The graphic designer, typographer, cartoonist and set designer John Heartfield (1891–1968) was the founder and pioneer of the “montage principle”. His works triggered the development of this effective image-rhetorical process which is now seeing a modern renaissance in the form of digitally processed photos and memes. Particularly Heartfield’s satirical photo montages of Nazi subjects have lost none of their artistic forcefulness. As the art critic Adolf Behne once quipped, Heartfield’s works are “photography plus dynamite”.
The exhibition at the Academy of the Arts focuses on Heartfield’s digitally processed pictorial works and investigates the photo montage as an exemplary aesthetic process. To what extent has the montage technique established itself as a vehicle for reflecting on social reality? What kind of “truth” do pictures convey in an era of “networked” and “algorithmic images”? With such questions in mind, the exhibition wishes to present the “revolutionary beauty” (Louis Aragon) and the catalytic impact of his oeuvre and his personal life. For Heartfield’s art was rarely a solo endeavour; his partners and work colleagues included Hannah Höch, George Grosz, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Tucholsky and Erwin Piscator among others. The curators also plan to investigate the aesthetic relationships between John Heartfield, Aby Warburg and Jeff Wall. In addition to his key works, the exhibition will present surprising archival discoveries and never-before published interviews, photographs and film sequences. The project will be accompanied and supplemented by a virtual exhibition titled “The Heartfield Cosmos”, an online catalogue and an extensive educational programme.
Artistic director: Rosa von der Schulenburg
Curators: Angela Lammert, Rosa von der Schulenburg, Anna Schultz
Composer: Anda Kryeziu (AL)
Catalogue contributors: Michael Krejsa, Stephan Dörschel, Erdmut Wizisla, Heiko Hübner, Vera Chiquet (CH), David Evans (GB), Andrés Mario Zervignon (US), Piotr Rypson (PL), Judith Joos (CH), Siegfried Lokatis, Uwe Sonnenberg and others