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The Chatter of the Visible

The Chatter of the Visible: Montage and Narrative in Weimar Germany OPEN ACCESS

Patrizia C. McBride
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 246
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    The Chatter of the Visible
    Book Description:

    The Chatter of the Visible examines the paradoxical narrative features of the photomontage aesthetics of artists associated with Dada, Constructivism, and the New Objectivity. While montage strategies have commonly been associated with the purposeful interruption of and challenge to narrative consistency and continuity, McBride offers an historicized reappraisal of 1920s and 1930s German photomontage work to show that its peculiar mimicry was less a rejection of narrative and more an extension or permutation of it—a means for thinking in narrative textures exceeding constraints imposed by “flat" print media (especially the novel and other literary genres). McBride’s contribution to the conversation around Weimar-era montage is in her situation of the form of the work as a discursive practice in its own right, which affords humans a new way to negotiate temporality, as a particular mode of thinking that productively relates the particular to the universal, or as a culturally specific form of cognition.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-90066-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction (pp. 1-13)

    One of the most striking pictures featured in László Moholy-Nagy’sMalerei Fotografie Film(Painting Photography Film, 1925–27) is without a doubt Hannah Höch’sThe Multi-Millionaire, from 1923. Tucked in Moholy’s extensive compendium of the new visual modes of expression made possible by photography and film in the first decades of the twentieth century, Höch’s photomontage has an eye-popping quality that well documents her gift for laying bare the conventions of contemporary visual media and debunking gender and class stereotypes with compositions of uncommon virtuosity and mordant wit. At first sight the image evokes an unhinged world made of intersecting,...

  2. The termsmontageandcollagehave become synonymous with the radical experimentation that altered the status and physiognomy of art in early twentieth-century Europe. They encompass a wide array of practices premised on quoting, combining, and juxtaposing materials that straddle the bounds of old and new media—from literature and stage drama to painting, sculpture, photography, film, and radio. Common to these practices is the exuberant transgression of the canons of normative aesthetics, coupled with an often belligerent contempt for the institutions of academic art and an optimistic willingness to draw inspiration from the world of consumer culture, advertisement, and...

  3. Montage holds a distinctive place in Benjamin’s discourse. The term comes up with remarkable insistence in his writings, which probe the rich meanings the concept assumed in contemporary discourses bent on outlining the realignment of literature, drama, and the visual arts following the rise of new media and mass-cultural forms. In surveying the term’s semantic range and occasional vagueness, one can easily receive the impression that it functions like a useful conceptual prop in Benjamin’s texts, its role subordinated to what invariably appear to be more pressing concerns—the need for an alternative thinking on history in the face of...

  4. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” (1935–39) and “The Storyteller” share much common ground. Both texts seize on the transformed status of art and aesthetic experience as a privileged point of entry for reflecting on the modern condition. Each essay examines the changes wrought by a watershed event in the development of technology—in “The Storyteller,” the propagation of movable print and a book culture that displaces the oral practice of storytelling, marking the dislocation of the collective wisdom of tradition by the putative objectivity of information; in the artwork essay, the advent of...

  5. This passage wraps up an essay László Moholy-Nagy published in 1923, the year he was appointed to the Bauhaus, where he helped liquidate the romantic existentialism of the Expressionist masters that had shaped the school’s aesthetic agenda and usher its orientation toward technology and massproducible design. Casting a belief shared by many contemporaries in the language of Constructivism, Moholy announces that photography and film are poised to displace literature as a medium of communication in virtue of their superior clarity, simplicity, and exactness. Photography’s exactness, in particular, is the source of its striking narrative power, which dispenses with the vagaries...

  6. It would be difficult to overstate the impact of technologies of mechanical reproduction on the visual culture of Weimar Germany, as a flood of images from photography and film upended conventional models of cultural literacy following the media boom of the early 1920s. Within this context film has attracted far greater attention than photography because of its explosive potential as a mimetic medium that can convey a sense of unfolding time and engender fresh modes of collective reception. Yet the photographic image was an even more ubiquitous and flexible instrument of visual dissemination because of the unprecedented proliferation of newspapers...

  7. Perhaps no other artist has offered as comprehensive and layered an exploration of montage as Kurt Schwitters, whose imaginative engagement with strategies of disarticulation and assemblage over four decades casts a long shadow on the art of the twentieth century.¹ Working in a variety of media, Schwitters pushed the bounds of montage with a single-mindedness that is only matched by the doggedness with which he interrogated the enabling conditions of his artistic practice. Yet precisely his reflection on montage as a fundamental aesthetic principle has presented a formidable stumbling block for Schwitters scholars ever since the rediscovery of his oeuvre...

  8. Barely twelve years after Schwitters wrote his montage narrative about Augusta Bolte, the young woman caught in a solipsistic search for the meaning of life, the question of montage was catapulted to the forefront of debates on art’s critical mission by the rise of fascism in Germany and other European countries. The place of modernism in these developments, as telescoped by a montage aesthetics, became a heated point of contention in the exchange that unfolded in the pages ofDas Wort, the journal published by German émigrés in Moscow as part of the Popular Front’s fight against fascism. At issue...

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
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