Beigbeder’s main character in ‘Holiday in a coma’ Joss Dumoulin understands the age in which he lives: he only makes collages. Aren’t we all today keener on borrowing than creating from scratch? Using the fact that everything has already been done as a handy excuse? John Stezaker, a photographer who doesn’t take photos but works with images found in magazines, books or on postcards, says: “All the multimedia that’s around now, to me that’s montage. Everything is a montage, we live within a montage, and to me that’s terrifying… I see collage as a way of trying to find some seams and fissure.” The artist Nils Karsen who is also featured in the book brings up yet another perspective: “Collage describes my thinking process: non-linear, absurd, sometimes beautiful, sometimes grotesque, fragmented and a bit of obsessive.”
Collage can be a homage as well as a reference, a quotation or a deformation, a parody or at least a provocation. Process-wise it can be created either by chance techniques or be meticulously planned. One is certain – collage has become a part of our culture and everyday life. Silke Krohn in the foreword to ‘The Age of Collage. Contemporary collage in modern art’ sketches not only the processes and strategies but also brings us through a short history of movements and points out the role the collage played in each of them from the beginning when it first emerged in Cubism, until today. “For all collage artists challenge our cultural memory: What do we know? Where do we know it from? Was that not something different? It is up to us to see precisely and discover.” We have a fabulous publication to exercise.
‘The Age of Collage. Contemporary collage in modern art’ is visually stunning – great selection of works of art, interestingly illustrated, original layout and fantastic paper. The book itself is an intriguing piece of collage featuring 80 enthralling artists. Each of them uses collage to question another issues. As Krohn stressed “collage means diversity” so the content hasn’t been divided into any chapters so all artists coexist forming a collage of approaches – some explore collage solely, for others it’s one of means of expression, part of them create collages methodically, another one contrary as spontaneously. The list of artists is thought-provoking, some of them are particularly absorbing – like John Stezaker mentioned earlier or Sarah Eisenlohr, Luis Dourado or Jens Ullrich. Short texts about each artist give details on sourcing the elements of the new wholes and creative processes. It’s truly captivating and stimulating.
All images courtesy of the Publisher - from The Art of Collage. Contemporary collage in modern art, Copyright Gestalten 2014
Speaking of collage, I would like to recommend a small but excellent book by a trio: Aaron Rose, Mandy Kahn and Brian Roettinger (design) – ‘Collage culture’ which is perfect for further thoughts on collage in a wider perspective. The authors explore how the concept of collage transformed the culture and how cutting and pasting replaced the original creation and finally what it means for us. They diagnose today’s culture and point out side effects of collaging. I find their interesting essays very insightful.
Mandy Kahn looks into issues confusing us today and challenges in communicating or perception given the pace we process visual data nowadays: “Noticing takes time, plus a desire, plus an inclination, especially in a world where there is too much too see: to consider something deeply a dozen other things must be concertedly ignored.” Aaron Rose blames overwhelming access to digital information for lack of genuine experience. He also warns – “a generation seeking identity through an obsession with obscurities from the past is missing the point.” On a more optimistic note the author believes that each of us has the ability to be original. How? Check out the book.
‘Collage Culture’ was published by JRP-Ringier some time ago but is still super timely. I’ve decided to show you only the cover as I don’t want to spoil fun when you take the book in your hands, its layout is surprising to say the least. Both books are must-reads for everyone interested in (visual) culture!