without this it would have been impossible to produce at times a photomontage almost weekly.23
Dada had defined the way in which artefacts from popular visual culture could be dislocated to construct autonomous narratives of considerable complexity. Modern mass-media provided the constituents that could be raided and re-combined at will. When finally moving away from the ‘arbitrary’ and the ‘unresolved’ that characterised DADA, Heartfield had internalised appropriation as an intrinsically modern phenomenon.
Strategies of Appropriation
To appropriate, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is ‘taking to one’s own use’24, to make a thing one’s own. And, according to Robert S. Nelson, ‘”Appropriate” also has more sinister connotations, implying an improper taking of something and even abduction or theft. Taken positively or pejoratively, appropriation is not passive, objective, or disinterested, but active, subjective, and motivated.’25 He then goes on to argue that ‘appropriation is fundamental to modern advertising and to the abstracting and expropriating strategies of capitalism itself, which Marx attempted to describe in Capital’.26 And, as Walter Benjamin reminds us in ‘The Author as Producer’:
For we are faced with the fact -of which the past decade in Germany has furnished an abundance of examples- that the bourgeois apparatus of production and publication can assimilate astonishing quantities of revolutionary themes, indeed, can propagate them without calling its own existence, and the existence of the class that owns it , seriously into question.27
At the heart of this astonishing phenomenon stands the strategy of capitalist appropriation: by assimilating progressive impulses, ownership can be claimed and debate de-fused. A welcome side effect is the commodification of discontent. Subversion can be re-defined as trend-setting and a whole industry can emerge to supply the necessary accessories. It should be added, of course, that appropriation is by no means exclusive to the strategies of consumer capitalism although it plays a central role in containing oppositional structures as well as extending its own base. The concept of appropriation as an act of motivated displacement and acquisition has come to be seen as instrumental in illuminating some of the processes behind the evolution of cultural and political meaning. Extending the definition to include appropriation as a device that can facilitate the construction of narratives in general means to include thewhole spectrum of cultural production.
To apply what is effectively one of the key-terms in the debates of Post-Modernism (Owens, 1982), to the work of John Heartfield is of course no less an appropriation in itself. It is in fact the very fluidity of its exchanges that defines appropriation as a key aspect of modern mass-media culture. And it is one of the most striking features of Weimar Germany’s cultural production that ownership of meaning, signified by a mutual exclusiveness of artefacts, was beginning to disintegrate before being reinstated by the ideologies of Nazism and Stalinism. To talk about appropriation in the context of John Heartfield’s work means to acknowledge the role of photo-mechanical innovations and the extraordinary proximity of the Avant-Garde and commerce in Weimar Germany. For it was in the wake of the mass-media revolution that modernism with its promises seemed most attractive for artists and engineers, for Dada and the Bauhaus, for capitalists and communists alike.
In her book on the work of Hannah Hoch, Maud Levin describes the media culture of the twenties as follows:
One of the predominant features of everyday life during the Weimar era was the experience of modernisation. Almost no chronicle of the period failed to note or recall the sensations of life being speeded up and profoundly transformed.[...] In Germany in the 1920s, modernity meant experiences of speed, technology, consumerism, economic flux, fragmentation, urbanism, industrialisation, and rationalisation.28
Levin then argues:
Above all, the relationship between modernism and the avant-garde was mediated by the institutions of the mass media. The magazines and newspaper publishers, radio stations, film studios, and book companies that proliferated during the Weimar era signalled a completely new formation of production and spectatorship.28
Or, as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy wrote: ‘We may say that we see the world with entirely different eyes’.29
The global context for the paradigmatic shift in the production of meaning in Weimar Germany was a general fetishisation of production itself. With the principles of ‘scientific management’ introduced by F.W.Taylor and realised in Ford’s River Rouge Plant in 1927 a new and seemingly unstoppable industrial dynamism had emerged and attracted attention right accross the political spectrum. Italian Fascists as well as Russian Bolsheviks paid tribute in equal measure to the unprecedented scale of modernisation. In an uncanny alliance between two antagonistic systems, tractors in the factories of the Soviet Union were manufactured according to the principles of Fordism when workers at Ford plants were enjoying some of the highest wages that would ultimately allow them to purchase the product of their labour. With it emerged the model of a society were mass-production and mass-consumption were inextricably linked as the shared industrial utopia of both capitalism and communism. (‘Lenin’s Vision Became Reality’, AIZ 13, Number 21, 24 May 1934).
With the emergence of a highly affluent visual culture in Weimar Germany the production of meaning could become more fluid and accessible. In a process of ever changing combinations and arrangements an ever greater number of readings could become available and ultimately contribute to the demise of monolithic and hierarchical meaning (up until the regression into Nazism and Stalinism). Illustrated magazines played their part, often encouraging the readership to take on an active role by inviting them to cut up and re-combine images, or to come up with a caption for an image as part of a competition. Private scrap-books were very popular as a platform for constructing alternative and personal narratives. ‘[...] the new photographic vocabulary spread with astonishing rapidity, becoming common property not only in the sophisticated avant-gardes but of the mass vernacular. Photocollage was ubiquitous throughout systems of high and low culture by the mid-1920s [...].’30 Seen against this backdrop, John Heartfield’s work looses none of its poignancy yet it can be understood as part of a widespread culture of re-signification that occurred in Weimar Germany. Appropriation as a strategy of cultural production was widespread: ‘Because about ninety percent of the advertisements were produced in-house, a feature photograph from BIZ (Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung) could reappear, some time later, as a photograph in an advertisement.’31 Here, the image functioned as the carrier of meaning, that could be emptied of its content and re-filled at will or at least attached to other signifying systems. John Heartfield’s use of photographic reproduction was similar: by cutting up images of ruling potentates and removing them from their chosen environment over which they could exercise control, he could effectively ‘overpower’ his political enemies. Placed in a new and isolated context, they could be stripped of their pretensions and invested with an alternative meaning which could be prescribed by Heartfield through the use of juxtapositions, captions and metaphors. (‘Adolf, der Ubermensch’, AIZ 11, Number 29, 17 July 1932; ‘S.M. Adolf’, AIZ 11, Number 34, 21 August 1932;)
A successful transplantation of meaning, however, depends on allusions to a shared code between author and readership. This code is never stagnant but mutates and evolves around its own historicity. In other words: the immanence of the ‘ideal meaning’32 which the author seeks to communicate depends on a shared vocabulary which in turn is culturally and historically conditioned. The more intricately a system of appropriations and counter-appropriations is structured, the more difficult it seems to extract a singular message. Hence, most of Heartfield’s photomontages carry additional translation in order to anchor meaning so that it can be read as intended. The fragmentation and emancipation of meaning that had been encouraged by the early Avant-Garde through strategies of appropriation, through dislocation and juxtaposition was superseded by a strategy of didactic codification. Like many of the other artists who had been instrumental in shaping the process of photo-mechanical montage (Klucis, Lissitzky, Rodchenko et al.), Heartfield was highly critical of the open-endedness of meaning that was inherent in the structural heterogeneity of the montage. The multiplicity of autonomous meaning was regarded as bourgeois and synonymous with the fragmentation that, according to Marxist analysis, characterises late capitalism. Instead Heartfield increasingly favoured the fixed and tendentious nature of the hermetically closed message (’15 Years of the Soviet Union’, AIZ 11, Number 44, 30 October 1932; ‘A New Man – Master of the World’, AIZ 13, Number 44, 1 November 1934; etc.). It is this move that signifies a shift from the ‘radically subversive decentralisation of the (bourgeois) subject (my trans.) ’33 back to the hierarchical structures of a system of prescribed signification. By the time Socialist Realism was affirmed in 1934 as the most adequate model for artistic expression within a Marxist dialectic, the regression was completed with the appropriation of a 19th century system of representation.
The impact of the semiotic revolution that was brought about by photo-mechanical innovations has out-lasted attempts to reinstate monolithic meaning. On the contrary: it is the lack of a grand narrative that characterises much of contemporary cultural practice today. According to Hal Foster, describing in 1985 what he considered oppositional Post-Modernism:
The artists active in this work [...] use many different forms of production and modes of address (photo-text collage, constructed or projected photographs, videotapes, critical texts, appropriated, arranged or surrogate art works, etc.) and yet they are alike in this: each treats the public space, social representation or artistic language in which he or she intervenes as both a target and a weapon. This shift in practice entails a shift in position: the artist becomes a manipulator of signs more than a producer of art objects, and the viewer an active reader of messages rather than a passive contemplator of the aesthetic or consumer of the spectacular. (my italics) .34
And so the trajectory reaches back to the Avant-Garde, John Heartfield and the attempts to sustain the project of a progressive, modern and yet critical cultural practice amidst a dramatically evolving mass-media environment.
01: Reissmann, Wolf. (1969). Joanna Drew (ed.) John Heartfield: Photomontages, London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 12. An exhibition catalogue, published jointly by the former East German Akademie der Kunste and the Arts Council of Great Britain only one year after Heartfield’s death on the height of East-Germany’s idolisation of his work. Contributions are interesting as they mark a significant shift of position within the official marxist aesthetic away from the ultra-orthodox Zhdanovian stance. See also 22.
02: Evans, David. (1992). Anna Lundgreen (ed.) John Heartfield: AIZ / VI 1930 – 1938, New York: Kent, p. 9. David Evans’ book on Heartfield’s work for AIZ is the most comprehensive to date with superb reproductions of Heartfield’s montages. I have used it as the main reference to Heartfield’s AIZ-work. For a more thorough-going investigation of the mass-media environment in Weimar Germany, I have referred to Maud Lavin’s book on Hannah Hoch. Particularly interesting about the ‘Fotomontage’ exhibition was the broad commercial cross-section of applied art.
03: Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. (1990). ‘Living with Contradictions: Critical Practices in the Age of Supply-Side Aesthetics’ in Carol Squiers (ed.) The Critical Image: Essays on Contemporary Photography, London: Lawrence & Wishart, p.75. Earlier she agrues: ‘In this regard, the writing of Brecht, the practice of Heartfield, and the prescriptions of Benjamin can no longer be looked to as the vade mecum of critical practice. For if we accept the importance of specificity as a condition of critical practice, we are thrown into the specifics of our own political conditions and circumstances in the sphere of culture.’
04: Tretyakow, Sergei. (1969). Joanna Drew (ed.) John Heartfield: Photomontages, London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 7.Originally published in 1936 in the first monograph on Heartfield’s work by Tretyakow and regarded by Heartfield as the best study of his work. Tretyakow had also functioned as Heartfield’s guide during his visit to the Soviet-Union in 1931-1932.
05: Hess, Hans. (1969). Joanna Drew (ed.) John Heartfield: Photomontages, London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 11. sic.
06: Kahn, Douglas. (1985). John Heartfield: Art and Mass Media, New York: Tanam Press, p. 3. Historical context of Heartfield’s work is well covered in Kahn’s book.
07: Szarkowski, John. (1989). ’6. Photographs in Ink’ in Susan Weiley (ed.) Photography Until Now, New York: The Museum Of Modern Art, p. 194. Only in the early 1930s would camera technology provide adequate equipment to facilitate true reportage-style and ‘candid’ photography.
08: Szarkowski, John. (1989). ’6. Photographs in Ink’ in Susan Weiley (ed.) Photography Until Now, New York: The Museum Of Modern Art, pp.182-189. Szarkowski’s account of the history of photography is very useful here as he narrates from an american perspective and contextualises the ‘straight photography’ of Evans, Weston and Strand with the European Avant-Garde.
09: Barthes, Roland. (1977 ) . ‘The Photographic Message’ in Stephen Heath (ed.) Image Music Text, London: Fontana, p. 25
10: Freund, Gisele. (1980) . Photography and Society, London: Gordon Fraser, p. 115 – 163.
11: Weise, Bernd. (1997). ‘Photojournalism from the First World War to the Weimar Republik’ in Klaus Honnef, Rolf Sachsse and Karin Thomas (eds.) German Photography 1870-1970, Cologne: Dumont/Yale University Press, p. 54. An indispensable work for the study of photographic reproduction and print-media in Weimar Germany. Peculiar are the various spellings of ‘Berliner Illustri(e)rte Zeitung’. It should be ‘Illustrirte’ as one glance at the actual BIZ masthead confirms.
12: Galassi, Peter. (1998). ‘Rodchenko And Photography’s Revolution’ in Magdalena Dabrowski, Leah Dickerman and Peter Galassi (eds.) Aleksandr Rodchenko, New York: Museum of Modern Art, pp. 109-110.
13: Lavin, Maud. (1993). ‘Mass Media, Modernism, & the Avant-Garde’ in Maud Lavin (ed.) Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, pp. 47-68. Levin’s work is hugely important for an investigation of the photo-mechanical revolution and practices of the Avant-Garde.
14: Lavin, Maud. (1993). ‘The Berlin Dada Photomontages’ in Maud Lavin (ed.) Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, pp. 14-16
15: Herzfelde, Wieland. (1969). Joanna Drew (ed.) John Heartfield: Photomontages, London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 6
16: Ades, Dawn. (1996). Photomontage, London: Thames and Hudson, p. 19. Very useful for reference with regards to other than political uses of photomontage.
17: Herzfelde, Wieland. (1969). Joanna Drew (ed.) John Heartfield: Photomontages, London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 7. See also Roland Barthes’ ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’, in Image Music Text, Fontana: London, 1977
18: Szarkowski, John. (1989). ’6. Photographs in Ink’ in Susan Weiley (ed.) Photography Until Now, New York: The Museum Of Modern Art, p. 194. A view shared amongst many photohistorians is that the German illustrated press played a crucial role in bringing about ‘modern’ Photojournalism and establishing it abroad after Hitler came to power.
19: Weise, Bernd. (1997). ‘Photojournalism from the First World War to the Weimar Republik’ in Klaus Honnef, Rolf Sachsse and Karin Thomas (eds.) German Photography 1870-1970, Cologne: Dumont/Yale University Press, p. 62
20: Weise, Bernd. (1997). ‘Photojournalism from the First World War to the Weimar Republik’ in Klaus Honnef, Rolf Sachsse and Karin Thomas (eds.) German Photography 1870-1970, Cologne: Dumont/Yale University Press, p. 64
21: Freund, Gisele. (1980) . Photography and Society, London: Gordon Fraser, pp. 117-125.
22: Evans, David. (1992). Anna Lundgreen (ed.) John Heartfield: AIZ / VI 1930 – 1938, New York: Kent, p. 32. Wolf Reiss’ account is taken here from David Evans, who quoted from: “Als ich mit John Heartfield zusammenarbeitete”, 1934, reprinted in Marz, John Heartfield, pp. 188-91. some confusion arrises over Reiss’ various name-changes. Without doubt the quoted passage is from the same ‘Wolf Reissmann’, aka Janos Reismann, in the Arts Council Exhibition catalogue from 1969.
23: Herzfelde, Wieland. (1969). Joanna Drew (ed.) John Heartfield: Photomontages, London: The Arts Council of Great Britain, p. 6.
24: . (1962). The Britannical World Language Edition of the Oxford Dictionary Vol.1, Part 1, London: Oxford University Press, p.88
25: Nelson, Robert.S. (1996). ‘Appropriation’ in Robert S Nelson and Richard Shiff (eds.) Critical Terms for Art History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 117-118. Nelson classifies ‘Appropriation’ as a fundamental strategy in cultural production throughout history. He situates ‘Appropriation’ as contingent upon the successful production of myths.
26: Nelson, Robert.S. (1996). ‘Appropriation’ in Robert S Nelson and Richard Shiff (eds.) Critical Terms for Art History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 119-120. Sic.
27: Benjamin, Walter. (1984) . ‘The Author as Producer’ in Marcia Tucker, Brian Wallis et al. (eds.) Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, Lincoln – Massachusetts: David R. Godine, pp. 297-304. Delivered originally as an address to the Institute for the Study of Fascism in Paris on 27 April, 1934. Reprinted in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. Peter Demetz (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), pp. 220-338.
28: Lavin, Maud. (1993). ‘Mass Media, Modernism, & the Avant-Garde’ in Maud Lavin (ed.) Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, pp. 47-68. See also Maria Makela: ‘Particularly renowned for its innovative photographic spreads was Ullstein’s Der Querschnitt (Cross Section), a cosmopolitan monthly read primarily by Berlin’s artistic and literary avant-garde [...] By pairing, for example, a photograph of a yawning tiger with a close-up of an orchid blossom, one layout in the March 1926 issue called attention to the startling similarities between the feline’s cavernous mouth, [...], and the interior of a bud just about to bloom.’ in The Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, Walker Art Center Minneapolis, 1993, p.60.
29: Galassi, Peter. (1998). ‘Rodchenko And Photography’s Revolution’ in Magdalena Dabrowski, Leah Dickerman and Peter Galassi (eds.) Aleksandr Rodchenko, New York: Museum of Modern Art, p. 113. Moholy’s statement originally appeared in ‘Painting, Photography and Film ‘, published by Albert Langen Verlag, Munich, 1925. p.29.
30: Galassi, Peter. (1998). ‘Rodchenko And Photography’s Revolution’ in Magdalena Dabrowski, Leah Dickerman and Peter Galassi (eds.) Aleksandr Rodchenko, New York: Museum of Modern Art, pp.113
31: Lavin, Maud. (1993). ‘Mass Media, Modernism, & the Avant-Garde’ in Maud Lavin (ed.) Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, New Haven & London: Yale University Press, pp. 47-68
32: Barthes, Roland. (1977 ) . ‘Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein’ in Stephen Heath (ed.) Image Music Text, London: Fontana, p. 75. Barthes investigation of the Brechtian aesthetic is particularly useful in its implications towards the realism-debate between Bloch and Lukacs.
33: Buchloh, Benjamin H.D.. (1993). ‘Die Malerei am Ende des Sujets’ in Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Peter Gidal and Birgit Pelzer (eds.) Band II: Gerhard Richter, Texte, Stuttgart: Edition Cantz, p. 13. Buchloh investigates here the significance of Weimar Germany’s Avant-Garde practice, in particular photomontage and Dada, in relation to Gerhard Richter’s ‘Atlas’. According to Richter himself, there was no awareness of the work of Heartfield et al. when ‘Atlas’ was conceived.
34: Foster, Hal. (1998) . ‘Subversive Signs’ in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.) Art in Theory 1900 – 1990, Oxford: Blackwell, p. 1066. Foster elaborates on his definition of a Post-Modernism of ‘Complicity’ or an ‘Oppositional’ Post-Modernism. He cites the work of Martha Rosler, Sherrie Levine, Dara Birnbaum, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Allan McCollum, Jenny Holzer, Krzysztof Wodiczko et al. as exemplorary for the latter.
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Introduction: The first time that I came across John Heartfield’s photomontages of the 1920s and 1930s was, if I remember […]