chapter  5
8 Pages

THE SIGN AS A SITE OF CLASS STRUGGLE

In this article I concentrate on the period from 1922 to 1932 in which John Heartfield worked in Weimar Germany (and later in Prague). This for me is of central importance, not only as an extended example of a uniquely high level of integration between cultural and political struggle on the Left in an advanced capitalist country, but also because one of the means considered important by the two major contending class powers (communists and fascists) was the agitational and/or propagandistic use of photography and film, although often their aesthetic modes differed greatly, as did their methods of publication and distribution. I want to deal with particular aspects of Heartfield’s work and to approach them within the historical specificity of political struggles of his period. I shall avoid, therefore, the approach which elevates him to a privileged position as an individual artist. I also want to look at two examples of his work where questions of the representation of ‘women’ can be seen in relation to issues of class struggle and anti-fascist strategies. In looking at his work retrospectively I am aware that we cannot merely extrapolate from it and apply such knowledge to today’s problems and struggles. It is important, however, that certain modes of organization and thinking are re-examined, particularly in relation to ongoing theoretical debates in cinema and photography….