Source: Mies’s Collages Up Close and Personal

“The Significance of Facts”: Mies’s Collages Up Close and Personal (Neil Levine) – Notes

  • Mies chose the pictorial medium of collage as the one best suited to his expressive purposes
  • The readymade images were not neutral in political/cultural terms
  • Method of appropriation and application implicit in collage technique soon informed the system of structural expression he developed in his IIT buildings
  • Became his way of characterizing/representing “the will of the epoch”
  • Convention Hall Collage
    • 3’ x 4’ collage
    • produced to illustrate what the building might actually look like when in use
    • Franz Schulze:  “Mies’s motive in making the collage must have been more poetically representational than technically instructive”
    • Made of 3 horizontal bands
    • Single vertical element (American flag) hanging near left edge
    • Republican imagery for a city controlled by Democrats
    • Collaged imagery condensed a visual representation of core symbolic moment of American democratic political process
    • Most powerful political statement of architecture in Cold War era
    • Blurs boundaries between modern technology and modern mass culture – submerges crowd of people beneath deep walls and roof structure

mies_convention hall collage

  • Clement Greenberg’s phrase “homeless representation” – somewhere between abstraction and traditional illusionism
  • Continuing effort by Mies to pomote an architecture of geometric abstraction as expression of collective ideas/technological prowess of new National Socialist state (classical representation favored by Hitler)
  • Concert Hall Collage
    • Created by pasting colored paper and reproduction of Maillol sculpture over interior of assembly plant photo
    • “space eddies in all directions among interior planes of subaqueous weightlessness” (Johnson)
    • “here interior columns have been eliminated.  They are replaced by a vast steel truss of the sort used in airplane hangars or factories…Mies suspends completely separate wall and ceiling planes”
    • instead of designing the building himself, used a photo of one already built, into which he inserted his spatial arrangement and iconographic treatment through collage
    • building as an “assisted readymade” (Duchamp phrase)
    • unlike Resor House and Museum collages of paper, this was a gradual/deliberate process of negation (erasing, defacing, masking evidence)
    • image of self-absorption that defines a zone of silence within an interior of machine toold, motors, metalworking
    • elements of collage erase almost all evidence of war

mies_concert hall (kahn image)

  • His work underwent significant change by being rendered through collage
  • American collages had physical imprint of real-world elements, speaks of search to construct a new practice/identity, profound change
  • Resor House (Jackson Hole, WY)
    • Two collages – one looking south, one north
    • Collages are perspectives seen from living room that bridges the stream
    • Compositions of cut and paste photos that sandwich the room
    • Compress the space into a strange, depthless void
    • Foreground becomes background and vv
    • Architecture as construction disappears in this “photographic tabula rasa”
    • Sense of disorientation, displacement – physically reinforced by play on distance/perspective
    • Singular drama of the scene – seems like nothing else is there but the mountains
    • Spatial discontinuity, sense of alienation contrasts with Mies’s earlier designs

mies_resor house 1

mies_resor house 3mies_resor house 2

  • Difference b/w seamless continuity of the drawing and abrupt transitions/dislocations of the collage
  • Alexanderplatz (Berlin)
    • In earlier photomontage, new is highlighted in contrast to the old – modern building foregrounded, surrounding environment is in dreary relief (priorities reversed in Resor House collages)
    • Continuous surface and hierarchically gradated design show architect in control
    • Manipulating existing urban fabric, asserting new presence in center
    • Collage maintains environment’s “otherness”


  • Museum for a Small City
    • Collages of museum’s interior dependent on Resor House – same type of planar composition
    • Completely different from dynamic, diagonally based German/Soviet compositions (Lissitzky or Schwitters)
    • Driving idea:  to create a space for Picasso’s Guernica so “it can be shown to greatest advantage,” becoming “an element in space against a changing background.”
    • Nature becomes calm background for culture
    • Flat cutouts describe a perspectival space where Picasso’s painting (only scene of activity) is isolated in space and time – an event still unfolding
    • Reaction to terror of a new form of technological warefare
    • Construction of a “museum-without-walls”

mies_museum for a small city

  • War is naturalized and aestheticized by act of collage (in Museum, painting is framed by two works of art – in Concert Hall, evidence of war is obliterated)
  • Mies’s collages become a denial of war itself
  • Ambiguities of collage (as opposed to unified/totalizing character of photomontage technique he explored earlier) – became architectural correlative of his evolving political thought
  • Question of representation came into play around 1945 – start of construction on building at IIT – Mies externalizing steel structure of the building – acknowledged the applied (collaged) character of elements by stopping them just short of the ground
  • Collages provided a basis for this development
  • I-beam was new to his vocab, contrasted typical cruciform support he favored earlier
  • Abstraction of form came into conflict with “reality” of photographic image
  • Farnsworth House – physical reality of steel structure in background of Concert Hall is brought into the foreground as the declarative image of the building
  • Concert Hall was on the cusp of Mies’s changeover from cruciform to I-shaped column
  • Concert Hall as inversion of Resor House:  in the house, physical reality of the readymade imagery is given to nonarchitectural elements; in concert hall, architectural structure is made physically present through the photo
  • Realities of construction forced Mies to make distinction between real and ideal, and thus give evidence of deception
  • Change from one material to another read as a sign of artistic progress and quality – image of this sign being the illusion of representation
  • Representation (of human body or trees of primitive hut) substantiated the myths in which forms were grounded
  • Steel mullions were a “reiteration” and not a transformation of what was underneath
  • Mies’s collaged I-beams don’t represent something other than what they are, simply function as sign of what is not there to be seen otherwise
  • I-beams redefine process and meaning of representation in modern terms – matter of signification
  • By definition – representation is a matter of concealing something else, something suggested by its replacement as well as something we’re dissuaded from thinking about by the act of replacement
  • Mies’s wartime experience as viewed through collages as a time of profound/substantive reorientation

Levine, Neil.  “The Significance of Facts:  Mies’s Collages Up Close and Personal.” Assemblage 37.  Cambridge:  MIT Press, 1998.  Print.


Source: Readings on Program

2 Architects | 10 Questions on Program | Rem Koolhaas + Bernard Tschumi (Ana Miljacki, Amanda Reeser Lawrence, Ashley Schafer)


  • “any aspect of daily life could be imagined and enacted through the architect’s imagination”
  • agenda/program
  • selective participation
  • there’s no relationship between program and form
  • CCTV building collects many programs together in a single structure – no other political system today would do that
  • The city or its architecture didn’t just have program, but was a program (NYC)


  • invented program/”real” program, from pure mathematics to applied mathematics
  • concepts often begin as much with a strategy about content/program as with a strategy about contexts
  • 3 types of relationships between program and form:
    • reciprocity:  shape the program so it coincides w/ the form, or shape form so it reciprocates configuration you gave to the program
    • indifference:  a selected form can accommodate any program – results in a deterministic form with indeterminate program
    • conflict: let program and form purposefully clash (ex. pole vaulting in a chapel)
  • events are different from programs – program relies on repetition and habit
  • first Greek temples began with program, not form
  • postfunctionalism dismisses program/function as part of an old, pre-industrial humanist practice
  • programmatic ritual and spatial sequences evident in Lequeu’s architecture
  • point grid of La Villette – explode the park’s programmatic complexity and reorganize it around the points of intensity of the folies
  • Factory 798 project (Beijing):   proposed to keep art program below and put housing program above, hovering over existing art neighborhood – people saw it as a way to keep the old while moving forward with the new
  • most projects start with a program – you first have to understand the program’s intricacies and what you want to do with it
  • quick way is to diagram it – to conceptualize what you want to do with the program
  • sometimes your programmatic concept becomes your architectural form
  • often calls the program a material, much as concrete walls or glass enclosures are materials

Notes on the Adaptive Re-use of Program (John McMorrough)

  • for architecture, program is the “brief,” the designation of that to be designed, and tabulation of quantities constituting the project
  • defines, but also limits
  • alternates between an evocation of arrangement and a surplus of such arrangements
  • architecture not based on a figurative idea but a social one, therein established program as that which was truly distinct in the modern
  • program has ceased to be merely quantitative, now also qualitative
  • complexity is one of an increasing network of social, urban, and institutional configurations
  • program provides definition
  • program as primary instigator of the project of architecture
  • program labeled as “function” (in “form follows function”)
  • program/function influences organization of building
  • two opposing strategies:
    •  avoidance of programmatic expression within mute accommodation – program is contained, but not expressed
    • interest in intense expressions of program, but programmatic manifestations are scarce, so difficulty in finding enough functional correspondence to generate desired intensity of expression
  • time frame of obsolescence is brief such that initial use can’t be accommodated at all, this results in programmatic failure
  • architectural clarity in Bentham’s Panopticon (1787) – arrangement of peripheral cells around central watchtowers – implication of observation is of more significance than the act itself
  • malleable program – susceptible to architectural forms of manipulation, such that the overlap, the fold, and compression become programmatic fold, programmatic overlap, and programmatic compression
  • program as an instrument of social transformation
  • program as that which comes before (by programming) and after (post-occupancy evals) the architectural act
  • program connects possibility of control to impossibility of control
  • serves to operate as both an aspiration (an entity to be constructed) and its critical inversion

Program Primer v1.0:  A Manual for Architects (Dan Wood and Amale Andraos of WORK)

  • program encompasses “any number of combinations, juxtapositions, manipulations, and reinventions of the simple list of spaces and areas that heretofore bore its name.”
  • traditional definition:  “the formal, written instructions from the client to the architect, setting out the necessary requirements for a building”
  • should include the informal/unwritten as well as alternate sources of requirements (consultants, authors, users, etc.)
  • diagram – quantitative and qualitative means of expressing a set of spatial relations and describing experiential needs without any overt reference to form
  • programs outside the common field of architecture can/should be brought into project
  • embrace uncertainties
  • Program Exercises:
    • Twist:  take 2 programs whose co-dependency is unexpected, twist them together to create an entirely new sequential experience and form
    • The Better Mouse Trap: you must be able to imagine yourself in the shoes of the client, reimagine ways that spaces can accommodate activity
    • Swan:  take the most boring or ugly part of the program and reinvent it into something beautiful
    • Distribution of Wealth:  maximize the effects of the best programs
    • The Mermaid: juxtaposition of unlikely programs towards a surrealist experience – simply placing one program in the context of another can create extremely interesting conditions
    • Bondage:  use constraints as a departing point for design
    • The Blind Men and the Elephant:  exploit multiplicity of program while retaining harmony and identity
    • Fusion:  creating power by fusing disparate elements together – introducing many different ingredients to a project and fusing them together with a common thread

Source: Appliance House

Appliance House Notes

Appliance House Image 1

Intro:  Drawing Towards Building (John Whiteman)

  • “By initiating the gesture of collage and through repeated redrawing, Nicholson seeks a reworking of his first intuition” (Whiteman 7).
  • Initial impression of a thing is actually a transfiguration
  • “The revision of his first impression emerges from its contact with the prospect of a new thing
  • Moment comes from between the pieces of the collage and their mutual energy together (not from any specific element in the drawing itself)
  • “He has the idea that works of architecture, which he takes to include drawings and models as well as buildings, are unexpected spaces found by the act of collage in overlooked conjunctions.  When well worked, a collage possesses, Nicholson believes, an immense force and inevitability, and draws into itself all the ideas and energy available to it” (Whiteman 7).
  • No need for a determinate object
  • Nicholson can/does start with anything (bread tags, tires, crushed cars, can openers, shampoo bottles, etc.)
  • His work is precise – not capricious, ornamental, or interpretive
  • “His work has the precision of one who is trying to newly awaken the sense of a thing once seen so clearly in the space of the imagination” (Whiteman 8).

The Appliance House: What’s In a Name?

  • Project that shifts the mildly incredible into something that’s difficult to discount
  • Assembles frail traits of urban existence into firm gestures – Appliance House becomes a suburban home
  • Investigates conditions of everyday life
  • Used Sears Catalog and Sweets Catalog – wanted pictures of fridges, can openers, etc. – appliances that “nurture homeliness”
  • Cut up and reconstituted/united the images
  • Resulting collages had names of house parts
  • Naming makes an unfamiliar thing seem more familiar
  • Examines appliances for its self-worth and value
  • Sears Roebuck – products close to “immortality” and used “50,000,000 times a day”
  • Characteristics that promote/defy immortality:
    • Skin stretched around every device, hides inner workings
    • Failing appliance – we tap and jiggle it, expecting it to correct itself
    • Repairman sees mechanism without the veil
    • Owner doesn’t remove panel to inspect the innards
    • The “skin” of the appliance represents our current obsessions – wishing for a perpetually youthful look and eternally flawless complesion
  • Appliance House has undergone a “series of programmatic half-lives
  • Every time program changes, its life is split and reconfigured
  • Kleptoman Cell (a chamber of the Appliance House) – place to store orphaned objects possessing beauty that was discarded through senselessness – it’s half life suggests that it hold objects that refuse to reveal their contents (clock case, suitcase, garbage bag, etc.)
  • Workings of the house will be exposed, but designed
  • Appliance House extends itself beyond immediate confines of its structures and its 6 chambers that compose it
  • The half-lives that describes what the chambers enclose migrate towards the city
  • 1st period of half-lives – project exists in drawings and construction of suburban shelter
  • 2nd period – half-lives vacate the shelter, run for the city
  • Appliance House then confronts architectural uncertainty

Collage Making

  • Process of collage making – occupies a disruptive position by using trash and deadness to form beauty
  • Collage is part of everyone’s experience
  • Refers to a group of ephemeral things brought together that disturbs/negates status of individual elements
  • Millions of manufactured objects are encountered each day – threaten to outclass nature for diversity
  • Collage permits a silent rapport (relationship) between collagist and objects (purpose of objects often difficult to comprehend)
  • Allows anyone to hold a view on any subject
  • Orders of logic broken apart by collagist
  • Collage making as contemplative
  • Collage making to bring forward something within the soul
  • Pictures of things trigger trains of thought
  • Collagist cuts pictures out of anything from terrible magazines to scholarly books – no care for their context
  • Readjust the pictorial world to suit the viewer better
  • Splicing together of things
  • When the work is complete, a map of hunches exists
  • Collage can exist as a guide to what exists or can prompt a new set of thoughts suggested by interconnections
  • “The collage becomes a transcription that can accelerate the way one understands the everyday world and how it comes together, without necessarily being an expert of any particular field of knowledge” (pg. 17).
  • Ex. Piranesi – The Tomb of Nero, Grotteschi Series


  • Collage is described as:  “the placement of a fragment next to a similar fragment and then the two are spliced together in such a way that the net result is greater than the sum of its parts”
  • How is this different from any other artistic activity?
  • Conceptually, collage is “an aggregation of various pieces which create an irresistible spectacle in the eye of the maker” (pg. 18)
  • “It is necessary for an artists to use raw material that is directly associated with the age in which he lives.” (pg. 18).
  • Collage allows for extraordinary juxtapositions
  • Painting/drawing require every mark to be done by the artists
  • Collage making can’t fully control what occurs because it uses readymade components
  • Collagist is introduced to further sets of ideas – goes beyond traditional instruments of artistic expression
  • Collage can profoundly alter the way things/placed are viewed
  • If observer looks beyond appearance of collage, collage suggests a method of scrutinizing things
  • Ex. Max Ernst collages
  • Individual characteristics of each component are barely recognizable, only through conventional means
  • LC’s Villa Savoye – reveals how the painter’s eye (activated by Cubism) can make a piece of architecture in the same way that a painting is assembled
  • Viewed from outside – long window frames a bunch of odd, planar shapes
  • Viewed from inside – the space initially worked out thru painting is then projected onto flat frame of window and is realized in three dimensions inside the house
  • Collagist-architect can induce space in manner that is experienced through collage making
  • Collagist’s tools and methods similar to a surgeon’s (scalpel, tweezers, etc)
  • Collagist operates to reassemble a flat being – something is brought to life that did not live before
  • Procedure of collage making – a series of passes
  • Allows for a myriad of yes/no decisions to determine where the fragments go
  • Once fragments find their places, collage can appear to be so correct it becomes bland – loses its spirit when all tensions are pushing and pulling with equal forces
  • Pieces have to be off-center to recharge vitality of mutual conjunction
  • Paper has thickness – collage is a relief
  • Collage is a first hint at a condition of fullness that can exist after the substance of artistic intent has removed itself from flat canvas surface
  • If collage became an object in space, its structure would inform the way it’s to be built
  • Collage method of Appliance House – every junction is highly considered, each pass involved structural reassembly
  • Junctions between fragments take precedence over images on the paper
  • Desire to locate the unknown, creating something that eludes forewarning or prediction
  • By peeling off the paper surface, collage can be brought into relief, the round, the hollow, and into the construction of a building

appliance_house_face name collage

Bread Tags

  • Objects designed in a trance state
  • Mass production
  • Objects like these bread tags (produced in millions and discarded in exactly the same number) will be kept safe in the Appliance House

Configuration of the Appliance House

  • Composed of 3 pairs of small rooms, facing a hall whose doors to the street and garden are pierced at either end
  • Each room encloses normal everyday suburban living, but have all changed their ceramic nameplates
  • The study room with collections and trophies becomes the Kleptoman Cell – room given over to face-to-face confrontation of what it means to have in one’s possession any object gleaned by any means, fain or foul
  • Nook with fireplace becomes a furnace to suit pyromaniac within us all
  • The Kleptoman Cell – first room on the right in the Appliance House
  • Occupant engages in task of collecting (things of beauty collected from disinterested owners)
  • Found objects that are shed scales of ourselves – stored in Cell’s walls
  • Homeowner has many collections, but hides some and puts others on display for the visitor
  • Someone borrows a book, but keeps it – book becomes a talisman for purposes other than reading – Kleptoman Cell is perfect for an object like this
  • “The Cell can now project tryst space, providing an atmosphere of acute danger and blunt passion cradled within a triangulation of the marginally ridiculous” (pg. 38).
  • Room seen from outside – a hollow formed by walls an inch thick or a solid cube of concrete – the architectural intent lies between these two states
  • Kleptoman Cell perceived as a vacated room which has pilasterized its intent and intrigue – collector’s bricolage is pressed out from the center of the Cell and the artifacted are cajoled into the walls
  • Cell is a cube 22’ L x 13’ H x 11’ W

appliance_house_kleptoman cell

  • At entrance – Telamon Cupboard and Flank Walls
  • Telamon Cupboard receives/released items procured from kleptomaniac activity (kleptomania – the urge to steal, without regard for need or profit)
  • Stairs between Cupboard and Flank Walls lead visit into body of the room
  • Cell and its collection unfolds
  • Rear Window at the end of the room – set in tension with Cupboard at the entrance
  • Window as a frame to look into, not out of
  • 13’ needle pivoting from the Window gyrates above the head and points to the Cupboard
  • Telamon Cupboard:  began as a paper collage disguised as a mirrored bathroom cabinet – reinvented itself into a cabinet of immense roundness, stability, and gravitational force
  • Permits the appliance’s skin to be handled, but still protects its mechanical workings
  • Workings of an appliance are reconstituted in design of the Cupboard to expose the fallacy of the appliance – instead it accentuates those aspects of appliances’ lore that possess dignitas
  • Objects are stored in forty 9”x 9” x 20” D boxes, each with a sliding door
  • Rolling doors obscure the objects – when half the doors are lifted, Kleptoman can only see half of his collection
  • Every component of Cupboard is visible but structural elements are intertwined with non-structural elements
  • Full of contradictory tensions and compressions – it pulls and pushes itself into complete stasis (equilibrium)
  • Restores outward appearance each time doors are shut – no evidence or fullness/bareness inside Cupboard’s inner realm

appliance_house_telamon cupboardappliance_house_telamon cupboard 2

The Kleptoman Plans to Build

  • Collages are precisely constructed, but permit ambiguous interpretation
  • Drawings allow for changes to occur
  • Places the responsibility of interpretation on the maker – re-engages his sense of integrity in deciding how things are made
  • Architect’s drawings no longer dictate a method of making/thinking, permit decisions to be made that embrace the entirety of the maker
  • Kleptoman choses an object to put in the Wall, tale of the thing is known, and choses a place to insert the object – re-inspecting the collages help choose the right spot
  • Cell Walls would collapse if built as drawn – rigged so all the parts are fixed onto an armature made of 7 pylons forming each wall
  • Object-laden Walls are in constant flux
  • Pylons are 1’ apart, surfaces are polished hard to give semblance of a continuum – Walls begin encroachment and whittle away straightness of pylons
  • Walls would dissolve structure and replace with their own


Appliance House Image 2

The Rear Window Appliance House Image 3


Nicholson, Ben. Appliance House. Chicago, IL: Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism, 1990. Print.

Bibliographic Essay – Final Draft

Find the original word document with outline and notes here:  Hartmann – Assignment F – Bibliographic Essay.

Erin Hartmann


Thesis Prep I:  Research Methods

Prof. Dan Hisel


Bibliographic Essay:  Collage


Collage has been explored through many art movements, types of media, and scales of design.  Collage is the juxtaposition of unrelated materials, not only the pasting of newspaper and string onto a pictorial surface as it is often thought of.  Although this methodology began with two-dimensional montages on canvas, the method of collage has also been utilized or understood in film, architecture, and urban design.  The practice of collage involves a recycling of meaning through the collision of found objects and new discoveries.

Collage has been involved in many different art movements, from Dadism to Schwitters’ “Merz” movement.  Collage first appeared in Cubism through Picasso’s work, particularly his Still Life with Chair Caning.  Art critic and professor Rosalind Krauss discusses this, saying, “Still Life with Chair Caning…echoes many other canvases from early 1912 in which the introduction of some kind of large plane which, like the chair-caning…is a wholly different color and texture from the monochrome faceting of analytic cubism, and inaugurates both the invention of collage and the opening of cubism to color” (Krauss 30).  In the 1920s, Kurt Schwitters introduced his creation of the MERZ movement.  Author Annegreth Nill explains this creation, saying, “quite consciously he searched for a trade name with which to present his work to the public.  He could not call it Dada, as he had been rejected by the Berlin Dadaists, and stylistically it did not fit under the label of any of the other contemporary art movements.  Schwitters chose the word MERZ, the title of one of the works he was about to exhibit” (Nill 226).  Schwitters created many collages under his own art movement of MERZ, including Grünfleck and Merzbau.  Another movement collage has been involved with is Surrealism.  Theater and dance professor Roger Copeland studied the work of Merce Cunningham’s performance art as a type of collage.  Copeland said, “the surrealist Max Ernst once defined collage as ‘the meeting of two distant realities on a plane foreign to them both’ (1968:68). Collage though, borrows only one-half of the surrealists’ agenda – their interest in radical juxtaposition” (Copeland 14).  Collage does not fit into a single art movement or period of time, which has resulted in many types of collages and the use of “random” materials.

Many collages in the visual arts have physically incorporated “worldly” elements, or elements of everyday life.  Art critic and professor Donald Kuspit talks about the main elements of collage, one being “purely worldly elements, especially such fragments of dailiness as newspapers” (Kuspit 55).  The newspaper is a very common element of collage for both its aesthetics and its representation of everyday life.  Copeland argues that the “newspaper provides a model for a collage-like distinctiveness of modernity itself.  On a single sheet, it treats the most diverse matters and ranges over distant countries” (Copeland 13).  Art critic Robert Rosenblum says that Picasso uses puns by fragmenting newspaper titles in order to provide realism in his Cubist collages.  Krauss discusses this, saying:  “that the word-fragments perform these jokes while serving to label the object – the newspaper – with its name, is very much Rosenblum’s point” (Krauss 31).  These newspapers have often been incorporated into the world of collage in order to accentuate or dramatize real-life situations.  Aside from newspapers, some artists collect other “worldly” elements from everday life.  Art history professor Katherine Hoffman describes the collection methods of Kurt Schwitters:  “From 1918 to his death in 1948, Kurt Schwitters produced a vast number of collages, collecting from sidewalks, dustbins, trash barrels, and cast-off materials to create his own medium and idiom” (Hoffman 225).  In one of Schwitter’s projects, Grünfleck, he incorporates found objects such as a ticket stub, wrappers, and a streetcar stub.  Together they tell an entire narrative in relation to that post World War I time period.  Overall, using these “worldly” materials gives meaning to the collage about the spirit of the time in which it was created.

The bricoleur is someone who uses readily available materials, often “worldly” materials, which creates a form of collage.  Kurt Schwitters designed Merzbau, a collaged interior of his apartment.  Katherine Hoffman describes Merzbau as “a cavern of old lumber, strangely molded plaster, and other materials that might be called an early ‘environment’” (Hoffman 14). Switters himself says:

“Every means is right when it serves its end…What the material signified before its use in the work of art is a matter of indifference so long as it is properly evaluated and given artistic meaning in the work of art.  And so I began to construct pictures out of materials I happened to have at hand, such as streetcar tickets, cloakroom checks, bits of wood, wire twine, bent wheels, tissue paper, tin cans, chips of glass, etc.  These things are inserted into the picture either as they are or else modified in accordance with what the picture requires.  They lose their individual character, their own special essence (Eigengift), by being dematerialized (entmaterialisiert) they become material for the picture” (Hoffman 14).

Architects Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter discuss the idea of the bricoleur in their book, Collage City.  Within the bricolage chapter, the authors reference Claude Levi-Strauss who describes the bricoleur as “’someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of the craftsman…the rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand’” (Rowe and Koetter 102).  A bricoleur does not choose materials based on the purpose of the project.  This is similar to Kurt Schwitters, who creates his collages based on the scraps of material he finds rather than finding particular materials based on his ideas for a collage.  The bricoleur or collagist uses “worldly” materials that are readily available to create their collages, which leads to a disorganized piece of art, rather than a singular vision.

Collage is often ‘disorganized’ and ‘centrifugal’ due to the many layers of random material.  In Collage City, Rowe and Koetter discuss the ideas of Isaiah Berlin, who says, “’those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only some de facto way…these last lead lives, perform acts, and entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal, their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects’” (Rowe and Koetter 86).  Berlin also discusses the idea of the fox versus the hedgehog.  The fox is typically preoccupied with many unrelated ideas, while the hedgehog is concerned with a singular vision. He says “the fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing” (Rowe and Koetter 92).   In the world of humanities, foxes include Aristotle, Shakespeare, Picasso, and Wren, all of whom are collagists (foxes) in their fields.  Roger Copeland also discusses the disorganization of collage, saying “collage appeals to an age that has come to distrust claims of closure, ‘unity,’ and fixed boundaries” (Copeland 13).  This agrees with the idea of the fox, who does not have a singular, focused vision.  Copeland also argues that “collage, in a sense, is always divided against itself…the component parts of any successful collage speak with separate, even disunified voices” (Copeland 26).  The disorganization of collage is unique when compared to traditional types of art, architecture, and literature.

Gesamtkunstwerk, or a ‘total work of art,’ is comparable to the idea of the hedgehog and can be useful to understand the ideas of collage.  Collage and Gesamtkunstwerk share similar traits in that every layer is designed and is intentional.  Though collages are aesthetically disorganized, the creators very specifically choose how the layers are placed within the collage.  Unlike collage, however, Gesamtkunstwerk has a single vision – a total work of art.  Rowe and Koetter discuss the unity of Versailles compared to the multiplicity of Villa Adriana, saying, “we must re-affirm how much the conceptions of ‘total architecture’ and ‘total design’ are present, of necessity, in all utopian projections…if the one is certainly an exhibition of total architecture and total design [Versailles], the other [Villa Adriana] attempts to dissimulate all reference to any controlling idea” (Rowe and Koetter 90). They also say that in architecture, the central vision of the hedgehog and Gesamtkunstwerk has prevailed over the foxes through the work of Mies, Gropius, Fuller, and other leading architects.  Copeland also compares collage to Gesamtkunstwerk, saying it is “synthesizing the separate arts into a seamless and unified whole – what Wagner called the Gesamtkunstwerk” (Copeland 12).  Overall, these authors are saying that Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art” has a single, central focus that creates very different designs from the unfocused and unorganized collage.

Collage is often considered a two-dimensional art on canvas, but as seen in the comparison between Versailles and Villa Adrian or Schwitters’ Merzbau, collage often appears in other media as well.  After collage began appearing in Picasso’s works around 1912 on canvas, it made the jump into three-dimensional space as early as the 1940’s.  Kurt Schwitters was originally a two-dimensional collagist of “worldly” elements, but later created Merzbau.  It was a collage that became an environment.  “He made it a performance…every visit from someone was different from everyone else” (BAM/PFA).  Another example is the array of performances composed by choreographer Merce Cunningham.  Copeland says, “Cunningham’s movement vocabulary in Collage was unprecedently diverse…it juxtaposed his usual modifications of ballet with utterly pedestrian movement (hair combing, nail filing) as well as steps drawn from ballroom and social dance.  In other words, varieties of ‘found’ movement existed alongside varieties of ‘found’ sound” (Copeland 12).  Merce Cunningham was well-known for collaging mismatching costumes, music, and types of dance into one performance.  He eventually began to alter the “lens” through which the audience watched by collaging through a new medium – film.  Video and installation artist Max Almy talks about several collage artists that have used video as a medium, from Nam June Paik to Ed Emshwiller. She says, “whether using the concepts of polytropic space, polychronic time, ecstatic multiplicity, or a recontextualized video idiom, the video artists…have all responded to the challenge of using the video collage to reflect the way man perceives the world” (Almy 371).  Film became a popular way to collage, but this technique is still relatively unknown to many.  Rowe and Koetter discuss the ideas of Napoleon I, who thought of Paris as a Museum.  They said “the city was, to some degree, to become a sort of habitable exhibition, a collection of permanent reminders which were to edify both the resident and the visitor” (Rowe and Koetter 126).  Napoleon saw the city as a collage itself, holding many objects and layers of history.  Overall, collage can be seen everywhere and through many types of media.

Having been explored through so many types of media, collage is present in many fields from art to urban design.  Though the object(s) that are collaged can vary greatly, the ideas about collaging are carried through in each of them.  Disorganization, a collection of random materials, and multiplicity of ideas are some of these common traits.  Whether it’s a film about Merce Cunningham’s choreography or a study on the urban design of Villa Adriana, each collage shares them.



  1. Almy, Max. “Video: Electronic Collage.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 355-371. Print.
  2. BAM/PFA. “Kurt Schwitters: Merzbau.” YouTube. YouTube, 17 May 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
  3. Copeland, Roger. “Merce Cunningham and the Aesthetic of Collage.” TDR 46.1 (2002): 11-28. JSTOR. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.
  4. Hoffman, Katherine. “Collage in the Twentieth Century: An Overview.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 1-37. Print.
  5. Krauss, Rosalind E. “In the Name of Picasso.” The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1985. 23-40. Print.
  6. Kuspit, Donald B. “The Organizing Principle of Art in the Age of the Relativity of Art.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 39-57. Print.
  7. Nill, Annegreth. ” Rethinking Kurt Schwitters:  An Interpretation of Grünfleck.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 225-251. Print.
  8. Rowe, Colin, and Fred Koetter.  Collage City. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1978. 86-117. Print.