John Heartfield’s “Rationalisation Is On The March”
Which I think has be re-used or re-published with a yellow background later… but this seems to be the original artwork.
The historical context for this work, in 1927 Berlin, is that the inflationary period of Germany has come to an end and the Nazis are on the rise. Rationalisation is the process of getting more from less in an industrial sense – more output from less cost or labour. In this case, in the months following the publication of this work, thousands of businesses were ‘amalgamated’ in order to drive up efficiency. I don’t quite understand the process by which this happened in the ‘Republic’ – a quoted fige in October 1927 is that 4000 became 320. Another figure quoted 80 car factories producing 146 models of car was reduced to 30 factories producing 42 models of car.
With that context in mind this work by John Heartfield makes more sense than before. Even without the background this image is pleasing, I think because it reveals a humanoid figure constructed from whole other parts of things… rather than the imagery being ‘textures’ each collaged piece is a distinct object – the shapes of the objects remain instact and contribute directly to the intended shapes of the parts of the humanoid figure.
On top of this, though, there are some non-direct additions… the hips are made from two circular objects which is not particularly a representation of ‘hips’. Although perhaps the right circle (an industrial-looking hatch, perhaps from a steam train) could be seen as a belly.
The work makes a character out of the process of rationalisation along with the trappings – the stopwatch and chart used to measure and record the gains; a cam shaft, the key part of machine-work which changes linear motion to rotational motion or vice-versa; legs made from chimney stacks.
Although Heartfield’s picture is the personification of an idea or process I thought it might be interesting to apply his techniques to the figures that I had used in the previous assignment, without trying to re-integrate them into the poster as a whole but just to see them as musicians.
Currently they are somewhat lacking in character and individual style. They are a group of three people that know each other well enough to play ‘Free Jazz’ together. In the way that Heartfield has created a character from the artefacts of industry I would like to create three musicians from the artefacts of music.
As they are drawn now, as surfers, they already are derived from music notation – bar lines and breves. I’m gonna throw this out and start again.
Notes and Ideas
- Printed music manuscript as texture or body parts
- Parts of instruments as limbs etc
- The Metronome
- Metaphors for music – like song birds
- Visual metaphors – like herds of horses, schooling fish, clouds
- Landscapes – mountain ranges, seascapes, starscapes
Where possible I’d like to mimic the cutting out of a real object shape to use as the appropriate body part but it may be necessary to crop some things that are more textural or amorphous in order to use them.
This is Piano Man.
I thought I’d bring down the overall vibrance of the whole thing in order to get closer to the ‘old’ look. I think the tone Heartfield’s collaged pieces are in part due to the available material. Today there is nothing to limit the colours, especially when using Photoshop, but the printe material from the 1927 would have lacked colour in the main.
Although I find my piece a pleasing image it does lack some of the aspects of Hearfield’s work:
- He was political commentator and would often use clippings from well-known newspapers in order to enhance his message… an already familiar image. I’ve gone someway to bridging this gap by trying to use items that might be recognisable.
- He didn’t use Photoshop. I’m very short of imagery for this so I used the internet as my source and Photoshop as my cutting board. As a compromise I didn’t distort the imagery other than scaling, tinting and a touch of blur on the background.
- I feel like I’ve filed to grasp some of the deeper Dadist and experiential intentions behind Heartfield’s work. This is partly due to the lack of a political dimension in my work but also because they are elusive and historical context was important. His machine-man will have invoked an emotional response in the viewer of the time due to the implications of the changes being illustrated, implications for jobs, wealth, commerce, Germany’s standing and the emerging struggle between left and right wing approaches to government. The post WW1 Dadist movement was also a rebellion against art itself. Today I don’t think I know how I would go about rebelling against art with an illustration… there seems to be nothing that is unacceptable!
However, there are one or two things that I have done that do align with Heartfield’s practice:
- The image are all found (in the internet)
- The clippings are re-purposed to be other than the intended image (except the hat, which is a hat. Maybe I could find an alternative!)
- there’s a theme – where Heartfield used industrial imagery to make his character of ‘rationalisation’ I have used clippings of music-related items to make a pianist.
- I’ve played with the scale of the components to over-size the hands and diminish the body.
As I understand it… this illustration was never used but it was intended for ‘Bloomberg Business Week’ for an article about Lamoda in Russia who employ uniformed delivery men to bring your shopping to your home, wait while you try it on and sell you those items that you wish to keep. In Russia the usual delivery standards are low.
This image shows the operation in progress. A uniformed Lamoda delivery and sales man wait upon a customer, apparently in her home, while she tries on a jacket. The home looks sophisticated by way of a elegant chair, table and lamp with a circular rug revealing a tiled floor around the edges. Through the window are typically Russian church roofs.
The two characters have particular expressions – the woman is fully smiling at herself in the mirror where her image is shown again… she is making eye contact with her reflection which is an ‘interaction’ but with only one person!
The Lamoda delivery man has a ‘shop smile’ – an exterior for the benefit of the customer… perhaps not a deep feeling of pleasure but all of it directed at his customer. He holds the rest of the potential shopping.
A number of textures are used for walls – a wallpaper effect on the left wall with a pale blue pattern of ferns like a ‘feature’ wall; the window wall is plain white and the right wall (or maybe the back of the door) is marbled.
Eda Alkatun sources her image elements from a large, personal collection of 50s fashion catalogues.
Making a work in Alkatun’s Style
To make a work in this style I need a composition that suits it – something with people in it probably and in a domestic/familiar setting that can be constructed form textures and other clippings. The people should be taken from an historic publication if possible.
I thought I could develop the intention behind this image slightly… it might become a bit surreal but it would suit the style. Instead of thee people on a tube train I though they could be in the supermarket buying goods and I can maintain the interpersonal relationships… Adam (on the right) is admiring his aubergine, Charles (Right) is holding an aubergine and looking at Betty (Middle) who does not have an aubergine. Poor Betty. But in this world one must have one’s aubergine or one is not proper.
This is the Aubergine gang… Betty still doesn’t have an aubergine in her basket.
I tried a few things in Photoshop to get a more antique look for the faces which worked a lot better at full resolution – once the picture was scaled for the website the halftoning went a bit messy.
It’s fairly obvious where the different elements are except that Betty’s head has been replaced.
To make this more like Akaltun’s images I need to bring out some more selective colour… perhaps parts of the background or the produce on the shelves.