Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany

By Janet Ward | Go to book overview

2
Electric Stimulations
The Shock of the New Objectivity
in Weimar Advertising

Alles Göttliche auf Erden ist ein Lichtgedanke nur.

Friedrich von Schiller


ADVERTISING AS POWER

The advertising realm of the Weimar Republic offers us today a remarkable visual record of the reenchantment of modernity via apparently rational means. It is a particularly apposite example of the relentless functioning of surface culture that was so characteristic of German modernity in its commercial, urban setting. This chapter focuses on the shocks targeted at the psyche of the modern city-dweller by the new stimulants employed in Weimar advertising, and on the strategies involved in the displacement of the spectator's literal and psychological perception—a necessary process for any effective advertisement.

Weimar modernity's term for advertising, Reklame,was adopted from the French verb reclamer(with the Latin origin meaning “to call out”), suggesting a more expansive commercial situation than the German version, Werbewesenor Werbung(for all its parallel connotations to sexual courting). 1As Walter Benjamin states, the rise of the French word was concomitant with the “enthronement of the commodity” in the Parisian arcades during the second half of the nineteenth century. 2Advertising, which began as just one discourse among many (like the church, or the state), developed at the beginning of this century into a key denominator of modern industrial life. 3Moreover, during the Weimar years, advertising was discovered as a science worthy of investigation: in a highly Teutonic version of American Fordism that reflected Germany's post—Treaty of Versailles need for acceptable international status, a new industry grew up

-92-

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Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - A Retrospective Retrieval 1
  • 1 - The Reformation of Weimar Architecture 45
  • 2 - The Shock of the New Objectivity in Weimar Advertising 92
  • 3 - Weimar Surface Culture Goes to the Movies 142
  • 4 - Designs and Desires of Weimar Consumerism 191
  • Appendix - Selected Weimar Periodicals and Newspapers 241
  • Notes 245
  • Illustration Sources 321
  • Index 325
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