Mischling (Mixed Race)

Hannah Höch


Collage, 11 x 8.2 cm.

Collection: Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V., Stuttgard.

One of the most striking historical examples of ideological monoculture in the cultural field was of ‘entartete kunst’ (‘degenerate art’) in Nazi Germany. Holding up the modernist avant-garde, or in fact anything that didn’t fit the narrow ethno-centric definition of German art and culture, was considered as an aberration. In contrast to the ‘Aryan’ conception of the German ‘race’, Hannah Höch’s collage Mischling (Mixed Race) constructs an image of a person with a racial identification that sits more ambiguously within the ethnographic perceptions of culture and otherness. Nazi eugenics considered blood mixture between races as undesirable. This was demonstrated by both studies of, and attitudes towards, for example ‘Robother Basters’ (the children of male European colonialists and Black African women of the Khoisan people – or “Hottentots” as Dutch colonialists referred to them) in German South West Africa (Namibia), or the ‘Rheinlandbastard’ Afro-Germans (children of German women and French soldiers of African, mostly Senegalese descent, who occupied the Rheinland after the First World War). Many of the latter were rounded up as part of a programme of forced sterilisation. Höch, an artist who was considered as ‘degenerate’, developed art that was a playful critique of the ethnographic gaze. Mischling, a delicate portrait made using magazine cuttings of different people to make a ‘mixed race’ person, holds a surreal mirror to the dark absurdity of race pseudo-science.

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