[expositie] Hannah Höch – Picture Book

Hannah Höch: Picture Book
by Jasmijn ter Haar and Rosella Bena

Hannah Höch, born in Gotha, Germany in 1889, was an artist and woman that broke many conventions of her time. Although her domestic responsibilities were a priority for her family, Höch studied glass design at the college of Applied Arts in Berlin in 1912, until she had to return home due to WWI. During the war, she worked with the Red Cross, and then returned to Berlin to study at the National Institute of the Museum of Arts and Crafts. There she met  Raoul Hausmann and through him, became associated with the Berlin Dada group. Dada was an artistic movement that emerged post-WWI that rejected militarism and felt art should be playful, whimsical, and have no boundaries. Höch was one of the only women in the group, and was routinely marginalized and deemed an outsider of the movement by the men that were a part of it. She was also singled out for her masculine appearance and bisexuality. Despite this, Höch determinedly brought a feminist perspective to a male-dominated movement, earning her place with her undeniably unique and captivating works. Höch was banned from exhibiting during the Nazi regime, but she continued to create art from the safety of her home outside Berlin until the end of WWII, where she then again began showing her work.  

Höch was a pioneer of photomontage, a technique where she spliced and rearranged images from popular media in order to critique it, addressing themes such as the social construction of gender and the beauty industry, racial discrimination, and the failing of the Weimar Republic. Her photos came from magazines and newspapers, taking images that people were familiar with and changing their perspective about them. Höch repeatedly explored gender roles in her work, and specifically the idea of the “New Woman,” or the idea that women were fully equal to men because they were able to be politically, financially, and sexually free. Höch’s radical experiments often featured androgynous figures, as she fused together the bodies of men and women. Her work was always political, as she maintained that women’s liberation would come alongside leftist political revolution.