Hausmann, Scharfrichter (Anm. 9), S. 164–165.


Here, it is not the stack of 1000-Mark-notes that functions as a growth chart for the children, but the children become a marker for understanding the dimension of the money devaluation (Fig. 1). This inversion highlights the absurdity of the situation by displaying that the objects that need constant measuring, namely children, become the yard stick for a normally relatively stable entity, namely money. Such a semantic mix-up that exchanges means of measuring with the measured objects themselves can also be found in Raoul Hausmann’s text Von der Macht des Dollarkurses, dem Barometerstand, den Butterpreisen und eines Menschenherzens Elend.

This text is written around the assassination of Walther Rathenau on June 26, 1922. In a manner that is typical for Hausmann, the Dadaist produces a text-collage that represents in a synoptic way the on-goings of these days. This is a complex strategy that short-circuits processes of modern mass media with an intimate observation of an individual psyche. Although I cannot provide a full interpretation of the textual composition, I would like to emphasize that this text ends with formulating an instructive picture for the social confusion that was caused by hyperinflation: «Auf meinem Todesgange verwechselte ich schon den Barometerstand mit dem Dollarkurs – ich weiß gar nicht mehr, ist das Wetter 170 Mark oder der Dollar 773 Millimeter und die Butter 880 Mark oder umgekehrt – nein, nein ich muss schnell machen sonst werde ich noch vorher irrsinnig!» [15]

Hausmann portrays inflation as a source of confusion. Any relationship between measurements and its units becomes undermined. Consistent points of reference disappear and disorientation spreads out — not only the value of money becomes questionable, but everything else is drawn into this vertigo. For Hausmann, the problem of inflation is not only an economic, but also a semiotic one. The constant change of the money rate causes the currency to lose its specificity — not only its value erodes, but also its identity disappears. For the contemporaries, it was hard to grasp this process and Richter’s film Inflation attempts to create a visual representation of the confusion that was caused by the inflation.

Richter: Inflation

Hans Richter started out as a painter close to the Dada movement. However, his most important works were not paintings, but he developed abstract or absolute films in the early twenties. Films such as Rhythm 21 do not represent a photographic image of the actual world, but project a dynamic assemblage on the screen. The goal of Richter’s movies was to create a visual music that had its self-referential existence only on the screen.

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