Photographic encounters between Dutch and Indonesian royals
This chapter examines diplomatic relations between the Dutch monarchy and the
rulers of Central Java’s so-called ‘Princely States’ which had, since the
1830s, effectively been vassals to the Dutch crown. Just as Queen Wilhelmina
never toured her colonies, Central Java’s royals avoided travelling to the
Dutch court, and instead used photographs to negotiate their representations
to the Dutch monarchy. Pakubuwono X, Hamengku Buwono VIII and Pakualam VII
sent luxurious photograph albums featuring themselves and/or their courts as
gifts to Queen Wilhelmina and Crown Princess Juliana to mark royal
milestones. This chapter reveals how these Javanese kings and princes
exerted the power of refusal in not meeting Dutch monarchs in person,
instead using photographs to present themselves as modern, innovative rulers
with formidable dynasties and impressive courts.
In the final chapter the ambivalence of Dada’s bodies, as both ‘corpse’ and ‘exquisite’, is reasserted, in images of the body degraded and dissolved, or reconfigured and regenerated. Finally, Dada’s heritage is considered in developments in contemporary art, focusing in particular on critical or playful reappropriations of corporeal images which the Dadaists themselves had already transformed, in the work of Damien Hirst, Anna Artaker or Sadie Murdoch.
Dada bodies focuses critical attention on Dada’s limit-forms of the human image from an international and interdisciplinary perspective, in its different centres (Zurich, Berlin, Cologne, Hanover, Paris and New York) and diverse media (art, literature, performance, photography and film). Iconoclastic or grotesque, a montage of disparate elements or reduced to a fragment, machine-part or blob, Dada’s bodily images are confronted here as fictional constructs rather than mimetic integrated unities. They act as both a reflection of, and a reflection on, the disjunctive, dehumanised society of wartime and post-war Europe, whilst also proposing a blueprint of a future, possible body. Through detailed analysis of works by Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Hannah Höch, Marcel Duchamp and others, informed by recent theoretical and critical perspectives, the work offers a reassessment of the movement, arguing that Dada occupies an ambivalent space, between the battlefield (in the satirical exposure of the lies of an ideology that sought to clothe the corpse of wartime Europe) and the fairground (in the playful manipulation of the body and its joyful renewal through laughter, dream and dance).
The chapter opens with a discussion of Man Ray’s Black and White (1921), the photograph of an African female statuette juxtaposed with a classical European statue. The chapter investigates the relations between Dada’s ‘primitivism’ and Expressionism and, particularly, the influence of Carl Einstein’s Negerplastik (1915). Hannah Höch’s cycle of photomontages, Aus einem ethnographischen Museum (1924–34), composed of fragments from fashion magazines and ethnographic illustrations, is then discussed as her response to contemporary racist and colonial discourses in 1920s Weimar Germany; to tribal and commodity fetishism; and as a challenge to contemporary aesthetics of the body.
The chapter focuses on an analysis of Max Ernst’s early collages and the fatagaga photocollages produced with Hans Arp. It confronts the recycling of war images, arguing that they constitute not only a satire of the militaro-industrial machine of the First World War (the body as site of loss or trauma) but also a narrative of rebirth, informed by alchemical thought. The motif of the chrysalis or the man in flight in Ernst’s works is contrasted with fellow Cologne artist Heinrich Hoerle’s images of the wounded veteran in his series of lithographs, the Cripple Portfolio or Die Krüppelmappe (1919), shaped by a cynical view of the motif of renewal. Hoerle’s ‘unman’ thus confronts Ernst’s New Man.
This chapter turns to the rejection of essentialist notions of identity in favour of the Dada self as construct or process, constantly remodelled by chance or the irrational, and as multiple and open. It investigates, consequently, the Dadaists’ subversion of patriarchal law, based on the work of German psychoanalysts such as Otto Grosz, through the figure of the jester in Hans Richter’s film Vormittagsspuk (1928). The fluidity championed by the Dadaists is approached through Dada self-portraits and Hausmann’s Klebebild portraits. Finally, the accompanying breakdown of traditional gender categories surfaces in the analysis of Dada’s dysfunctional couples in the works of Grosz, Hannah Höch and others.
This chapter and the next explore the reconfigurations of the human form through the concept of the hybrid body. Chapter 4 begins by exploring the machine-as-body in Picabia’s mecanomorphic drawings, read as a satire of a technological utopia. In his games of perversion, the ‘becoming-machine’ of the body is explored as a ‘becoming-erotic’ of the machine, in particular in its feminised forms. The second part of the chapter focuses on an analysis of the body-as-machine in Berlin Dadaists’ violent exposure, through photomontage, of dismembered, prosthetic or mechanised bodies, in the works of George Grosz and others that satirised the myth of the heroic man-as-machine on the battlefield or on the post-war assembly-line.
Chapter 5 extends the study of the theme of the composite body via an exploration of the grotesque, informed by the work of Mikhael Bakhtin. An analysis of Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau (1919–37) in terms of the corporeal dimension of architecture, structured on the principle of the grotto, is followed by a discussion of Otto Dix’s Phantastische Gebete (1920), illustrated by George Grosz, and Dix’s savage depiction of wounded war veterans in The Skatspieler (The Skat Players, 1920). The grotesque is, finally, linked to the abject body, as exposed in Tristan Tzara’s play Le Coeur à gaz (1921).
The chapter situates Dada in the historical and social context of wartime and post-war Europe. It argues that Dada’s limit-forms of the body both reflect the chaos of the times through the absurd and irrational, and reflect on the post-war ‘return to order’ with the satirical. An aesthetics of the body is outlined, founded on the grotesque on the one hand and anti-classicism on the other. Since Dada’s corporeal images are considered as constructs rather than mimetic, fictional rather than realistic, the principle and practice of montage (photomontage, collage, assemblage) are considered central to the depiction of the human figure. It is suggested that Dada’s corporeal images occupy an ambivalent space, between battlefield and fairground, as both utopian and dystopian bodies. The critical and theoretical framework of the study is outlined, as well as a critical overview of existing literature on the topic.
The radical critique of corporeal representations is embodied in limit-forms of the human figure in Dada. The chapter examines the displacements, objectification or disembodiment of the human figure. This is exemplified in Man Ray’s film Le Retour à la raison (1923), where the human figure is montaged with moving objects and abstract forms. The body as indexical trace is explored in the recurrent image of the handprint. This is followed by a discussion of the performative function of Duchamp’s readymades, which call for the viewer’s bodily response in a tactile engagement. In Max Ernst’s lithographs Fiat modes pereat ars (1919) the theatrical spaces are occupied by surrogate human figures (a tailor’s dummy, featureless automatons, geometrical forms) which seem to merge with the geometrical spaces in which they are placed. Finally, on the path to a final vanishing point, the body as abstraction is considered, as found in a number of Dada portraits by Picabia and others.