Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday

7:00 AM

George Grosz and John Heartfield, Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday, 1920

By ISABEL THOMAS

Did you remember to schedule that appointment? Did you find an excuse not to see your friend’s New-Agey play in some theatre above a flower shop downtown? What about those thank-you notes you’ve been putting off since your birthday six months ago? I know you didn’t write those.

George Grosz and John Heartfield’s Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday captures the overwhelming inundation of images in the modern era. With inexpensive reproductions of art flooding the senses, inspiration and potential for artistic creation existed everywhere. Grosz and Heartfield’s photomontage resembles a mind cluttered with news headlines and advertisements after a day of taking in the information that fills their corner of Universal City. A person from 2016 can relate to this as easily as someone from 1920.

Photographic collages came into existence in the 1850s but were not respected as an art form until the 1920s, the decade of Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday. In Modern Art 1851-1929, Brettell says that collage artists “used newspapers, advertisements, theatre tickets, handbills, labels, wallpaper, or other flat urban ephemera as other artists used paint and brushes.” This medium allowed Grosz and Heartfield to convey their work’s message in words (it doesn't get much clearer than writing the name of your art movement in bold). The inclusion of headlines and taglines intensifies the impact of Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday as a representation of modern commotion.

Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday makes me feel anxious about my ever-growing to-do list, and I find myself wishing for a moment without pop culture, advertisements, and the forms of entertainment designed to distract people from their lives. The appeal of this photomontage is that its elements exist as separate entities but are all together in our understanding of the world. It is satisfying to see parts of everyday life connected because it is truer to how people experience them—how everything seems to flow together into a singular memory of each day.

Maybe you did not finish the dishes or you forgot to pick up your dry-cleaning, but those imperfections—incomplete tasks, break-downs from stress, and prayers for moments of silence—are natural; they are art taken straight from reality. Life and Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday makes use of the freedoms of modern art to embody modern life, in all of its stress, loudness, and ultimate beauty.

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