Use Photography as a Weapon
June 9, 2014 5:09 PM   Subscribe

The Extraordinary Anti-Nazi Photomontages of John Heartfield, a dadist who collaborated with George Grosz and had a lifelong friend in Brecht.
This is a tribute website from his grandson.
Heartfield pioneered photomontage and inspired Siouxsie and the Banshees Metal Postcard.
Essay from the Getty and a little more.
(Previously ''The Man who Pissed off Hitler.'' but fpp links are dead.)
posted by adamvasco (10 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Great post! So interesting to see these artistic techniques appearing in different context than I have encountered them before. Definitely "best of the web" for today.

One minor quibble, which I feel may detract from you otherwise excellent message: Could we maybe change the word "collaborated" when we are talking about an ANTI-Nazi? Because I don't think in this context that word means what you think it does.
posted by seasparrow at 5:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could we maybe change the word "collaborated" when we are talking about an ANTI-Nazi? Because I don't think in this context that word means what you think it does.

No, collaboration is the correct term when referring to artists who produce work together, and John Heartfield was of a generation of European avant-garde artists who frequently collaborated as part of both an artistic and political practice. It has nothing to do with collaborationism.
posted by scody at 5:45 PM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Surely "dadaist" and not "dadist"?
posted by clockzero at 5:50 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's a bit unclear--his montages were published by AIZ, Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (the Workers' Illustrated Newspaper) which started in Berlin, and then moved to Prague and and the Paris, and shut down in '38.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2014

Oh yeah, Helmut Herzefeld was a genius in the new medium of collage, and also a good example of how Not everyone in the population of Germany just mindlessly went along with the rise of fascism at that time. (The book In the Garden of Beasts is pretty good at describing how it might have seemed like that, at that time).

Surely "dadaist" and not "dadist"?

The Dadist Movement were mostly okay with typographic eccentricities.
posted by ovvl at 6:08 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Heartfield was a seriously righteous dude, as fellow dadaist Hans Richter recalled:
Johnny Heartfield was a generous comrade and a friendly man, despite his explosive temperament. In the Berlin Dada group he was nicknamed Dada Monteur (Dada Mechanic), which had a sharp technical ring to it. Heartfield’s communism was a trumpet of the Last Judgment: he was uncomplicatedly emotional, loved out of compassion and hated out of a sense of justice—and both in a more primitive Christian than politically partisan way. [...] His art helped him (as he helped it) simply to kick, photomontagistically into the beyond, a world that was no longer worthy to be called a world, which had become a non-world, and thus to eternalize its ruin—as art.

As distinct from Hausmann, Grosz, Arp, Höch, and the avalanche of present-day photomonteurs, Heartfield worked exclusively in this medium. He maximized its possibilities as a political weapon to a degree that has not been exceeded since, but which a whole generation utilizes today to its own advantage. We were convinced that he would never be able to survive in Hitler’s Germany because of his naive, emotional fearlessness and his hot-headedness. Yet he got away, some guardian angel preserved him, and he outlived Hitler.

...Nearly forty years had elapsed since our last meeting when we saw each other again in the mid- or late 1960s, at an exhibition of his work in a gallery near the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. [...] Together with his young wife we celebrated our reunion. In his rather high-pitched voice, speaking rapidly as usual, he talked of the memories we shared—of the quarrels, friendships, and enmities; he spluttered with horror at the traitors and turncoats during the Hitler years, the brownshirts and the others; he spoke also of his friends, Grosz and Franz Jung, and of the war, being a refugee, and of our meeting again. His whole lifetime, and mine... over a plate of spaghetti and veal milanese in the ghostly atmosphere of the restaurant’s dim back room.

When we finally had said goodbye, he suddenly turned and embraced me again, spontaneous and impulsive as ever. His life, his polemics, and his photomontage—all are creations of impulse. A loving farewell, and a last one.
posted by scody at 6:17 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Great post.

It would be wonderful if this fine chap was better known.

I read a story somewhere(can't recall where) about Heartfield in Berlin after WWI.
Disgusted by Prussian militarism, he would leave one small patch of beard on an otherwise clean shaven face and wander around the city offending people with his disregard for orderliness.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:12 PM on June 9, 2014

I first found out about Heartfield via the long-forgotten late-80s industrial band Mussolini Headkick, who used his art on the cover of their first album (nsfw).

Looking at the tribute site just now, I'm also surprised to discover that another of his works was also used as an element (uncredited) on the cover of Front Line Assembly's classic album "Caustic Grip". Those WaxTrax Records bands sure loved their anti-Nazi propagandists, it seems.
posted by neckro23 at 3:55 AM on June 10, 2014

Following around from scody´s excellent comment ^, I came across this gem:
Fuck Yeah John Heartfield
which has truely wonderful commentry and explanation about the Dada Monteur.
Fuck Yeah.
posted by adamvasco at 11:03 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is great. Thanks, adamvasco.
posted by homunculus at 1:34 PM on June 11, 2014

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