Book Details
Mandatory Fields
Sabine T. Kriebel
Revolutionary Beauty: John Heartfield's Radical Photomontages
University of California Press
Optional Fields
John Heartfield Photomontage Weimar Republic Photography National Socialism Anti-fascism suture German exile Communism Art and politics

Revolutionary Beauty presents the first sustained, critical study of the radical political montages by German artist John Heartfield published in the popular, pioneering photographic weekly Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ). The book offers a groundbreaking account of the intersections of activist art, mass replicated photography, and embodied perception, charged by the volatile politics of 1930s Europe. Based on the structural principle of pictorial disruption and re-assembly, montage is characterized as a “symbolic form” or “paradigm” of the modern-- a cipher for the shocks of accelerated social, economic, and technological transformation of the twentieth century. Curiously, during this period of political instability, which witnessed worldwide economic depression, the consolidation of Nazi Germany, and the slow defeat of democracy, Heartfield manufactured seamlessly constructed, carefully sutured photomontages that propagate fictions of photographic wholeness rather than the disruptive shocks that typify Dada’s critique of modernity. Heartfield’s AIZ photomontages stage our illusory, unstable, at times hallucinatory apprehension of the world by exploiting the discourses of illusion, of false cognition, by reproducing its very terms. Through that mimicry—which Heartfield exceeds in the form of parody and caricature— these works critically intervene in the illusionistically-reproduced reality perpetrated by mass photojournalism. Given the copious attention to the tactics of Dada montage in the last several years, the question of Heartfield’s rejection of Dadaist rupture and embrace of sutured illusionism is particularly vital, offering new insights into the modalities of this paradigmatic modern form, into leftist strategies of critical mass mobilization, and as a model of subversive political critique.

Grant Details
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