The broken faces of ancient marble statues and a bronze statuette from The Portraits of the Greeks by G. M. A. Richter; ‘The Face of War’, photograph published on front cover of Die Freie Welt (The Free World), 1920, and subsequently published in the hugely informative book Dada by Leah Dickerman; photographs as they were recovered from the famous disarray of Francis Bacon’s studio following his death.
Collage: Assembling Contemporary Art. Blanche Craig (ed.). Black Dog Publishing. London, 2008.
'No one [Freud] announced, lives in the real world. We occupy a space of our own creation - a collage compounded of bits and pieces of actuality arranged into a design determined by our internal perceptions, our hopes, ours fears, our memories, and our anticipations.'
- W. Galin, Feelings, 1979.
This book offers an interesting look at the significance of collage practice today, as well as its use as an umbrella term to encompass a variety of medium, by considering its shifting definitions throughout the 20th century, from Picasso and Cubism to contemporary installation and assemblage work.
'At the turn of the twentieth century most forms of human expression turned inwards, abandoning realistic representation towards a foregrounding of technique and materials…The modern individual was no longer a coherent subject; identity was fragmented and multiplied, experience lost its unitary character…Abstract art was, at its core, an attempt to respond to the seismic changes of the time, probing into the human psyche and the disconnectedness of modern experience. As Kurt Schwitters wrote:
In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready…Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.
To better accommodate modern experience art had to re-create its syntax; and collage was in essence the natural consequence.’
John Stezaker offers a definition of collage in opposition to montage, which is interesting:
'Montage has become mainstream. It was radical in Eisenstein's day, but now it is facilitated in the editing of colour supplements, it is the cut and paste method that everyone uses, the standard way of working. I see collage as acting in opposition to that. It it an exposure of and a resistance to the seamlessness of montage…a desire to expose and to hold on to the seams whereas, in montage, the seam is hidden and universal.
Collage offers a perspective on the essential condition of the image in our culture: the existence of an image perpetually in relationship to another.’
The book is divided into 5 sections: Construction/Abstraction, Surrealism/Fantasy, popular Culture/Mass Media, Body/Identity and Environment/Geographies. Above are some of my favourite images from across these chapters.
above: a collage of stills from various documentaries by Adam Curtis
I’ve been drawn to looking closely at Hans Ulrich Obrist’s interview technique recently. I want to start a series of conversations with emerging artists that focus in particular on the experience of the individual in art school now. As a largely self taught artist myself I’m kind of fascinated by art schools. I’m also just always fascinated to know where the story begins for creative people.
There’s a great interview with Adam Curtis that you can read in full here. Below is a favourite section of mine.
HUO: You’ve said in a recent interview that we are “living in a conservative age, and it produces cowardly art.”
AC: Well, I think that a lot of art has been captured by, again, academic stuff. I find it fascinating these days that you need to know the references behind a lot of art in order to understand it. Someone will, say, put something on a wall in a gallery and to “get it” you have to know that that the image is of a place where something extraordinary or terrible happened. I’m not saying that this is wrong—but it’s also not very dissimilar from an academic putting a footnote in a book. A lot of art is absolutely surrounded by footnotes at the moment.
HUO: The artist Paul Chan says that in art, and in general, we should just stop quoting. Would you agree?
AC: Yes, he’s absolutely right, because my working theory is that we live in a managerial age, which doesn’t want to look to the future. It just wants to manage the present. A lot of art has become a way of looking back at the last sixty years of the modernist project, which we feel has failed. It’s almost like a lost world, and we are cataloging it, quoting it, reconfiguring it, filing it away into sliding drawers as though we were bureaucrats with no idea what any of it means. They’ve got nothing to say about it except that they know it didn’t work. It’s not moving onwards—we’re just like academic archaeologists. It’s terribly, terribly conservative and static, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe in a reactionary, conservative age, that’s what art finds itself doing. The problem is that it pretends to be experimental and forward-looking. But to be honest, in some ways I’m just as guilty. What I do is not so different—using all sorts of fragments from the past to examine the present. Maybe this is simply the iron cage of our time—we’re like archaeologists going back into the recent past, continually refiguring it, surrounding it with quotations. It’s a terrible, terrible prison, but we don’t know how to break out of it.
Pages from the Frieze Masters art catalogue. As always, too much text and not enough imagery, but on the whole good enough to fork out for.
Here are a few interesting unrelated fragments, removed from context:
'The true intellectual refuses to take part in contemporary debates because reality is always anachronous.' - Jorge Luis Borges
Expressing greater pride in the books he read than the books he wrote, Borges was certainly one of the best (most committed, curious, imaginative, sensitive, thorough and grateful) readers of the 20th century. Immersing himself in the literature, philosophy, poetry and theology of Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse traditions, he also followed contemporary Argentinian writers and read translations of texts from across the Arab world. But he wouldn’t have approved of the divisions made in that last sentence: he read everything as coevally alive in the present, loathing the idea of categorising a book according to date, place, or literary school. In the same vein, the essays and stories he wrote form extraordinary links between obscure thoughts and images of disparate origins that shared no commonality in time or space, demonstrating his insistence on the oneness of things beyond the illusions of individuality.
'I'm just a kitchen-table artist.' - Felix Gozalez-Torres
'I am the author of my own world with its internal logic and with its value that no one can deny.' - Louise Bourgeois
In 2001, when more than 7,000 objects from Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington - what the artist called his ‘compost heap’ - were relocated to the Hugh Lane Gallery, a team of archeologists was enlisted to excavate and catalogue the chaos.