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Lucia Moholy's Idle Hands∗

Lucia Moholy's Idle Hands∗ At the time that she was affiliated with the Bauhaus, Lucia Moholy took a series of photographs at the nearby feminist commune of Schwarze Erde (also known as Schwarzerden), which was founded in 1923 by the poet Marie Buchhold and the pedagogue Elisabeth Vogler (and counted among its members Tilla Winz and Ilse Hoeborn). These photographs focus our attention on androgynous hands engaged in prosaic domestic tasks, as well as on the bodies of women and children involved in the commune's radical pedagogy of renewed bodily movement. The centrality of these images in Schwarzerden's publicity materials, along with their subsequent service as models for future photographs (most notably by Ruth Hallensleben), stands in contrast to the lack of appreciation Moholy received for performing similarly domestic labor for her male peers at the Bauhaus, including, above all, her husband, László Moholy-Nagy. By tracing the various ways in which idleness unfolds as a pictorial equivalent of housework, I argue that these images amount to a critique of an avant-garde photographic discourse that privileged “originality” and “production” over “documentation” and “reproduction.” Reading the photographs against the intention of their maker, who herself dismissed their “artistic value,” I propose that in mounting a challenge to artistic authorship, such images render visible the gendered contradictions of New Vision photography. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png October MIT Press

Lucia Moholy's Idle Hands∗

October : 41 – May 1, 2020

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Publisher
MIT Press
Copyright
Copyright © MIT Press
ISSN
0162-2870
eISSN
1536-013X
DOI
10.1162/octo_a_00393
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

At the time that she was affiliated with the Bauhaus, Lucia Moholy took a series of photographs at the nearby feminist commune of Schwarze Erde (also known as Schwarzerden), which was founded in 1923 by the poet Marie Buchhold and the pedagogue Elisabeth Vogler (and counted among its members Tilla Winz and Ilse Hoeborn). These photographs focus our attention on androgynous hands engaged in prosaic domestic tasks, as well as on the bodies of women and children involved in the commune's radical pedagogy of renewed bodily movement. The centrality of these images in Schwarzerden's publicity materials, along with their subsequent service as models for future photographs (most notably by Ruth Hallensleben), stands in contrast to the lack of appreciation Moholy received for performing similarly domestic labor for her male peers at the Bauhaus, including, above all, her husband, László Moholy-Nagy. By tracing the various ways in which idleness unfolds as a pictorial equivalent of housework, I argue that these images amount to a critique of an avant-garde photographic discourse that privileged “originality” and “production” over “documentation” and “reproduction.” Reading the photographs against the intention of their maker, who herself dismissed their “artistic value,” I propose that in mounting a challenge to artistic authorship, such images render visible the gendered contradictions of New Vision photography.

Journal

OctoberMIT Press

Published: May 1, 2020

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