Hannah Hoch was ahead of her time. She was one of the few women participants in Dada, an avant-garde art movement from the early 1900s, which included members such as Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and George Grosz, as well as many women–consistently overlooked–such as Emmy Hennings and Beatrice Wood. Dada emerged after WWI and was anti-war, anti-bourgeois, and dedicated to upending notions of the artist, the art object, and the establishment.
Hoch said she possessed “an experimental turn of mind”, and she is now recognized for pioneering the technique of photomontage as an art form, which presaged the mash-up media world that we live in now.
Photomontage is a collage technique. It is a process of generating an original image out of other images and fragments which can be cut, layered, glued and arranged. The resulting composite conjures new visual and conceptual associations.
Hannah Hoch faced ugly bias from the male dominated art scene, and was routinely pushed out of the Dada club. Confronting dismissal from her peers and an ill-fated love affair with Dada artist Raoul Hausmann, Hoch persevered on her own, her work growing more and more politicized and challenging to gender norms, racial bias and class discrimination. The series “An Ethnographic Museum” is a powerful example, which layers a mixture of fierce social criticism and soulful aesthetic sensibility. I think it is a masterpiece.
Here is a playful exercise based on Hoch’s work:
Goal: to use your hands, open your mind to playful associations, and by cutting and “alienating” imagery, and recombining it- to see the visual information that surrounds us anew.
Secondary Goal: to have a great post for Instagram.
- You will need paper, scissors, glue, a few magazines, catalogues, newspapers, and a printed image of your face. I prefer rubber cement for collage, but a glue stick or Elmers will suffice. For the base of your photomontage, a black piece of construction paper is ideal, though a regular sheet of printer paper can also work. Cut your paper so that it is a square.
- Print out a picture of you (ideally a close up) on 8 ½” by 11” paper.
- Choose images from your source material to cut out. Find interesting shapes, subjects, words, colors, or anything else that intrigues you. Take your time cutting out stuff, and don’t worry about overdoing it. Abundance is good. Cutting can be very meditative and relaxing. Enjoy it. This exercise can also be fun to do with a friend.
- Take image that you printed of yourself, and carefully cut out your features- your eyes, nose, mouth, hair or other distinctive shapes.
- You are going to create a new self portrait of yourself. Start by playing around with compositions made from the cut up images.
- Look for continuity of shape or color or juxtaposition between images. Find arrangements that make you laugh. Be playful and trust your intuition. There is no “right” way here. Try a number of iterations before landing on a composition that interests you.
- Incorporate your features into the collage.
- Piece by piece use the glue to afix the collage to the paper. Do this carefully, but do not fret if something gets messy or out of order- it might be your materials telling you something.
- Set the collage to dry for an hour or so.
- Use your phone to photograph your photomontage selfie. Try out different filters on your phone to see which looks most interesting.
- Post it with hashtag #TCHhoch
It is hard to get hold of good books on Hoch, which may be because Hoch is still marginalized by the male-dominated art world. She was brilliant. It is well worth the hunt.
Dada’s Women by Ruth Hemus. Includes biographical material and artwork by Emmy Hennings, Sophie Taeuber, Hannah Höch, Suzanne Duchamp and Céline Arnauld
Hannah Hoch: Picture Book A picture book for children, using her photomontage technique, of mythical creatures and plants.
The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art. “A leveling indictment of bigotry in the art world, the work of the Guerrilla Girls elevates cage-bar rattling to a fine art.”—Mark Dery in The New York Times Book Review
Equipment & Supplies:
Having a good, satisfying pair of scissors is a must
Choice glue for collage
Black paper makes a great base for collage