Cut with the Kitchen Knife

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Germany during the 1920’s, there was a wave of mass media images of the so-called New Woman. These images were seductive in their depiction of modern women as having greater mobility and sexual freedom. They were also identified as consumers of the products of a modern industrialized society. Paradoxically, the reality for the New Woman included entrapment in low-paying jobs and subjection to male-dominated hierarchies. Hannah Hoch looked at these contradictions and used them to construct a number of fractured, disturbing photomontages which simultaneously expressed the conflicting realities of pleasure, anger, confidence, and anxiety.

Hoch was raised in a conventional, middle-class, small-town family. She moved to Berlin during World War I to study art and work for a women’s magazine. It was during these years that she became a member of Berlin Dada. She showed her works regularly with the Dada group but did not establish an international reputation as an artist until after the Dada movement had fallen apart.

CUT WITH THE KITCHEN KNIFE includes more than 150 illustrations of works Hoch created during 1918-1933, the Weimar years. Hoch assembled her montages by selecting photographs of women from illustrated print sources and juxtaposing them with fragments of scenes from Weimar and German colonial society. Readers will be intrigued by the surprising even shocking compositions which combine the pleasure of viewing mass media images with critical, even destructive feelings about the subject matter. Maud Lavin offers both interpretation and critical analysis of these montages. This study of Hannah Hoch is both personal and scholarly and offers new insights into the work of an original talent.