The Sweet One

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Hannah Höch. The Sweet One (Die Susse). 1929.
Collage, a technique now frequently seen on popular social media like Tumblr, had its origins in Germany after World War I. Hannah Höch, among other Dadaists, developed techniques of collage and photomontage as a response to the instability of the Weimar years. In Germany after the Great War, life restored and soldiers returned home to their wives, but there was no joy—streets were filled with crimes and senseless gunfights. Germans felt the humiliation of losing the war and suddenly faced six thousand millions of reparations that had to be squeezed out of their pockets. Post-war confusion haunted every German’s mind, including the avant-garde artists who chose to attack all established institutions, the only way they thought would better the society.

Hannah Höch’s photomontages depicted the turbulence and violence of the era with reassembled pieces and expressive watercolor backgrounds, but above all, she addressed the experience of the modern woman. Her longtime companion and fellow Dadaist Raoul Hausmann, despite his revolutionary “feminist” theories, was psychologically violent to Höch during their relationship. In The Sweet One (Die Susse), the distortions of the female body express Höch’s struggle to establish her identity in her relationship as well as in a society that called for the “new woman.” She took images of beautiful and subservient women from newspapers and cut them up, then recombined them to show their true fragmented, powerless state. 

By violating the integrity of the body, Höch criticized society for the perception of women as literally the sum of their parts. Created in 1929, The Sweet One was a product of “The Golden Years” in Germany. In the late 20s, the price of the war had gradually faded beneath the surface of prosperity. Germans, aware that this artificial abundance wouldn’t last for long, celebrated their overdue peace with excessive spending. As nightlife flourished, women enjoyed more sexual liberation than in past decades of restrictive governance, but also became increasingly objectified by men. Hannah Höch promoted a artistic revolution in body representation and provoked a question that is still relevant today, whether female identity can exist independently of the male gaze.

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