CURATOR, LEAH DICKERMAN: Dada artists believed that art really had to engage with the modern world; not to turn away from it, but to look at it, intensely and closely. But they also jettisoned the idea of an artwork as a picture, and I think that's the major Dada revolution: the idea that the work of art could be gathered from the stuff of modern life itself.
NARRATOR: Photomontage, a collage of pasted photographic images culled from the press, was one of Dada’s most significant contributions to modern art. Hannah Höch’s, Cut with a Kitchen Knife is a teeming array of text and images spread across the page.
CURATOR, ANNE UMLAND: Höch found the source material for her photomontages in printed broadsides, magazines, product catalogues, journals, newspapers, all of which she clipped and rearranged into this vast kaleidoscopic, seemingly chaotic yet carefully orchestrated composition. Höch metaphorically arms herself with a traditional kitchen knife to make her montage, thus referring both to stereotypical roles of women in society and to her own artistic process.
Throughout this composition, in fact, there are figures of women—women athletes, dancers, gymnasts—so that part of the subtext of the work is the new role of women in post-war Germany. Down in the lower right-hand corner, where you might traditionally find the artist's signature, is a map which shows the countries where women by 1920 had the right to vote. And up in the upper left-hand corner of that small map is Höch's own self-portrait, combining self-portraiture with an emphatic recognition of women as a vehicle for change.