Part of the Struggle. Art and politics in the Weimar Republic

CollaboratorsNorbert Bunge (Director) and Ron Orders (Director)
One line synopsisThe relationship between avant garde art and left wing politics in Germany between 1919 and 1933.

Photographs of Kaiser Wilhelm, German military leaders, soldiers, etc. Captions: "1914. Krieg! War Declared! World War." Paintings of scenes at the Front. Commentary says that, in Germany, the nationalistic fervour of the First World War inspired many young artists to enlist, but that their enthusiasm did not survive the reality of war. Work by Otto Griebel, by Otto Dix (Der Krieg / Trench Warfare, 1932), George Grosz (aka Georg Gross) (Grey Day, 1921). Photomontage (War and Corpses - the Last Hope of the Rich, 1932) by Helmut Herzfelde (aka John Heartfield). Another. Neue Jugend, anti-war magazine produced by Der Malik Verlag, publishing house formed by Grosz, Heartfield and the latter’s brother , Wieland Herzfelde. Captions: "1916. Dada." "Dada in Zürich." "Cabaret Voltaire." "Berlin Dada" Commentary says Dada "used total nonsense as a rationalisation of the human carnage caused by war". Dix’s Kriegskrüppel (1920). What is German culture? Shit! and others. First Dada event in Berlin (Ersten Internationalen Dada-Messe), held at the J B Neumann Gallery (1920). Prints. Actor as Grosz on the origins of Dada. Photographs from First World War. Caption: "71 Million Soldiers Enlisted. 10 Million Dead. 20 Million Wounded." Actor Grosz asks "What is the point of art?... The real task: a committed art in the cause of the revolutionary struggle. Art is a weapon…" Captions: "1918. November Revolution in Germany." "General Strike in Germany." "Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates." "Peace." Photographs of demonstrations, of maimed ex-servicemen. Drawings by Grosz including Wacht auf, Verdammte dieser Erde / Arise, ye workers from your slumbers. Caption: "1919. Spartacist Revolt in Berlin." Photographs and film of Spartacist march, ex-soldiers, soldiers in streets with field guns, ruined buildings, Freikorps members, corpses, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, killed in the uprising. Caption: "1920." Photograph of the Dada-Messe Berlin; exhibits including posters proclaiming that Art is Dead and that Dada fights for the revolutionary proletariat. Drawing by Grosz. Magazines Jedermann sein eigner Fussball, Die Pleite, and Der Gegner. Work by Otto Dix, Pragerstrasse (1920); Streichholzhändler (The Match Seller) (1920). In Dresden, Dix began moving away from Dada "towards a more socially critical form of realism". Actor as Dix teaching in art school, wondering if it is possible to create new forms of expression; he believes one should develop what exists. Paintings by Lea Lange and Hans Grundig. Actor Dix talks about proper subject matter coming from a working class view of the world. Dix’s Head of a Woman (1923). Actor Dix saying that artists should move away from bourgeois art market and critics.

Actor Dix describes his own Jugend in der Großstadt / Youth in the City. Actor as Otto Nagel walking in workers’ housing area. Commentary describes interaction between German and Russian artists in the 1920s. Actor Nagel sketching, talks about coming from a poor working class family and wanting to fight against these conditions. Paintings including Park Bench at Wedding (1927). Actor Nagel says the working classes have to change the world themselves. Park Bench at Wedding. Captions: "1921. Inflation." "Invest your money in dada!" "1923. German Economy Collapses." Photographs of impoverished families. Drawing by Grosz. Caption: "Red Group Formed – Grosz, Heartfield, Schlichter, Nagel" while commentary also names Dix and Otto Griebel. Some Malik Verlag publications – works by Gorki and Upton Sinclair – featuring photomontage by John Heartfield and drawings by Grosz. Cover for Etienne de la Boene…. Work by Grosz: Für das Volk die Not der Kriege / For the rich the booty – for the people the misery of war. Actor Grosz describes Verism and talks about the duty of Communist artists to unmask the bourgeois system. Grosz’s The Pillars of Society / Stützen der Gesellschaft (1926). Actor Grosz saying that the purpose of art is to prepare the worker for the class struggle. The Pillars of Society. Actor Nagel reading newspaper and A I Z (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung). Paintings with Nagel saying that he wants his work to help his fellow workers, and that art should inspire.

Actor Grundig talking about showing his painting The Lovers in Dresden: the sexual aspects were widely discussed but there was little talk about the political elements. Actor Nagel says there is a growing audience for art among young workers, particularly if the pictures are shown in places like department store. Paintings of "workers". Actor Nagel says that even this art is dependent on fashion and the art market which calls the new movement the Neuesachlichkeit, New Objectivity. Examples including Otto Dix’s Bildnis der Eltern I (1921). Actor Grosz on how painters are exploited by the rich who will praise art for its aesthetic value, not its politics. Paintings by Grosz, including Country Cousins, Paris (1924).Actor Nagel talking about painting in exhibition at the Berlin Academy, 1927, particularly one called Feierabend which the factory owner, Herr Kurtz, wanted to buy – the "pale emaciated exhausted worn-out workers" after a day at his factory – but Nagel would not sell. He comments on unemployment figures. Captions: "1928. Asso." "1929. Blutmai. Bloody May in Berlin." "31 workers killed – 1200 arrested." "Black Friday. Collapse on Wall Street!" "General Election: Nazi Success." Photographs of events in Germany. A hand printing press. Actors as Hans and Lea Grundig looking at sketch. Actor Grundig says they came to realise that "the effect of art on the workers… was more or less nil." Lino cuts calling for workers’ action. Actors Grundig talk about founding Asso, the Association of German Revolutionary Artists. Drawings and paintings, with the Grundigs talking about their Party work. Actor Nagel on police activity at a demonstration on Alexanderplatz which drove people into beer hall where some of his paintings were displayed. Captions: "1931. 5 Million Unemployed. Strikes in the Ruhr, Banks collapse." "1932. 6 Million unemployed." "NSDAP. General Election: Nazi Party wins 38% of seats." Photographs of events. Actor Grosz talking to fellow artists about how they can help to change society. Nazi Brownshirts hover in background. Caption: "1933. Hitler declared Chancellor." Commentary says that, under threat from the SS, Grosz fled to the United States, and 285 of his works were denounced as "degenerate". Caption: " Reichstag Fire. Von Kommunisten in Brand gesteckt! Zerflampft den Kommunismus! Zerschmettert die Sozialdemokratie! Wählt Hitler Liste 1." Commentary says that the German Communist Party was outlawed, and members arrested included Nagel, Griebel, and the Grundigs. Photographs of events. Commentary adds that Heartfield and Herzfelde fled to Prague. Heartfield’s Adolf the Superman: Eats Gold and Spouts Junk / Adolf der Übermensch – Schluckt Gold und redet Blech (1932). Old Motto in the "New" Reich – Blood and Iron (1934); Die drei Weisen aus dem Sorgenland (1935) and others. Dix was dismissed from his post at the Dresden Academy. Heartfield’s Wie im Mittelalter, so im dritten Reich / As in the Middle Ages, so in the Third Reich (1934). Credits. After cast list, commentary talks about the work of these artists being denounced as "degenerate" and exhibited as such, particularly in the Munich exhibition of 1937.

Production companyCinecontact
Running time36 minutes
Full credits

George Grosz, Nikolaus Dutsch;
Wieland Herzfelde, Heinrich Giskes;
John Heartfield, Stephan Schwartz;
Otto Dix, Hans-Peter Hallwachs;
Hans Grundig, Hanns Zischler;
Lea Grundig, Sabine von Meydell;
Otto Nagel, Lutz-Henning Weidlich.
Based on the writings of the artists.
Camera Norbert Bunge;
Sound Caroline Goldie,
Stephen Bray;
Editor Arpad Bondy;
Make-up Veronika Wild;
Props & wardrobe Ursula Walter
Music Arpad Bondy;
Animation Helmut Herbst, Cinegrafik;
Laboratory Neil Grimshaw, Technicolor;
With assistance from Dawn Ades,
Norbert Lynton,
Tony Torilhon,
and students of the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Berlin,
Executive producer Rodney Wilson.
A film by Norbert Bunge,
Ron Orders.
A Cinecontact Production.
Arts Council of Great Britain © 1985.

Film segmentPart of the Struggle. Art and politics in the Weimar Republic - ACE159.2
Part of the Struggle. Art and politics in the Weimar Republic - ACE159.3
Part of the Struggle. Art and politics in the Weimar Republic - ACE159.4
Part of the Struggle. Art and politics in the Weimar Republic - ACE159.5
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