Through the cut-and-pasted elements of Indian Dancer, Höch assembled references to film, Central African sculpture, and the domestic sphere. Her collaged model is the actress Renée (Maria) Falconetti (also known simply as “Falconetti”), appearing in a publicity still for Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Half of Falconetti’s face is replaced with the ear, eye, and mouth of a wooden dance mask from Cameroon. Atop her head rests a crown of cutlery: cutout shapes of spoons and knives, set against glinting metallic foil.
This work belongs to a series of photomontages called From an Ethnographic Museum (1924–34), in which Höch juxtaposed images of women with reproductions of tribal art cut from magazines. The artist cited a visit to the ethnographic museum in Leiden, in the Netherlands, as an influence in the conception of this series; however, she used material from other cultures mostly as a point of departure for commentary on the status of women in contemporary German society. Invoking an androgynous fifteenth-century French martyr as embodied by a glamorous movie star, capping her with the finery of a domestic goddess, and aligning her with a cultural Other, this composite representation examines the complex facets of modern femininity.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)