the Curve on Torstrasse
Matthieu Bourel | Dennis Busch | Anthony Gerace | Milen Till
Introduction to Contemporary Collage
Today, in a world where we collectively skim, copy, paste and reformat ideas from a terrifyingly vast digital landscape of images and information, collage is more relevant than ever. Contemporary lives are a constant collage of all sorts, effortlessly weaving references from high culture, low culture and beyond to shape our worldviews and personal or collective identities. The beauty of collage is that it carries fertile ground for multiple interpretations – political, flippant or simply aesthetically pleasing – yet it is inherently playful too.
Collage – by its simplest definition an assemblage of different components, compiled as a single image to form a new whole – has a rich and varied history. Some of the earliest proponents and those said to have coined the term were Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in their Cubist work. So began collage as high-art and a means by which to destabilise ideas of what “proper” art materials could be. It was soon augmented by Dada artists like Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch, adopted by the Surrealists, and later rife in the work of Pop artists like Richard Hamilton, Robert Rauschenberg and Peter Blake.
As contemporary practitioner John Stezaker puts it, “Collage allows the opening up of conscious, which is very direct… it's also a way of looking at what you are consuming all the time.” He hits on a prescient point when it comes to contemporary collage and what a vital and vibrant role it plays in visual culture today. In a world where the boundary between truth and lies feels increasingly obfuscated, there’s a clarity in cut and paste; a sense of artistic agency in conflating references to make sense of, or communicate ideas from, the world around us.
By its very nature collage offers more capacity than most media for newness in an age where everything seems so directly pilfered from somewhere else. With the new technologies at hand, what was once a medium characterised by a certain lo-fi quality, can now embody high production values and complex technological processes. Part of the fun is in trying to decipher analogue from digital. Same as it ever was, collage can be representational, surreal or entirely abstract. Some artists work strictly analogue, using paper, scissors and glue; some use collage to augment works created predominantly in paint, charcoal, or pen and ink; some make highly text-based, typographic work; some use cutout found imagery as a springboard for witty visual puns; some use their own highly accomplished photography; others only those images that have been pilfered from elsewhere, digitally or physically.
The current and ever-swelling wave of collage artists working today proves the medium to be at a supremely exciting point in its history; opening up new questions about what “collage” is, what it can be, and what it can tell us. As collage-championing creative studio DR.ME sums it up: “Collage is everything.”
Text: Emily Gosling
Images: Christina Knapp Voith