Find the original word document with outline and notes here: Hartmann – Assignment F – Bibliographic Essay.
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.
- Almy, Max. “Video: Electronic Collage.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 355-371. Print.
- BAM/PFA. “Kurt Schwitters: Merzbau.” YouTube. YouTube, 17 May 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
- Copeland, Roger. “Merce Cunningham and the Aesthetic of Collage.” TDR 46.1 (2002): 11-28. JSTOR. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.
- Hoffman, Katherine. “Collage in the Twentieth Century: An Overview.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 1-37. Print.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nill, Annegreth. ” Rethinking Kurt Schwitters: An Interpretation of Grünfleck.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 225-251. Print.
- Rowe, Colin, and Fred Koetter. Collage City. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1978. 86-117. Print.