John Heartfield Collage
Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles
Graphic Design For Text
Berlin, Germany, 1929
John Heartfield’s montage I Only Know Legal Paragraphs appeared on page 103 of the hugely successfully Tucholsky-Heartfield collaboration Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles.
Published in 1929 by Neuer Deutscher Verlag, the picture-survey was a searing critique of the Weimar Republic. Germans suffered and felt ignored under the terrible conditions imposed upon them by the Treaty Of Versailles . They turned to the authoritarian words of Adolf Hitler. They ignored the ugly meaning of those words.
At first, a viewer might think the twisted head and hands of the legal figure resemble musical staffs. It gives the immediate impression the mind and the actions of this judge have been twisted into some other sense of justice.
A good friend of the Exhibition, Phil White, made it clear that the twisted head is actually a montage of symbols that appear in legal paragraphs. It give the collage an entirely different meaning. What is right and wrong in a twisted society is not important. It only matters what is legal. In other words, what are the rules. For example, Donald Trump wants judges to agree that torturing captives and killing women and children civilians is legal. Therefore, it is right.
The symbolism in this collage reveals both the depth of John Heartfield’s knowledge of imagery and symbolism, as well as his ability to use that knowledge to make a visual statement.