Working on a little side project at Collagerie HQ, all will be revealed soon!
Collagerie 2012 is now closed- a really big thank you to all of the artists involved, and thank you so so much to everyone that made it down to Stew gallery. It was an amazing experience to see all of the works face to face, we hope you agree. For anyone that couldn’t make it, photos of all of the work in the show will be put up over the next few weeks.
We’re really happy that so many of the artists are traveling from far and wide to attend the private view for the show!
Irina and Silviu
Collagerie as a New Vernacular;
Accessible, Relevant, Engaging and Sincere.
With the dawn of anti-establishment thought, post-World War I cultural depression and the subsequent anti-art movements, certain classical arts were laid to the side, critically speaking. Other creative practices that were previously considered marginalised, due to their progressive inclinations or relative youth, experienced a boom in popularity. As photography was previously perceived to be exclusively documentative, and was subsequently embraced by the Surrealists, collage had so far been assumed a hobbyist craft prior to also being adopted by Surrealism. Collage, however, was equally adored by the Futurists, Constructivists and of course the Dadaists, and in cinema with like-minded practitioners such as Sergei Eisenstein implementing collagic editing techniques.
Some argue that Collage came earlier than anti-art, with Braque and Picasso and the Cubists. However, while pasting odd snippets of mismatched canvas onto a painting may technically be collage, it is not the subversive and aggressive form of image-making that collage has become. If Picasso is to be discussed in the dawning of collage, so surely are the 10th century Japanese calligraphers? Or the Chinese who invented paper around 200BC? Relevant works and ideas come much later. Futurists and Constructivists used the medium to progress, invent and construct forms. They utilised the different surfaces, textures and materials to day-dream their utopian architectural and societal dreams, involving futuristic resources and unknown substances. Dada on the other hand used collage’s implicative and suggestive prowess to undermine governments and politicians by juxtaposing texts and images, often with antipodal meanings, alluding to the dissent and potential conflict of their post-war plight.
Collage enjoyed this status of cult craft-come-discipline for some years, its sporadic and unpredictable aesthetic allowing it to adapt to new purpose almost as quickly as artists and movements could adopt it. Consequently collage remained critically popular and aesthetically credible throughout the 1900s, with artists including Aleksandr Rodchenko and Hannah Höch collaging images during the 1930s. The medium was then partially adopted by abstraction, and then abstract impressionism, with the likes of Jackson Pollock and Allan Kaprow implementing the use of varying materials in their paintings a little later.
It is clear that collage remained popular right up until the sixties. Although Dadaism and the Surrealists were using cultural entities such as art to explore anti-idealism the true notion of counter-culture did not arrive until the late 1950s with the mass-production and dissemination of consumerism. Cultural critics have attributed this to the colour television and the automobile becoming widely available. Artists such as Richard Hamilton used the masses of printed imagery and text synonymous with the fledging popular culture to generate bodies of work almost as quickly as these printed materials were produced. Inevitably the popular culture from which these works were sourced and contrived became the dominant focus of the images.
So with the likes of Rauschenberg and Hamilton pushing Collage out of the fifties and into the sixties, Collage was acquiring quite an oeuvre. Then conceptual art happened. Once conception had been proposed and distributed as the prevalent artistic concern, discipline and style started to fade. Now aesthetics were hypothesised as an irrelevance, and only the intention of the work mattered. Happenings, performances and installations took precedence due to their grand gestures, eccentrically proclaiming their commitment to a cause, an idea or a notion. Physicality and materialism waned as artists strived to find meaning in their practice, and avoided producing work that could be categorised, defined, or sold under a heading that trivialised the complexity their own cognitive processes.
While there were artists practicing collage throughout all of this, the fluctuations of its popularity as a critically credible medium are what interest me, and are what are relevant to the conception of Collagerie. There was a definitive lull in the popularity of collage after this awakening of conceptual art. Art theory, and the analytical world changed. While initially mediums had been defined by practice (painting, sculpture, photography) and then movements by intention (surrealism, futurism, abstract impressionism) now happenings were defined by action. These new, self-aware groups of artists, such as those involved in the Fluxus happenings, were more in tune with the ever-changing and evolving notion of cultural development, and as far as everyone was concerned, conceptual art was the next step. There was a shift from the importance of the works reception; its look and its exhibition were sidelined so that the artist’s experience could be more readily conveyed.
In this critical arena, where idea, intention and concept ruled, collage did not stand a chance; it fell into disrepair, perceived as medium that knew nothing of cognition beyond aestheticism. It was assumed that collage was a purely visual media, comparing, contrasting, but in an exclusively stylistic manner (in hindsight this is bizarre as with the current plethora of theory surrounding collage it is now obvious that, from the artist’s perspective, it is one of the most richly experiential mediums).
Collage remained this way until the late eighties and early nineties when postmodernist theory, although not a new concept, was starting to eat its way into the visual arts. With the abolishment of clearly defined visual movements and mediums altogether, collage has become increasingly popular again. In this era where works are no longer curated or critiqued by aesthetic, intent or discipline, but by their exclusivity or inclusivity of all three, collage has found its strength once more. 2010, for example, saw Dexter Dalwood practicing collage extensively as part of his Turner Prize series of paintings. It is a medium that crosses processes, and materials, and can draw strands of concept and cognition from many different socio-political and socio-cultural areas. Consequently collage has once again become prolific in its shape-shifting adaptability, vitally important in aiding the work’s accessibility (and ultimately its reception) something more significant than ever.
The world of post-modernist theory is too fickle, or perhaps simply to wise, to acknowledge any one notion or inclination as gospel, even in the context of something as finite as the theory of the visual arts (which is finite and fairly insignificant if examined from the right distance). There are a million cultural strands, movements, actions and vernaculars today; they have become commodities in themselves. Amongst all this, one thing that has been established by post-modernism is that modernism is a fiction, as are all other cultural formulas and social constructs (of course, I’m not suggesting for a second that these varying social realities are without value).
As a word or phrase can be coined to coherently address a shift or common theme in cultural concept and intent, Collagerie looks to a new contemporary art, where there is little discourse surrounding the aesthetic of the work, yet conception is not inaccessible. The meaning and execution of the work is not so convoluted and incoherent that it creates an aesthetically underwhelming work almost by necessity, instead the work is once more process driven, with aestheticism as a default importance, but this time with a different emphasis, focusing on this new model of reception. The way in which the art is received, viewed, exhibited, discussed, disseminated, archived and remembered are now all important factors for consideration in the world of cultural over-indulgence on a recession-beating budget, a world so saturated with potential experiences, one must evolve to be suitably selective.
There is no longer room for clearly defined subsidiaries of art, within which one must practice. Instead art now must be something new; Accessible, Relevant, Engaging, and Sincere.
This has led to a new process of curation and dissemination of contemporary art. Now we must consciously make histories, rather than attempting to discover and experience them, as if they are fossils we have found. Once widely labelled and recognised, these histories help define narratives taking place in contemporary art and culture. These new vernaculars are defined by words; words that are proposed as theories. Works are not created under these banners, but instead the banners stuck onto various works that are relevant.
It is in this view that the word ‘Collagerie’ is proposed. Collagerie alludes to the growing number of artists with little regard for medium, discipline and concept. The work is conceptual, only in its dedication to cross-practices and its regard for aesthetics. The work is also aesthetically driven, only in its constant awareness of form and space.
Artists practicing in this way have inclinations of their own, which lead them to practice in a collagic manner. Artists like Jesse Treece, Alex Dipple, Bridget H Jackson and Jason Kerley use the traditional collage craft of cutting and pasting to reinforce the notion of literary mass-consumption. While Dipple and Jackson parody newsprint and the printed word, by making form and beauty from function and purpose, Treece (in equally nostalgic collages) makes more obviously visual parodies, bringing together images and text form varying sources and placing them in arrangements that allude to an uncomfortable shift in perspective (Treece’s most common visual observation, see Vertigo ) or a comedic absurdity.
There is an endearment that remains in the simple cutting and pasting of printed materials. This endearment apparently lies halfway between the playful innocence of the artist’s eyes, finding structures among the words and pictures that were never intended, and the integrity and work ethic involved in pieces as ambitious as Dipple’s Dots and full stops 1 (2007). With the vast amount of words and images that are ejaculated into society each day, an observation as simple and as minimal as the wandering lines of Bridget H Jackson’s Untitled (Stock Market) (2007) collages are a refuge. Again there is a mockery in the erratic fluctuations of the graph lines Jackson has appropriated, usually so accurate and purposeful. Inversely, Jason Kerley appropriates materials from typically innocent, childish and garish publications, and enforces a rational, mathematical and scientific study of them. In Spit, Sweat, Tears (2010) Kerley lays each cartoon droplet of spit, sweat or tears onto a pin head, all of which are then organised into a grid.
So there is still an audience for cut and pasted collage, and there are still observations and comments to made be using this methodology, but collage has spread wider than this too. While ‘collage’ used to refer exclusively to the bringing together of the appropriated materials, as a collection of shiny objects in a magpie’s nest, now the magpie has become satiated with burnished materials and is open to duller objects, if they show their worth. Jonet Harley Peters uses photographs (sometimes appropriated, sometimes her own) and combines them with geometric precision to create three-dimensional forms that bulge off the wall and invade the gallery space. These works question the nature of collage, in the obsessively neat and intricate construction, and also photography, in the abstraction of a typically representative image.
Beth Salter appropriates her images and texts from the three-dimensional world too, using photographs she has taken of shop-front typographies. Immediately these works become more visually autonomous, however we are still entertained by the familiarity of the words and symbols. While contemporary art often makes a point of condescending to the viewer, collage can make us feel informed, and can make us feel in-the-know.
This is the cleverness of collage; it snipes at popular words and phrases, and mimics fonts and typefaces. Collage can be the smart-ass of the arts, and when confronted with observations like Myles Donaldson’s Unicone (2009) there is undeniably an in-joke shared between the piece, the artist and the audience. Objects collated and displayed like this are commonly perceived as sculpture or installation. Even performance stakes more claim to works of this nature than collage. However these mediums are all becoming redundant as artists chop and change between them. Collagerie, on the other hand, is a less rigid construct. It addresses this desire to work without bounds.
Adam Lewis-Jacob creates narratives through the use of visual persuasion. As post-modernism reveals our social constructs, Lewis-Jacob mimics and ultimately exposes them. In his new work FindBruceGrove (2010) the artist invites us to take part in an indefinite happening, in this instance a search for a character that was once famous. Bruce Grove was a prolific artist in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, however it is unimportant whether he existed or not, or where he is now. Lewis-Jacob brings together promotional materials; flyers, posters, badges, even canvassing employees in a campaign to find Bruce Grove. As Dipple’s Dots and full stops 1 (2007) and Kerley’s Spit, Sweat, Tears (2010) parody the pages of print familiar to our eyes, Lewis-Jacob parodies cultural patterns of a more interactive nature, that are familiar to our knowledge of social interaction.
In the work of Donaldson and Lewis-Jacob a new collagic experience is apparent. This is an area of appropriative assemblage that Collagerie is specifically intimate with. These artists, amongst others, are making collage works focused around objects and artefacts, and their grouping. Charlie Tuesday Winner Gates undeniably approaches her work from a process-driven perspective. Self-styled ‘DIY Taxidermist,’ Gates, uses dead animals and strange objects to make comedic yet surreal arrangements. These arrangements are typically sculptural in their multitude of forms and lacking of function, however the original objects used are intentionally apparent. The viewer is made all too aware that these objects have been mish-mashed together through the lack of abstraction.
Josh Bowe abstracts collaged elements more comprehensively; working from photographs, Bowe examines the human form in a typically life-drawing style, however, once again juxtaposition is made implicit. Other mediums would not so obviously flaunt their inability to accurately mimic the smooth and flowing lines of the human body. The matting of paint and the carrier on which it sits invite the viewer into the image, yet abstract the form so that up-close, the familiar shapes are barely perceptible.
Another of the more abstract artists operating out of Collagerie is Joel Beach. Fascinated by the notion of the machine, and function, Joel has avidly worked on mechanical, technical forms, collaged from various components. These components are mass-produced, functional products of our industrious race. Like Richard Hamilton, deciding to utilise all of the mass-printed materials to undermine their necessity, Beach implements these components to make completely functionless, defunct objects. We are inclined to believe that these arrangements are functional as part of a larger whole, but this is simply because of the intellectual associations we have with the pieces and parts, pieces and parts that could belong together but don’t. But Beach in disinterested in function, it is the construction, the method and the process that is vital in this body of work Champagne lifestyle on a beer salary (2011).
With not dissimilar interest in process, method and procedure, Sarah Langford constructs works almost as experiments, and the viewer is led to believe that the result of collaging these elements was unknown until they, the viewer themselves, laid eyes upon the finished work. The method for producing the works involves a proposed action, such as ‘I will evaporate ink and water on acetate’ and in a commonly conceptual formula the aesthetic, or the outcome, is incidental. In this instance, however incidental, the works are stunning.
And yet, despite this potential for critical prowess, and the scope for becoming an over-discussed, convoluted and conceptually incoherent medium, collage remains the craftsman’s game. The medium for those that are interested in process. With the influx of illustrative graphic design moving through popular culture, more interesting and artistic processes are being used in design and the branding industry. Artists like Finish graphic designer Sami Petman produce beautiful and stylish design using processes lengthier than other commercial image-makers would deem necessary. Willy Ollero makes drawings in a Moleskin notebook, combining images from fashion magazines with her own sketching. Arguably this is as close to traditional scrap-booking as possible, but there is a new self-awareness. These are collages that are contemporary, cultured and marketable. In his series of flyer commissions Atomic Legdrop (2010/2011) Oliver Topple digitally collages images of icons of pop-culture from the last ten or twenty years. Cult cars, child-actors, sport-heroes and products that represent the ongoing consumer boom all feature in these garish, busy, bright images that again serve a marketable purpose, but have been laboriously and lovingly constructed.
Collage may be one of few areas in art that, when the theory is examined, is open enough to allow for real developments in the post-postmodernist era. With its roots firmly in craft and process, it has avoided the excessive categorisation and sub-categorisation of the elitist world of critique and analysis just enough for it to have remained pure. Commonly, when theorists have examined collage, it has been with a touch on condescension, a slight air of ‘believe it or not, collage is interesting.’ But what other medium can as openly and honestly define itself as collage can? Some might argue the terms are too broad, the definition too vague, and that stronger works would better fit elsewhere. However Collage embraces an attitude of cross-disciplines and inclination to amalgamate forms, functions and fashions. While mediums have focused on practice, and movements have focused on intent, Collagerie simply examines the important areas: Firstly, the source material; commonly appropriated. Secondly, the process; how these source materials are collated. Thirdly, the motive; to what means have these actions been completed? Fourthly, the reception; the significance of these appropriated materials and their relationship to each other, in the context of the viewers cognition.
Take every movement of art you can think of, take all methods and processes you know for making artwork, and gather every strand of cultural theory. Get every societal discourse and every social or historical cultural construct you can find. Mash them all together in an effort to make something visual that is Accessible, Relevant, Engaging and Sincere. This is Collagerie.
Nick Warner © 2011
Audio Visual performer-pioneers Crewdson & Shwizzle are now confirmed for the Collagerie opening night, which has now been moved, and fixed, at WEDNESDAY THE 16TH OF MARCH, 6:00-9:30pm.
Crewdson and Shwizzle (each contributing, respectively, audio & visual elements to the collaborative project) use ambient sounds made from found objects and everyday artifacts to build up a rich plethora of layered sounds, and then combine this with digitally created (and projected) visuals. Shapes, spaces and forms are manipulated and mixed live by Shwizzle to accompany Crewdson’s sonic musings, and a truly ‘Collagic’ happening manifests itself in a strikingly spontaneous manner.
You can get a taste of Crewdson’s independently produced work, but for the full spectacular, you’ll have to come to Stew on the 16th March at 6:00pm…
Tonight’s midnight deadline looms, and tomorrow begins the lengthy selection process. Only two weeks until the opening night….have YOU submitted..?
Collagerie is an open-submission exhibition exploring new meaning for Collage, in an era when defining finite areas of fine-art practice has become the discipline of the curator.
In this sense, Collagerie is defined as the practice of combining disparate materials or processes to make a new whole.
Art theory, it seems, has moved past movements. Movements initially defined by medium and discipline, were simple; Painting, Sculpture, Photography. Soon enough there became the anti-art movements, Dadaism, surrealism. These were isms defined by concept, intention and ideology, not exclusively by physical practice. More recently it has become more convoluted, or at least more complicated. Defining new trends and actions within fine art and cultural pursuits has become more pro-active, and more inventive.
It seems almost possible, since the dawn of the post-modern, that new actions and reactions in art are invented, created and proposed rather than discovered or experienced. In the 21st century, there is a new model for sighting out the progressions and discussions taking place in the art world. As Nicolas Bourriaud coined Altermodern to address a shift in the emphasis of contemporary, inter-disciplinary art it has become a curatorial and critical necessity to create words that summarize a whole vernacular of conception taking place. This methodology defines, specifies and even enforces the narrative of that word, and the story of the work it describes.
In this way, Collagerie readdresses the medium of Collage, making it ready for the interdisciplinary 21st century culture, in which categorization and segregation of practice is overwhelmed by categorization and segregation of intent, and of concept. Collage has a new place, not as the simple cutting and pasting of two-dimensional media (however not excluding this either) but as the medium that most intuitively umbrellas works assembled from a number of materials, using a number of practices. Collagerie acknowledges, as has become clear again in the last ten years or so, that process driven work is conceptual. Work driven by practical craft and creation is often as self-aware as critically saturated conceptual art that has no aesthetic consciousness, and no conscious aesthetic.
It is common now, as shows are curated, to see work from many disciplines, and many practices, exhibited together in the same exhibition. The works are usually united by the ideas they explore, or the themes they address. This is how much conceptual art has been curated since the 1960s and beyond. However, Collagerie explores work that is united simply by its lacking of thematic unison. The work may examine similar themes, it may examine disparate themes; it does not matter. What matters in the context of Collagerie, is homogenization of materials in the creative process, and the extension of the new concise, theoretical language that is necessary to create new routes of cultural collaboration.
Within this language Collagerie may be defined as
The movement, or bringing together, of artists concerned with the conception and execution of work that uses many materials and many processes, interested in exploring new methods of creation and new histories for the work they are producing, and the production methodologies.