The general chaos was captured in the driving art movement in Germany in the years between the World Wars by German Expressionism. But once Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party began their ascent into power, culminating in 1933 with the beginning of the Third Reich, it was the Berlin branch of the Dada art movement that captured the zeitgeist of fear and resistance in late-Weimar Germany and in particular its central characteristic of nihilism and simultaneous destruction of cultural heritage. The dadaists assaulted bourgeois culture, but were artistic constructivists and eclectic experimenters, that in the beginning embraced the idea of the illogic serving as an aesthetic. The nazis regarded national Socialism as an all encompassing National aesthetic, under state control, patriotic, linear and decorative.
With Dada’s founding members all affected in one form or another by World War I, they banded together through their suspicion of language and logic, the so-called trustworthy foundations of society that had lead to the utter destruction of the Great War. The Dada in Berlin continued to follow the anti-war stance of Zurich, with John Heartfield and the other Dadaist creating ironic and often darkly humorous collages criticizing Hitler and the Nazi regime. Both the technological developments in printing and the prevalence of Nazi imagery and propaganda made collage a natural and highly effective medium for the Berlin Dadaists to work in.Heartfield used the technology of his age to similarly co-opt and re-contextualize the Nazis to ironic ends, both political and as orginal works of art.The associations between money and war, capitalism and militarism were persistent themes with George Grosz and Heartfield in particular.
”…the idea of photomontage was as revolutionary as its content, its form as subversive as the application of the photograph and printed texts which, together, are transformed into a static film. Having invented the static…poem, the Dadaists applied the same principles to pictorial representation. They were the first to use photography as material to create, with the aid of structures that were very different, often anomalous and with antagonistic significance, a new entity which tore from the chaos of war and revolution an entirely new image; and they were aware that their method possessed a propaganda power…” ( Raoul Hausmann, 1931 )
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