Empathy and Imagination in Hannah Höch

Kay Tabernacle

Abstract


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This paper focuses the use of empathy by Hannah Höch in relation to imagination. It includes discussion of an animated model of imagination, made to investigate possible architectures surrounding imagination and associated psychic states, including empathy. The focus is on the involvement of the body in empathy and issues relating to body-image in Höch’s work. Connections between empathy and the body are approached through examples of Höch’s work, particularly her photomontage, and through the writing of Darwin, Freedberg and Gallese. The associated concepts of body-image are examined with reference to Freud and Schilder. The proposition explored is that Höch’s images have a physiological effect on the viewer through an embodied imagination and consequently affect the viewer’s understanding of other images and representations of the world, exposing the emotional force of the narratives within these images, and that these effects are part of a deliberate employment of imagination and empathy by Höch in order to attempt to change people’s relationships to one another and the world. The dynamic and inseparable processes at large in Höch’s work could be understood to contribute to the total psychic material that creates the experience of viewing the work. In the animated model of the architecture of psychic states including empathy, imagination acts as a transforming conduit forming the psychic material into a perceptual condition. A focus on imagination and how mental images are presented to experience allows complexities in Höch’s work to be retained while attempting to understand the intentions behind the work.


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