PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Yeah. Thank you, Kaiser, for this very, very kind introduction. Also, thank you, Lynn, [? Barna, ?] and whoever has made possible this series of talks. I cannot think of a better place to give a talk about my book or any book than a library. So thank you. Thank you so much.
And what I want to do in this talk-- and I'll talk for about 35, 40 minutes, and I hope to be able to simply talk. At some point, if I see that time gets short, I resort to reading. But what I want to tell you is basically how I got to this topic. I want to basically introduce a little bit of the issue of montage as a principle for storytelling. And then perhaps at the end of the talk, I'll also give you a little bit of a concrete example of what I mean.
And so montage, as it functions as a kind of a discursive trope in Weimar, Germany, is a principle that entails basically assembling artifacts, objects, narratives by basically calling fragments from all realms of experience. In essence, it's a principle of these articulation and reassemblage. And the way in which it works, particularly in the aesthetics of Dadaism, which is what the montage principle is normally kind of associated in terms of its origin as an avant garde practice. Usually the way in which it's handled with Dadaism, I should say-- and I should show you immediately the first image here.
It is kind of associated with a kind of an [INAUDIBLE] representation. And also on any kind of ordering principle, including narrative. And so just to give you-- and it's also read. And this is actually one of the iconic images from Berlin Dada, Hannah Hoch's collage, "Cut with the Kitchen Knife, Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany," a collage that Hoch put together-- was composed around 1919.
And it's supposed to kind of give a sense, kind of a cross-section of German society, right after the Great War. It's usually-- montage is seen as registering kind of the collapse of social and kind of moral orders in the immediate after-war period. So in essence, it's a principle that kind of registers a moment of trauma, a moment of dissolution, and that seems completely antithetical to the ordering, if you would, thrust, of narrative and storytelling.
And what I kind of argue in my book, just to give you the thesis in a nutshell, is that in fact, this kind of conflation or mixing together of codes and media that don't seem at all to abide by the canons of traditional aesthetics or traditional narrative. That is, in fact, it proposes a new understanding of narrative that kind of de-emphasizes the moment of sense making of interpretation and kind of emphasizes or valorizes the ways in which the forms of the world, as mediated through new visual technologies like photography and film, interact with the human sensors-- with our ability to register reality.
And so it's a kind of an unorthodox understanding of narrative, and I want to unfold it a little bit by talking about three contexts or aspects that may help kind of fleshing out or also describe the need for new modes of narration and storytelling. OK, so the first context is one of a crisis of narrative, which is kind of a trope in Weimar, Germany. And that usually is related to the idea of a crisis of the novel, is the genre of Bourgeois modernity, particularly the specific German incarnation. The Bildungsroman, the novel of education or formation. So this would be crisis of the novel as one of the contexts.
The second context, which is kind of related, is a perceived challenge to literacy modes tied to a print culture, which means, in essence, two inherited ways of understanding the relationship between text and image or two ways of understanding the relationship between the book and other new print formats, like photojournalism, which also basically engages in the business of telling stories but this time giving images a priority over verbal modes of communication. And then the idea of that, you know, given this kind of proliferation of new print format, we read in different ways. And so stories will have to be crafted in different ways. So this is one of the things.
And then the third aspect that I want to reference here is the rise of the new graphic arts, in particularly around the commercial arts in advertisement at this point, which very much-- a completely new field that becomes professionalized and institutionalized at the turn of the century. Comes into its own in the '20s. And that seems to kind of bypass the kind of traditional literacy modes tied to kind of 19th century print culture. So those are the three contexts.
And so I want to start with-- to kind of outline this issue of changes in modes and in understanding of narrative and storytelling and also tell you how I actually came to this topic in the first place. It was, lo and behold, through my first book, basically, which is devoted to the narrative theory of Robert Musil, one of the great, I think, novelists in German language modernism. The man with their qualities being perhaps the work that many of you may have heard of, 1930, first volume.
And who, in the media-- so who was very much plugged in. He was Austrian but he lived in Berlin for many years. He was very much plugged into what scholars now can describe as this kind of debate about the crisis of narration and crisis of the novel. And who, in the mid '20s, writes one of these main basically statements about the narrative theory and references basically the poetics of film. He references an essay by [INAUDIBLE], [NON-ENGLISH] Basically the visible person in the cultural film.
And what's interesting there for me in the ways in which Musil but also many contemporaries try to think kind of novelistic modes of narration via the example of film, which is now considered as the new narrative mode of the masses. What interests me in the ways Musil describes storytelling is that he basically argues that, like film, the poetics of film, storytelling has to hinge on a principle of recombination. You don't invent anything. Fiction is not about making up stories but fiction is about really responding and kind of taking the elements of experience and kind of recombining them in new configurations.
And that principle of recombination, which then is kind of glossed as a sense of possibility-- Musil's then later aesthetic theory, the man without qualities-- is very much a principle of montage. It's a principle-- in a way, it's a standard, basically, description of modernist defamiliarization. I take something, I insert it in a new context, and I make it new. Strange, if you would, [INAUDIBLE]
But what interests me in relation to, then, kind of specifically to montage strategies, is the idea that you treat experience as a treasure trove and storytelling as kind of a treasure trove of found objects and you recombine them. And also in the reflection of another fellow traveler and novelist who was a close friend of Musil's, Alfred Doblin, that principle gets even more radicalized. Because with Musil, the idea is that telling stories is about recombining the elements of experience, but there's still an idea of representation. You know, those elements are mediated through language, and language allows us to tell stories, and stories make sense of experience. OK? So that's basically kind of a semantic relationship between stories and experience.
Whereas, in some essays by Alfred Doblin, the idea is, the language is itself an object. And you, just basically as a writer, what you do is you manipulate this object. It's very much-- it's not an issue of storytelling, it's not an issue of representation, but it's an issue of making. You manipulate things and the story that comes out of this work of manipulation-- this is actually the early Doblin, 1913, in an essay that is called "Berlin Program"-- what comes out of that is another object.
And I was very intrigued by this. So that, in a way, what you have here, the important thing about this object that Doblin calls narrative in this very brash avant garde fashion, 1913, is this object is going to be basically placed alongside of other objects in experience. And just simply by its presence will change the orders of the real. It's not because we make sense of it, it's not because we interpret it, necessarily, although there is a moment of interpretation, but narrative is about this kind of direct manipulation. This kind of direct intervention.
And I thought, how is this going to work? And for Doblin, then, later on-- particularly, there is an essay on the structure of the epoch work-- for Doblin, later on, then, the idea becomes that through this kind of reshuffling and manipulation, that this kind of operation will also be able to create a new collective. That the whole idea is really to create a mode of narrative that is a kind of a new epoch.
And the result is basically, through these kind of narrative objects, is that new bonds of collectivity or reciprocity will be established. OK? And in dealing with this kind of, to me, kind of very unorthodox understanding of narrative and storytelling, I then-- and the idea that narrative is really about not sense making but a certain kind of experience of collective experience-- experientiality, if you would.
I then saw a lot of overlaps with contemporary advertisement. With this kind of burgeoning field of advertisement that, as I said, is becoming kind of institutionalized and professionalized in the teens and the '20s. And I chanced upon an article by an art historianist at UC Irvine-- she's now the professor emerita-- Sally Stein, whose work is actually in primarily-- sorry, I'm just going to put on this image. Primarily on American photography, both documentary photography and press photography from the 1920s through-- it was actually '30s and '40s primarily.
And she wrote this very interesting article in a book titled Montage of Modern Life that, in order to kind of examine the fairly safe-- so the context here is what kind of experience does advertisement create and what are the ties to this other kind of storytelling that I'm trying to describe, OK? And why American advertisement? Because American advertisement at this time seems to be actually very safe in terms of the visual strategies of representation that it engages with.
And Sally Stein compares it then to German advertisement of the same time-- from the '20s-- which is much more radical in its abstraction and it's kind of in a sense of aggression or of activation of the audience. And so what interests me in Stein's kind of comparison between German and American advertisement is how montage works in the juxtaposition of fragments that are basically taken from immediate context and inserted in a new context and refunctionalized-- made to signify in new ways. You know, this is basically a standard definition of montage.
And for Stein, what catches her eye is that American advertising agencies, I should say, not necessarily commercial artists, but advertising agencies are very careful in how they use this kind of montage principle. Very careful both in terms of the ways in which they tend to keep a very safe distinction between verbal inserts and visual inserts, but also, they're very careful about not tampering with the human body.
And so, for instance, in this image, what you see is basically new freedom for secretaries. It's supposed to be this typewriter here and it's kind of an allegorical emblematic composition-- there's a woman, presumably a secretary, standing on a pedestal and kind of symbolizing the Statue of Liberty of Secretaries, if you would. And so being basically freed and liberated by this new tool. We're going to see you could say a lot about this.
And so just compare this, for instance-- and this is actually the one good quality-- I'm sorry, not this one. I think this one is also [INAUDIBLE] And to the Women and Carrots, I could just go through. But actually, the Women and Carrots we can look at also. Just this idea is here kind of later, but you know, you have this oversized carrot and one could speculate phallic symbol, whatever. The women are all afraid of it. And you know, very laborious textual inserts-- just one, just barely bleeding onto the image, but after reading this whole thing, you find out that basically women and carrots have the same kind of enemy in common and that's dryness.
And then the elaborate story of this is that-- and this is-- the product is right here very small [INAUDIBLE] But that, as I understand it, at least, a refrigerator or this kind of brand, the refrigerator helps keep carrots really fresh and moist and so the women's skin will be fresh. And so this is basically-- so this is the kind of storytelling that is going on here. But notice here, too, there's this very-- it's not in an illusionistic space that we are this oversized carrot and minuscule women, you know, but there's no tampering with the contours of the objects themselves. You know, there's kind of overlapping, but no tampering.
And so now let's go here to-- and this, unfortunately, I cannot find a good image of the original photo montage by [INAUDIBLE], but basically, this is the cover for the Czech edition, the second edition, of [NON-ENGLISH], the racing reporter or the raging reporter. And look what happens to the human figure. I mean, basically we-- and this is actually a drawing. But we have in essence this kind of reporter cyborg who kind of walks-- just again, oversized-- seems to be walking kind of in a menacing way over this kind of urban landscape.
And there's not much to the human body there. So they just do what Stein concludes, is that at this time, the German language media environment has a far higher threshold for visual violence, you would say. You know, really a higher tolerance for a mode of representation that really tampers with the human body within [? tackness ?] of reality, whereas what American advertisers are doing-- and in essence, they're using this moment of titillation of montage-- this kind of surprising juxtaposition of things. Or even suggesting kind of also this moment of threat of a reality that is unhinged and not in scale.
But then they're kind of folding it into what then comes across as non-illusionistic but still a kind of realistic representation. Something that audiences can relate to as what reality is. So this is the conclusion that Stein draws, but for me, the main-- in relation to this understanding of storytelling that I'm interested in, the takeaway is that, in images like this one here, that audiences can perceive the violation of montage as a literal defilement because they ascribe to a certain extent a kind of an indexical quality to the fragments. Because they read those fragments not simply as signs that are kind of folded into a symbiotic representation, into a message, but because they see them as material traces of the real. There has been kind of recombined.
So they did it in a way that there's an assumption about the materiality of these fragments that does not efface itself in this moment of storytelling but remains there. And so that's for me one of the-- explains why, then, presumably-- and again, it's a fear that more advertising agencies had more than about American audiences. I'm not sure of that.
So this is basically to make a-- sorry, let me perhaps-- and then the second element is also a sense of-- and this is a poster advertising the International Exhibition of the German-- of the Werkbund, which was a very important association for architects and artists and graphic designers, which work kind of as a link between freelance artist and industry. And so this is a poster for a very seminal, very important exhibition in Stuttgart, 1929 on film and photo, which are considered new kind of modes of communication.
And I guess the point I want to make-- we probably don't have time to read this, necessarily-- is the extent to which this kind of enthusiasm about this new kind of narrative principle of montage that I'm trying to describe attaches to an understanding of photography and film as technologies that make the world visible anew as a surface. Particularly that make the world-- that allow for making copies of the world, if you would. Indexical copies. Copies that have this kind of status of material traces and that allow for recombining fragments from those copies in ways that interact with the human sensorium sometimes but also circumscribing kind of the intervention of consciousness, if you would, or of conceptual knowledge.
So that this kind of storytelling is very much about the possibility of having kind of the moment of perception of the perception of forms as mediated through technology and as they interact with our ability to perceive those forms. This moment of perception being kind of independent of the moment of storytelling or whatever meanings we may assign to the fragments. OK?
So let me perhaps try to make it-- and the [INAUDIBLE] really in my view brings this all together is Walter Benjamin, and in my book, I have two chapters on Walter Benjamin. One on his fairly complex essay on the storyteller from 1936 and one on the [INAUDIBLE] or essay-- longer essay-- and the artwork in the age of its technological reproducibility.
And the reason why I go to Walter Benjamin to kind of flesh out this theoretically, methodologically, this kind of understanding of storytelling as not privileging the moment of interpretation but kind of emphasizing the materiality of the stuff of the story and its ability to affect perception is that Benjamin was-- well first of all, he, certainly after 1923, is very much in touch with avant garde circles. You know, in Berlin, but also was very interested in Dadaism and constructivism and has big polemics with the label new objectivity but also was interested in surrealism. So he really understands in a way, in my view, and also has the kind of theoretical and philosophical chops that many of the artists that I look at did not. So in a way, in my view, understands what they're doing and can place it within kind of an historical and philosophical framework that is truly, truly helpful.
And then the second reason why I think Benjamin is very important in trying to get through this idea of storytelling is that he really raises the question of narrative not from the standpoint of either the demise of certain genres or forms like the novel or print media and the rise of film, but really raises the question of storytelling as a practice. As an anthropological practice that indexes a certain type of experience-- of modern experience. So his point of departure is really to ask what is the function of storytelling and what do the changes of storytelling in modernity tell us about modern experience.
So this starting from experience and from storytelling as a practice then gives him a completely different access to the issue of the collapse of the Bildungsroman or of the rise of film than other things that are in theorists. So this is what interests me. So what I-- no, I just totally-- sorry.
What I want to do is show you-- and this is going to be probably my last slide-- talk about this photo montage by John Heartfield in 1930. But before I do so-- I'm sorry-- and use it to describe two aspects of montage storytelling that interests me in the book.
And one is this idea of kind of bringing together juxtaposing different visual and verbal material in compositions that really harness the power of photography to claim the evidence of reality. This kind of evidentiary force of photography. And to be a material trace of the real and to remain a material place, even when then the fragment is being made to signify in certain ways.
And so then, to look at the ways in which the moment of perception, then, within this kind of account or narrative, remains kind of separate or is not completely subsumed under the moment of meaning. You know? And so that, in a way, you could argue the shock effect of montage lies in this kind of separation. In the fact that there is something like the material quality of the image or the lexical quality of the image that cannot really be resolved in the moment of storytelling or interpretation.
And so let me get to my last image here. Again, a photo montage by John Heartfield, a former, at this point in 1930, former Dadaist. A fervent communist. One of the most incisive montage artists of the 20th century, especially well known for a series of photo montages that he did for the [NON-ENGLISH]. The workers illustrated a magazine which was a weekly-- a left-leaning weekly, close to the Communist Party, not under control of the Communist Party at this point.
And so this image, June 1930, the backdrop at this point is that of kind of worldwide economic meltdown as a result of the Wall Street crash in 1929. Political polarization, strikes, and mass unemployment. And what this image kind of illustrates are the divisions within the German left. So the image itself kind of deploys kind of vintage strategies-- or strategies that were very representative for the ways Heartfield operated.
And it kind of hinges on a strategy of literalization. And what is being depicted here is a worker who is being duped by the lies propagated by the press of the Bourgeois left. So basically what we see here is that this worker has his head wrapped in newspapers. And newspapers, [? Dailys, ?] [? Temple, ?] and particularly Vorwarts, forward, which was the newspapers of the Socialist Party, belonged to a centrist left that recognized-- or basically, reformist left that sought to work within the parameters of liberal democracy in Weimar, Germany. And was seen by the radical left, particularly by the Communist Party, as having betrayed, basically, the principles of the left.
So in essence, the worker here is being manipulated by left Bourgeois newspapers who should instead, obviously-- and this basically the message-- read the Workers Illustrated magazine. So that we have, in a way, through this photo montage, the [INAUDIBLE] that poses as a source of truth and debunks, then, the lies of the reformist left, or particularly of the press that promotes the reformist left.
And, as I said, what is vintage here for Heartfield is this kind of strategy of literalization. So if the problem are the newspapers who act as a blindfold for the unsuspecting worker, the newspapers then become an actual blindfold, right? They not only block the man's vision, they in fact almost make up his head. You know? Because you cannot really tell whether or not there is a face behind the newspapers here.
And again, this is a typical example of montage strategies at this time because it kind of exemplifies-- well first of all, what is typical for Heartfield here is the fact that it's a very almost pedantic kind of composition that is being rephotographed so as to pass as an untempered or straight photograph, right? And so the first viewing, one expects to see a real person, and instead sees a man or a person with a face kind of wrapped in newspapers.
And so the picture itself kind of poses a riddle to the viewer. It's kind of as this tantalizing moment, what is this? You know, I've never seen one in real life. A riddle that really is one of the pleasures of montage practices. You know, it activates me. It asks me in avant garde fashion to really offer my own interpretation. And at the same time, [INAUDIBLE] it can now afford for me to just go wild in the set of readings that I may be able to give and helps me in a way to disambiguate to the meaning of the picture through verbal captioning, right? So that the caption here reads, those who read Bourgeois newspapers become blind and deaf. Away with the stultifying bandages.
And the other element that is also kind of very typical for Heartfield here is the use of verbal punning. And so, as you see, the image is known as the cabbage head montage. In German, [GERMAN] And the title, [GERMAN], I am a cabbage head. Are you familiar with my leaves or my newspapers? Are basically the first two verses in this little really bad poem that in essence is supposed to be that this is spoken in the voice of this kind of duped worker who admits to his own being manipulated by the press by saying, I am a cabbage head.
And here, you see my-- are you familiar with my leaves, my newspapers? And the whole pun here is on the word for newspaper in German, [GERMAN], which also means leaf. So the whole idea, then, in punning on the meaning for newspaper, [GERMAN] as newspaper and [GERMAN] for leaf, I get the idea not only of a man with his head wrapped in newspapers but of a cabbage head whose leaves basically occlude vision. So that's basically the kind of complex punning that results from reading the two together. OK?
So and then staying again with the kind of formal strategies that the image itself kind of enacts. You know, I kind of mentioned that this is supposed to be taken in as a straight photograph, but another element of it is that, just simply because of the composition, it really demands to be read as a bust-level portrait, basically. That it really evokes the conventions of photographic portraiture, particularly the conventions that basically ask that the represented person, the depicted person, lock eyes with the viewer so that-- in the case of portraiture, the question is always, where is the person looking to? Is he looking to outside of the framing, directly to the viewer, is it looking to sides, and stuff like this.
And so, in a way, the image both evokes this expectation there's going to be a pair of eyes either staring at me or in either direction and frustrates it. You know? And what interests me here is the fact that, in evoking a kind of anthropomorphic illusionism, it really asks us to read this figure as a real person, not just simply as an allegory of the duped worker but as a person. And then it asks us to imagine what it may mean for a person to just simply have newspapers in place of the head.
And the reason I say this is that, kind of riffing off, if you would, on a comment that the visual theorist John Berger made on Heartfield's photo montages, asking when are Heartfield's photo montages art that kind of mediates some kind of critical insight and when are they just propaganda. Basically, Berger asked, to what extent-- in essence, what is the line between a certain mode of aesthetic communication or artistic communication that is open enough to really engender critical insight and just simply delivering a message along ideological party lines. And with Heartfield, it is an issue.
And Berger says that Heartfield is really at his best when the things that are referenced in these very wild photo montages function as things in the first place and only then as allegorical emblems. So in this case, the idea would be that these images are at their most-- really yield critical insight when we are not made to forget we're asked to read this as a real head made up of newspapers. And this moment of the head made up of newspapers does not simply then retreat and effaces itself behind the meaning, being duped by the press.
And so to me, that's really, again, kind of a symptom of this understanding of montage-- of storytelling as emphasizing the thingness of things or this kind of moment of material traces that kind of stubbornly hangs in there and is not resolved in just normal strategies of signification. So I just wanted to use this image. And obviously, it's open to interpretation. I'm sure you can take the images as you-- you know, there's just different ways of seeing this.
But I won't stop here because I know we are going to have to be out of here at 5:30, so kind of promptly. And I also want to say about the book to simply describe-- you know, the book is not about advertisement or propaganda and I think this is maybe the only image by Heartfield that I describe in the book. So I really make a bit more of a technical argument about storytelling, also latching on to Benjamin, but I just wanted to show you these images because I thought they made a very concise, hopefully, and vivid point about this kind of storytelling. So thank you so much and please [INAUDIBLE]
SPEAKER: Thank you so much, Patrizia. We have about 15 minutes-- we really do have to be out of here at 5:30-- for questions and comments. And I'll pass around the mic, partly because, again, it's being recorded. So your comments will go along with it.
AUDIENCE: Well thank you, Patrizia, very much for your presentation. I'm wondering if you would have come out a little bit different if you had chosen not Heartfield but Hoch.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: But who?
AUDIENCE: Because in the case of Heartfield, you clearly have an emphasis on the emblematic side.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Mhm.
AUDIENCE: The picture, the scripture, that, and the sort of-- the punning is of great importance here.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: So it is a meaning or message but of course ambiguity [INAUDIBLE] are great just as you find it in 17th century emblematic.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Right.
AUDIENCE: And of course it's not accidental that Benjamin went back from there to the emblematic art of the 17th century and the [INAUDIBLE] people. Sort of, what would happen if you would take different forms of manipulation, like Hoch, where there is, as far as I recall, no clear meaning at the end.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Like who? I'm sorry. I'm missing on the-- I can't hear the name. Like who?
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Hoch, OK. Of course. Mhm. Yeah. That's a great question.
AUDIENCE: So what happens then? Would you come to the same result or are there different strands of montage? How would you describe this?
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Oh, sorry. Exactly. Thank you, yes. Exactly.
AUDIENCE: That's very different.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Yes, thank you. That's a great question. Indeed. And these are very different montage practices. But what we have here in fact is more about what one could call a collage. And there's no real terminological distinction-- or firm terminological distinction between collage and montage, but here, what you have, for instance, is an image in which fragments are kind of pasted. And an image that is not supposed to be reproduced. That is quite one-of-a-kind. It's supposed to be one-of-a-kind.
And that is supposed to be surveyed in very different ways. But anyway, this is not a very large image. The fragments are quite small and so you're supposed to really come get very close to it in order to be able to say. But as I said, actually, and one way of answering your question, is to point to kind of a change in the style of montage practices from the early work of Dadaism to then the '30s-- to the late '20s and '30s.
And in particular, the fact that with-- this is now an example of Berlin Dada. There is a privilege in, if you would, of this kind of what has been defined as an explosion of fragments. An image that does not suggest a specific order composition and that allows or forces the eye to roam freely, if you would, in search of a narrative to piece together.
And then, however, even in an image like this, if you look closely and you stay with it, really what you will recognize are actually two kinds of movement and motion. One that has to do with the demonstrating masses moving to clash against the forces of reaction here-- the anti-Dadaists and the [? anti-Dadaists-- ?] and that kind of are supposed to move here in the center of the composition where a headless ballerina is juggling the head of [INAUDIBLE]. So that would be one kind of movement.
And then there's actually another kind of movement, which is the movement of the wheels. And so the reason why I'm actually emphasizing movement here is again to make this idea about perception. The idea that, as the eye roams the picture plane, it in a way chances upon instances, if you would, of motion that kind of reflexively emphasize different possibilities of movement. One being unilinear and the other one being circular.
In fact, I have a longer reading of this image in a forthcoming article as I actually stage in two different movements of revolution. The vitalist kind of understanding of revolution as the turning of time onto itself and a political understanding of revolution as two forces clashing in [INAUDIBLE]. And this is [? Koselleck, ?] obviously, that I'm thinking about in a kind of more of an emancipatory unilinear understanding of historical becoming.
So all I want to say is that-- but that point is carried by the ability of the eye to discern these kind of clashing understandings of movement. So this would be another example, not necessarily the only one. But yes. And the point that I wanted to make about the kind of historical development of this kind of practice is that this type of chaotic composition, at least at a first glance, then morphs into, certainly by 1923, into kind of a return to figuration and a return to-- and partially an illusionistic space.
I don't know that-- unfortunately, I don't have image of this. May be kind of an example of it. Just simply as a visual style that then can be really enjoyed by contemporary advertisement and in more effective ways. So just to keep my answer perhaps short, but yeah.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, thanks, Patrizia. My question is actually pretty much related to death. Can you go back to the Hoch picture?
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Yeah, sure.
AUDIENCE: Because I was wondering, to what extent do you see the primacy of montage within avant garde movements as-- and with all its political and philosophical implications as a typically German phenomenon.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Mhm, no. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: And the reason why I'm asking that was primarily when I was looking at this picture and I noticed-- and I heard you talking about it and I noticed the similarities with a movement that's called Synthetic Cubism.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Mhm, yeah.
AUDIENCE: Which you could say which [INAUDIBLE] Picasso and Brock in 1912, 1911.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Yes.
AUDIENCE: And they were actually working with the same kind of strategies. So they were working with the relationship between text and image. They worked with material-- how do you just say that? The trace of-- material traces. Not narrative. So there are all kinds of similarities-- formal similarities when you look at the coloring, for example. So I was wondering how you understand that if this French development is related to this one?
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Absolutely, thank you. And in fact, thank you for the question because it helps me to make clear that I do not claim that these strategies in fact are kind of native to a German context. Not at all. And in fact, it's unclear whether the Dadaists gleaned some of this from Picasso's and Brock, as you say, in 1911, 1912. You know, the Still-Life with Chair Caning. You know, the insertions of words jou and stuff like this.
What I would-- and obviously then there's the Italian futurists. You know, Carlo Carra. You know, the whole kind of collages that then also celebrate where we're one and this kind of very bellicose vitalist understanding of unleashed masculinity, if you would. So yes, definitely.
What I would say very briefly, and not having the Picasso here, is that-- and here, Christine Poggi is a great reading of Picasso's and Brock's turn from Cubism to collage, which she sees as a necessary kind of step. You know, once Cubism is really exhausted, collage is the logical way.
But she interprets-- and Rosalind Krauss has also written about this-- she interprets Picasso's practice of collage as still engaging-- and if you would, undoing the kind of fundamental representational canons of Western painting. So the question, the insertion of real fragments or fragments that are unsublimated pieces of experience onto a canvas that is supposed to be two-dimensional is a play. In flat, is basically a play, for instance, with the question of depths or the idea of having a word like jou being a fragment either for journal or [NON-ENGLISH] in that picture in the Still-Life with Chair Caning, Is still kind of a play with a way of transgressing the prohibition of mixing verbal and visual codes in the canons of Western painting.
And very briefly, I would say we are beyond the kind of reflexive play or engagement with the constrictions, with the limitations of easel painting, and we're really at a level of-- or trying to engage perception for perception's sake. Forgetting painting as an art that we don't want to worry about, even, because in a way, it also imposes on us a whole issue of problems like what is illusionism, what is verisimilitude, that from the perspective of [INAUDIBLE] at this point, are false problems. You know?
So that the issue-- and just staying within the vocabulary of constructivism then is no longer representation [INAUDIBLE], which is still a question that Picasso is worrying about, but is more gestaltung forming. I don't worry about things representing other things. I worry about how can I really manipulate, remake the real in this kind of principle via an interaction of technology and perception. OK.
SPEAKER: We're just about at 5:30.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: OK.
SPEAKER: So thank you, everyone, and thank you so much, Patrizia.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Thank you so much for coming. I didn't mean for that. [INAUDIBLE]
SPEAKER: And a general reminder about the book available in the back corner.
PATRIZIA MCBRIDE: Yes.
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Patrizia C. McBride examines the paradoxical narrative features of the photo montage aesthetics of artists associated with Dada, Constructivism and the New Objectivity in her new book, The Chatter of the Visible: Montage and Narrative in Weimar Germany. These montages have commonly been associated with the purposeful interruption of a narrative, but she offers new refreshing perspectives on the Weimar montage. Providing a compelling argument that these narrative textures actually exceed constraints imposed by "flat" print media, her masterful analysis is path-breaking for Literary and Media Studies.
McBride is professor of 20th-century German literature, culture and aesthetic theory in the Department of German Studies at Cornell. The event was sponsored by Olin Library as part of the Cornell University Library's Chats in the Stack series.