Background 1920s 1980s Present Day

The Czech-born "Dadasoph", Raoul Hausmann was a founding member of Berlin Dada, and one of its driving forces. He was inexhaustible in his artistic pursuits and liked to try his hand at everything. He was a photomonteur, painter, fashion designer, poet, pamphleteer, publisher, and partner (in many senses of the word) of Hannah Höch. Everything he did was done with enthusiasm and an often angry gallows humour.

As was typical of a man of such versatility, allied with a monstrous ego, Hausmann claimed to have invented photomontage. Much of the philosophical basis for the practice does go back to earlier artistic experiments which he was very much part of: the early "Cabaret Voltaire" phase of Dada shocked the Zurich public with performances of simultaneous and phonetic poetry that were the aural equivalent of photomontage. Juxtaposition was all.

In his article "Definition of Photomontage", Hausmann seems to pin down its power: "…its contrast of structure and dimension, rough against smooth, aerial photograph against close-up, perspective against flat surface, the utmost technical flexibility and the most lucid formal dialectics are equally possible…The ability to manage the most striking contrasts, to the achievement of perfect states of equilibrium…ensures the medium a long and richly productive span of life…"

The Spirit of Our Times - Mechanical Head 1919Hausmann's montages were some of the most artistic of the early period of Dada, demonstrating his somewhat wild and free personality in their lack of inhibition. He was never a purist in any sense and often combined media, using paint extensively in some of his best works. But still they remained "montages" as a result of the philosophical approach that he took to the making of art: "…it embodied our refusal to play the part of the artist. We regarded ourselves as engineers and our work as construction...all the arts and their techniques needed a fundamental and revolutionary change, in order to remain in touch with the life of their epoch."

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