Dada logo

John Heartfield/Rudolf Schlichter. Prussian Archangel. 1920

Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

NARRATOR: Berlin Dada was more militant and cutting than its Zurich counterpart. Artists tore into the German establishment with reckless abandon, eviscerating the system they believed responsible for World War I.

Leah Dickerman:

CURATOR, LEAH DICKERMAN: Prussian Archangel was made by John Heartfield and Rudolf Schlichter and hung at the first International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920. The main aim was clearly publicity, and the group hired a photographer to take pictures, which they then distributed to various newspapers.

NARRATOR: This provocative piece did indeed draw publicity, as well as the attention of German authorities. It was suspended from the ceiling, as you see it here. Around the torso is a band that says, β€˜I come from heaven; from heaven on high,’ the refrain from a well-known Christmas carols. A placard dangling from the pig's waist says: β€˜In order to understand this work of art completely, one should drill daily for twelve hours with heavily packed knapsack in full marching gear on the Tempelhof Field.’

LEAH DICKERMAN: It's a scathing assault not only on German militarism, but on German bourgeois culture at large, and it was understood as such by authorities. Schlichter was charged with slandering the military, and he defended himself by claiming the work was a practical joke, and that way he avoided jail and charges.

2 / 19