Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now
- 5 to 14 October 2021
- Full conference details with speaker biographies
- Online Events
Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now is a programme of events taking place online between 5 and 14 October 2021, and presented jointly by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Tate Britain.
Collage pieces together fragments. It builds them up into an aggregation of conjunctions, contradictions and superimpositions. It experiments with found and broken forms, and explores lack and incompleteness. While doing so, it also speaks of superabundance, hyper-production, and the acceleration of image circulation in the modern and contemporary world. Collage embraces polyphony and has been used to resist the identification of any one subject or perspective as normative. In times of national and international crisis, it seems to gain heightened currency. At moments of political struggle, collage has been mobilised to dismantle dominant narratives, to satirise authority and to represent dissent. As a practice rooted in the migration of materials, collage has the potential to inhabit the transnational, to overlay local and global and to address questions of borders and exchange.
Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now offers critical and creative perspectives on these and other aspects of collage, and on its contribution to modern and contemporary British visual culture. Together, the contributors investigate the complexity of collage as artistic practice, conceptual logic and cultural form. This online programme poses new questions about the materialities and technologies of collage, as well as the methodologies and media through which we encounter it today.
In the first week, from 5 to 8 October, the online events programme is structured around the following daily themes: Collage Dreamings and Collage Hauntings; Cuts, Copies, Clips and the Curatorial; Collage as Method, Manuscript and Moving Image; Collage Politics and Punk Practices. These sessions will be broadcast daily via Zoom, from 12.00 to 14.00 BST.
In the second week, on 13 and 14 October, there are online workshops, running from 14.00 to 16.30 BST. These sessions feature papers from early career researchers, and are focused upon more intensive group discussions exploring the questions and ideas raised. The workshops are hosted as Zoom meetings, allowing attendees the opportunity to engage in more dynamic interactions and exchanges. Numbers will be capped at a maximum of 50 participants for the workshops to allow for active participation and discussion using breakout rooms.
Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now is co-convened by Elena Crippa at Tate Britain, Rosie Ram at the Royal College of Art, and Sarah Victoria Turner at the Paul Mellon Centre.
Tuesday, 5 October: Collage Dreamings and Collage Hauntings – Zoom Webinar, 12.00–14.00
12.00–12.15 Welcome by Sarah Victoria Turner (Deputy Director, Paul Mellon Centre), Elena Crippa (Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate) and Rosie Ram (Visiting Lecturer, Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art)
12.15–12.45 Keynote by David Alan Mellor (Emeritus Professor, University of Sussex) and Thomas Crow (Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art, New York University), ‘Ev’ry Which Way: South Kensington Phantasmagorias and Californian Dreamings’
12.45–13.00 Discussion and questions, chaired by Elena Crippa
13.10–13.45 Artist’s film presentation, Elizabeth Price chaired by Anna Reid (Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)
13.45–14.00 Discussion and questions
Wednesday 6 October: Cuts, Copies, Clips and the Curatorial – Zoom Webinar, 12.00–14.00
12.00–12.05 Welcome by Sarah Victoria Turner (Deputy Director, Paul Mellon Centre)
Panel 1 Chaired by Lynda Nead (Pevsner Professor of History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London)
12.05–12.20 Ben Cranfield (Senior Tutor, Curatorial Theory and History, Royal College of Arts), ‘Fragmenting the Contemporary: The Queer Timeliness of Collage and the Curatorial in post-War Britain’
12.20–12.35 Craig Buckley (Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art, Yale University), ‘An Architecture of Clipping: Reyner Banham and the Redefinition of Collage’
12.35–12.50 Panel 1 discussion & questions
Panel 2 Chaired by Dawn Ades (Professor of History of Art at the Royal Academy)
13.00–13.15 Nicola Simpson (Research Impact Fellow at Norwich University of the Arts), ‘Not This and Not That: Cutting A(way) to a Tantric Buddhist Collage in the Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard’
13.15–13.30 Andrew Hodgson (University of London Institute in Paris), ‘Xeroxing Surrealism: TRANSFORMAcTION and Collage as Aesthetic Continuity’
13.30–13.45 Panel 2 discussion & questions
13.45–14.00 Multi-panel discussion
Thursday, 7 October: Collage as Method, Manuscript and Moving Image – Zoom Webinar, 12.00–14.00
12.00–12.15 Welcome by Rosie Ram (Visiting Lecturer, Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art)
12.15–12.45 Keynote by Claire Zimmerman (Associate Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor) chaired by Victoria Walsh (Professor of Art History and Curating, Royal College of Art)
12.45–13.00 Discussion and questions
13.10–13.45 Artist’s film presentation by Judah Attille
13.45–14.00 Discussion and questions
Friday, 8 October: Collage Politics and Punk Practices – Zoom Webinar, 12.00–14.00
12.00–12.05 Welcome by Elena Crippa (Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate)
Panel 3 Chaired by Catherine Grant (Senior Lecturer in the Art and Visual Cultures Departments, Goldsmiths, University of London)
12.05–12.20 Amy Tobin (Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge), ‘I Can’t Swim I Have Nightmares’: Linder and Photomontage 1976–2019’
12.20–12.35 Alice Correia (Research Curator, Touchstones, Rochdale), ‘Chila Kumari Burman: Punk Punjabi Protests’
12.35–12.50 Panel 3 discussion & questions
Panel 4 Chaired by Elizabeth Robles (Lecturer in the History of Art Department, University of Bristol)
13.00 –13.15 Allison Thompson (Division of Fine Arts, Barbados Community College), ‘Come Together: Collage Aesthetics in the Work of Sonia Boyce’
13.15–13.30 Chandra Frank (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Taft Research Center, University of Cincinnati)
13.30–13.45 Panel 4 discussion & questions
13.45–14.00 Multi-panel discussion
Wednesday, 13 October: Cutting Edge Collage Workshop 1 – Zoom Meeting, 14.00–16.30
14.00–14.10 Welcome by Sarah Victoria Turner (Deputy Director, Paul Mellon Centre), Elena Crippa (Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate) and Rosie Ram (Visiting Lecturer, Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art)
Panel 1 Chaired by Amy Tobin (Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge)
14.10–14.20 Danae Filioti (PhD Candidate, Art History, University College London), ‘Cutting the Cosmos: Liliane Lijn and Collage, 1960/9’
14.20–14.30 Karen Di Franco (Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London), ‘Breakthrough Fictioneers: Chance and Collage in Artists’ Publishing (1972–79)’
14.30–14.50 Panel 1 discussion & questions
14.50–15.15 Breakout discussion 1
Panel 2 Chaired by Andrew Wilson (Independent Curator and Art Historian)
15.25–15.35 Daniel Fountain (Senior Research Assistant, Manchester School of Art), ‘Queering the Library Through Collage: The Cut-Ups of Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell, 1959–1962’
15.25–15.45 Tom Day (Postdoctoral Fellow / Lecturer at the Centre for American Art, Courtauld Institute of Art), ‘Jeff Keen’s Pop Cinema Collage: The Saturation of Media and the Politics of Images’
15.45–16.05 Panel 2 discussion & questions
16.05–16.30 Breakout discussion 2
Thursday, 14 October: Cutting Edge Collage Workshop 2 – Zoom Meeting, 14.00–16.30
14.00–14.10 Welcome by Sarah Victoria Turner (Deputy Director, Paul Mellon Centre), Elena Crippa (Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate) and Rosie Ram (Visiting Lecturer, Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art)
Panel 3 Chaired by Ben Cranfield (Senior Tutor, Curatorial Theory and History, Royal College of Arts)
14.10–14.20 Isabelle Mooney (PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews), ‘The Fragmented Maps by Nigel Henderson and John McHale’
14.20–14.30 Rachel Stratton (Art Historian and Curator), ‘Theo Crosby and the Graphic Arts’
14.30–14.50 Panel 3 discussion & questions
14.50–15.15 Breakout discussion 3
Panel 4 Chaired by Samuel Bibby (Managing Editor, Art History journal)
15.25–15.35 Leila Nassereldein (Doctoral Researcher, Birkbeck, University of London ), ‘Humphrey Jennings, and the Collated Aesthetic as a Historiographic Practice’
15.25–15.45 Lisa Maddigan Newby (Independent Researcher), ‘Exhibiting “Ethnographic Collage” in London: From the ICA to the British Museum’
15.45–16.05 Panel 4 discussion & questions
16.05–16.30 Breakout discussion 4
Speaker abstracts and biographies (in order of appearence)
Tuesday, 5 October, Keynote and Artist Presentation
Thomas Crow and David Alan Mellor, 'Ev’ry Which Way: South Kensington Phantasmagorias and Californian Dreamings'
In the 1950s and 1960s, English and American artists, writers and performers used a disruptive range of collage and assemblage strategies as a means of starting over in the face of unwelcome or impoverished precedents.Often emerging from Beat bohemias in California and the ‘layabout life’ of art colleges in Britain, they became aligned with an emerging counter-culture and, in the case of Peter Blake , more complexified forms of pop music.
Practitioners like Californians Bruce Conner and Wallace Berman had a certain international visibility through informal networks and advocates – for example the actor Dennis Hopper – and ‘deviant’ galleries such as Robert Fraser’s, in London, who represented them. Beyond the stigma of self-willed eccentricity, there were significant painter/poets such as Adrian Henri or ‘junk’ sculptors like George Herms or Bruce Lacey. Art and letters liaisons in the area of the ‘cut-up’ were prominent in the association of Francis Bacon and William Burroughs.
While occult and noir literary configurations were operative in California, formative science-fiction experimentations equally informed the collages of Eduardo Paolozzi and J.G. Ballard. This conversation will range across these kinds of subjects and materials, and explore the parallels and convergences between English and American collage in the period.
Elizabeth Price and Anna Reid in conversation
Elizabeth Price’s moving image installations are intricate digital bricolage where voice, event, edifice and artefact are summoned, gathered and assembled. Her Turner Prize-winning The Woolworths Choir of 1979 (2012) is, for example, an immersive installation that narrates a tragic event – a devastating fire which killed ten people at the Manchester Woolworths department store – via an uneven multitude of testimonies. Her 2016 installation A Restoration is a fiction narrated by a ‘chorus’ of museum administrators, working to reconstruct the abstruse form of the Knossos Labyrinth as a virtual chamber where collection data, images and texts flow and collide.
This conversation will explore the technique and strategy of collage that is active in Price’s works. It will address the haptic research processes of which her ‘seamless’ digital productions consist. The dissensual and polyphonic character of Price’s works will be considered in its resonance with the Gothic and the artist’s processes of assembly and construction in their improbable, revelatory form.
Thomas Crow is Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. While Director of the Getty Research Institute, he initiated the Pacific Standard Time research and exhibition project devoted to art from southern California. He previously held chairs in art history at Yale and the University of Sussex in the UK. His recent books include The Long March of Pop: Art, Music, and Design 1930–1995; No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art; Restoration: The Fall of Napoleon in the Course of European Art, and The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London 19657–1969. His new book, The Artist in the Counterculture from Bruce Conner to Mike Kelley (And Other Tales from the Edge), is forthcoming in 2022.
David Alan Mellor
David Alan Mellor has contributed to retrievals of histories of twentieth century photography, film and painting within their cultural contexts. Curating exhibitions and critical writing have been his practice, working for the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council of England , the National Portrait Gallery, the International Center for Photography and the Barbican Art Gallery.
His essays include studies of David Hockney, Paul Nash, Cecil Beaton, David Bailey, Pauline Boty, Robyn Denny, Richard Smith, (forthcoming), Frank Auerbach (also forthcoming) and George Shaw. Additionally, he has organised surveys such as The Sixties Art Scene in London (1993), and No Such Thing as Society: Photography in Britain, 1967–1987 (2008).
He established film studies at the University of Sussex, while developing the history of photography as a component within the art history undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Sussex.
He has been primarily a collaborator, dealing with intersections of historical analysis and narratives of display, more recently co-curating The Bruce Lacey Experience with Jeremy Deller in 2012 at Camden Arts Centre. With the Archive of Modern Conflict he curated the extensive installation The Protection of the Public in Peacetime for theTate Modern exhibition Time, Conflict and Photography (2014) .
Elizabeth Price was born in Bradford, Yorkshire in 1966. She grew up in Luton, Bedfordshire and attended Putteridge Comprehensive Secondary School. She studied at the Royal College of Art, London and the University of Leeds. She makes short videos which explore the social and political histories of artefacts, architectures and documents. The subject matter may sometimes be historic artworks of great cultural significance, but it is more frequently marginal or derogated things, and often pop-cultural or mass produced objects. The video narrations draw upon and satirise the administrative vernaculars of relevant public and academic institutions as well as advertising copy and other texts of private and commercial organisations.
Alongside her work as an artist she works as an academic. In recent years she has been employed at Goldsmiths, the Royal College of Art and the Ruskin School of Art. She is presently Professor of Film and Photography at Kingston University. She teaches across disciplines and levels but recently has focussed upon working with artists developing formally innovative PhD projects.
Anna Reid is a Research Fellow of the Paul Mellon Centre. Her research explores ecological modality in twentieth-century British art writing and making. She is particularly interested in addressing modernist experimentation in its contexts of new knowledge in natural science. This is reflected in her recent publications, including with The Dark Mountain Project, Visual Culture in Britain and British Art Studies as well as her contributions to the Paul Mellon Centre’s academic activities programme e.g. the 2020 international conference British Art and Natural Forces. Her art historical research is shaped by ten years of curatorial work with contemporary artists, including as Director and Curator at the commissioning organization, Pavilion. Key projects include Mathieu Abonnenc’s Africa Addio, Lucy Skaer’s Film for an Abandoned Projector and Celine Condorelli’s Additionals. Her strong interest in the form and sculptural possibilities of writing on art in the contemporary landscape context are reflected in her podcast series Experiments in Art Writing and The Artist as Historian, both of which she produced and hosted as part of the British Art Talks podcast. She completed her doctoral research in 2019, supervised by Professor Ysanne Holt at Northumbria University’s AHRC centre for doctoral research. She has an MA, Goldsmiths and an MA, History of Art, University of Cambridge.
Wednesday, 6 October, Panel 1
Ben Cranfield, 'Fragmenting Practices of the Contemporary: The Queer Timeliness of the Collage and the Curatorial'
The paradox of the long-century of mass-media is that the greater the reach of communication technologies, the greater the sense of fragmentation. It is therefore unsurprising that two of the most significant cultural practices to emerge from the mass-media age are collaging and curating, both of which are concerned with the assembly and re-grounding of fragments. It is equally unsurprising that when London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) was founded in 1947 with the specific aim to be contemporary, it quickly became home to experiments in both practices. So how did collage and curating fulfil the ICA’s mandate to be contemporary? Indeed, what types of contemporariness (modes of being with time) do the collage and the curatorial produce?
To explore this question, I will examine a series of fragmentary archival moments, relating to the ICA’s first twenty years, that attempted to speak to the contemporary moment through practices of assembly. Starting with fragments of quotes from the promotional material for the exhibitions, Collages and Objects (1954) and 3 Collagists (1958), I shall call forth a collage of fragments from the ICA’s archive to demonstrate that the collage and the curatorial, as spaces of manifest fragmentation and (re)assembly, create, through a dialectic of the overlap (the collage) and the gap (the curatorial), the fundamental condition of contemporaneity: the desire for, but impossibility of, being with-time. Furthermore, I will argue that these ways of relating to time, through the spatial practice of assembly, allow for a particular queer relationship to culture to emerge, informed by Sara Ahmed’s notion that queerness is a question of orientation. I will examine how these fragments could be reorientated to create a non-normative relationship to time and to the productive logic of the post-war city. Drawing on formative work of Cultural Studies in Britain, especially Raymond William’s idea of the emergent and the residual and Stuart Hall’s work on encoding and decoding, combined with José Esteban Muñoz’s idea that there is queer value in the ephemeral, I will argue that the collagic and the curatorial are vital to processes of cultural identification and categorisation, and their subversion.
Craig Buckley, 'An Architecture of Clipping: Reyner Banham and the Redefinition of Collage'
In the early 1960s, the critic Reyner Banham developed a theory of ‘Clip-On architecture’ which theorised a changing attitude to industrial assembly in the work of an emerging generation of architects such as Cedric Price and Archigram. Clip-On Architecture, he argued, eschewed the pre-war aspiration to reshape production by inserting the architect into industry, rather it embraced a more indeterminate sense of form resulting from the impermanent and expendable assembly of technologies and materials appropriated from different domains. Banham’s theory has typically been understood in terms of changes in industrial prefabrication, yet this paper mounts a different interpretation: Banham’s ‘clip-together’ vision of architecture intimately reflected period practices for clipping printed matter. Practices of collecting and extracting material from large-format, colour magazines has long been given an important place in accounts of pre-war collage and montage practices within London’s Independent Group, in which Banham played a key role. Such clipping has often been associated with the scrapbook and the post-war phenomenon of the tackboard, yet I will argue that it also reflected the rise of a very different process: the archiving and manipulation of information associated with the rise of industrial clippings bureaus. An emphasis on practices of clipping highlights the embeddedness of collage within a different regime of labour. Clipping bureaus relied almost exclusively on semi-skilled female labour to scan and extract ‘information’ from large amounts of printed matter. This industrial infrastructure of clipping was one of the hidden systems that helped lay the foundation for the management and commoditisation of information in the twentieth century. Post-war practices of clipping in architectural culture help bring such a system to light, crucially connecting practices of information management to the procedures used to assemble pages within emergent offset lithographic printing processes, a newly accessible reproduction technology in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Recognising this conjuncture brings to light the emergence of an ambivalent new ethos of graphic assembly that would come to dominate a range of experimental architecture practices around the globe in the 1960s, together with the transformed role that the collage-montage paradigm played during these years.
Lynda Nead is Pevsner Professor of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London. She has published widely on a range of art historical subjects, particularly on the history of British visual culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her most recent book is The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Post-War Britain (Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press). She has a number of advisory roles in national art museums and galleries and is a Trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum. She is currently writing a book called British Blonde: Women, Desire and the Image in Post-War Britain (working title!).
Ben Cranfield is Senior Tutor in Curatorial Theory and History on the Curating Contemporary Art programme at the Royal College of Art. His research is focused on the relationship of the curatorial to notions of the contemporary and the archive, asking what it is to be ‘with’ one’s time, stemming from his on-going work into the histories of art institutions, the theory of archives and shifting ideas of art and culture in post-war Britain. Recent articles include, ‘On (Not Being with) Time (Queerly) in Post-War Britain,’ Performance Research (2018); ‘Mind the Gap: Unfolding the Proximities of the Curatorial,’ Performance Research (2017); ‘All Play and No Work? A ‘Ludistory’ of the Curatorial as Transitional Object at the early ICA,’ Tate Papers (2014).
Craig Buckley is an associate professor of modern and contemporary architecture in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. He is the author most recently of Graphic Assembly: Montage, Media and Experimental Architecture in the 1960s, (University of Minnesota Press, 2019). His essays have appeared in the journals Grey Room, October, Log, and Perspecta, and Texte zur Kunst, among others. He is the editor of numerous collections, including Screen Genealogies: From Optical Device to Environmental Medium, (with Francesco Casetti and Rüdiger Campe, from University of Amsterdam Press, 2019), After the Manifesto: Writing, Architecture, and Media in a New Century (Columbia University Press, 2014) and Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines (with Beatriz Colomina, from Actar, 2011). He is currently at work on a new book with the working title The Street and the Screen, a media archaeology of the architectures of the moving image in the twentieth century.
Wednesday, 6 October, Panel 2
Dawn Ades – Chair
Dawn Ades is Professor Emerita of the History and Theory of Art at the University of Essex, Professor of the History of Art at the Royal Academy, a former trustee of Tate (1995–2005) and of the National Gallery (2000–2005) and a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2013 she was appointed CBE for services to higher education.
The many exhibitions she has organized or co-curated, in the UK and abroad, include Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (1978); Art in Latin America: the Modern Era 1820–1980 (1989); Dalí’s Optical Illusions (2000); Salvador Dalí: The Centenary Exhibition (2004); Undercover Surrealism: Georges Bataille and Documents (2006); Close-Up: Proximity and Defamiliarisation in Art, Photography and Film (2008); and Dalí/Duchamp (Royal Academy and the Dalí Museum 2017–18). Apart from the catalogues associated with these exhibitions, publications include Photomontage (1986), Marcel Duchamp (with N. Cox and D.Hopkins, 1999), A Dada Reader (2006) and Writings on Art and Anti-art (2015).
Nicola Simpson is a curator and researcher at Norwich University of the Arts. Her research interests are focused on the performative and experiential influence of Zen and Tantric Buddhisms on transnational and transhistorical counter-cultural art and writing. She is editor of Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard (Occasional Papers, 2012) and co-editor of Dom Sylvester Houédard (Richard Saltoun, Riding House, 2017). Other publications include, “polyphonicportraits & mantraportraits & mantrayantras”, NOTES ONE –onos & nonos: an introduction to the book of onomasticons by dsh (Oxford: South Street, 2016) and ‘Attempts at Repairing the Universe: A Conversation between Nicholas Logsdail, Nicola Simpson and Charles Verey’, dsh, (Lisson Gallery, 2018).
Recent exhibitions include: Notes from the Cosmic Typewriter (South London Gallery, 2012), Performing No Thingness: The Kinetic Poetry of Dom Sylvester Houédard, Ken Cox and Li Yuan-chia (East Gallery, 2016) and Dom Sylvester Houédard: tantric poetries (Lisson Gallery, 2020).
Andrew Hodgson is author of the monograph The Post-War Experimental Novel: British and French Fiction, 1945–75 (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), the novelesque Mnemic Symbols (Manchester: Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019) and editor of the experimental writing collections Paris (Manchester: Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019) and Experimental Praxis (Manchester: Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2021). He is translator from the French of Roland Topor’s Head-to-Toe Portrait of Suzanne (London: Atlas Press, 2018) and from the Danish, Carl Julius Salomonsen’s New Forms of Art and Contagious Mental Illness (Los Angeles: New Documents, 2021). He is currently researching and writing a book-length study of surrealism and the novel. He teaches in French and Culture Studies at the University of London Institute in Paris.
Nicola Simpson, 'Not This and Not That. Cutting A(Way) to a Tantric Buddhist Collage in the Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard'
Dom Sylvester Houédard was a Benedictine monk, artist and poet from Prinknash Abbey, known for the typestracts he made on his Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter in the 1960s and 1970s. However, in 1967 he began a series of works he termed ‘cosmic dust poems’ or ‘laminate poems’, in which he collaged together a seemingly inexhaustible range of found materials; Vaseline, pill packets, coloured paper, foil, cut-up theological texts and newspaper articles, dust, jam, spit, leaves, petals and sand.
This paper considers form and how these modest everyday substances become carriers of meaning on equal terms with the words cut out of newspapers, books and magazines next to which they are stuck. It suggests an understanding of these poemobjects is to be gained by placing them in the counter-cultural territory in which they were made: the de-materialist philosophy found in the performances and ‘Scrudge’ of The Exploding Galaxy, the auto-destructive art of DIAS and Gustav Metzger and the psychedelic light projections of Mark Boyle. Houédard made many of these works specifically for, and included direct references to, prominent counter-cultural figures such as David Medalla, Edward Pope, Suzy Creamcheese and John Hopkins.
Alongside this interrogation of the seen, this paper then explores the unseen. Houédard’s cosmic dust poems also collage the invisible, engaging with the microcosmic, beyond the world of ordinary appearance. As such, these works could be said to exemplify the imaginative encounter between a Tantric Buddhist ontology and quantum theory. This strategy is certainly useful in contextualising Houédard’s interest in collaging the sub-atomic world, sprinkling, in his words, ‘some particles of antimatter from Gloucestershire’, alongside visible found objects.
These cosmic dust poems should not be separated from the environment in which are they read and exhibited. It was Houédard’s intention that, when a selection of these poemobjects were to be first shown at the Lisson Gallery in 1967, that they were done so alongside, ‘some extracts from the mantra “Jrim, hum, ho, ho, ho, phat”’ – a mantra composed of seed syllables recited in ritual Tantric practice to destroy all ordinary conceptual appearance. As such, it is argued, these poemobjects can be thought of as an intentional Tantric key to understanding the appearance of all other objects and the un-selving of those objects of an inherent existence.
In conclusion, this paper argues that Houédard’s interest in using invisible matter and/or the inclusion of a cut-up visible vocabulary explores collage as a transhistorical and transnational Tantric Buddhist methodology, that imputes and then dissolves the existence and meaning of form. Each cosmic dust poem is about the auto-destruction of the kataphatic cosmos; an apophatic claim of ‘not this’ and ‘not that’ for what Houédard called the ‘non-non’, the non-conceptual experience of God or the emptiness at the heart of the contemplative experience. Each work can be considered, in the words found in one cosmic laminate, ‘a little nothing poem’.
Andrew Hodgson, 'Xeroxing Surrealism: TRANSFORMAcTION and Collage as Aesthetic Continuity'
In 1947, the British Surrealists announced their dissolution following the upheavals of the Second World War, deaths of members, police raids on their printers and arrests for ‘unpatriotic activities’ (the same printers published an anarchist journal). In lieu of delegates, E.L.T. Mesens and Roland Penrose, two of the only remaining members, sent to the 1947 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris the ‘Declaration of the Surrealists in England’. Following the announcement, the British Surrealists, including European Surrealists exiled to Britain during the war who had opted to remain, returned to individual works or, often, to artistic silence. This declaration, and perhaps the ‘decentralised’ English tendency the Declaration bemoans, are perhaps strong contributors to the long-held perception that there was no British Surrealism; that there was little of a twentieth-century British avant-garde. Until recent projects of critical exhumation of its work and its histories, in established accounts of the twentieth-century avant-garde, Surrealism in Britain appears non-existent.
However, a year after the death of André Breton in 1967, these figures, that had admitted defeat 20 years before, reproclaimed the need in Britain for ‘Surrealism now!’ Beginning with the Exeter Festival of Modern Art, the surrealists in Britain reformed with the John Lyle curated and edited publication TRANSFORMAcTION, which ran from 1967–79. The first issue created during the exhibition beginning with the words: ‘It is our purpose to overthrow false gods, and we will do so, whatever label they wear, without wasting more time’.
The first issue made during the festival (yet to receive the lower case ‘c’ and thus appearing as TRANSFORMATION) consisted of a stack of A4 paper housing written and visual work generated at the festival, stapled within a blue paper cover. Both the pages inside and outside are ‘noisy’: in great departure from the slick appearance of earlier organs of Surrealism, they are photocopied. TRANSFORMAcTION, put together by Lyle, and shifting to an A5 format though maintaining the brashly coloured cover paper, the staples and the ‘noisy’ renderings of text and image within and without, continued for twelve subsequent years.
TRANSFORMAcTION is unique in its approach as a long-term project of regrounding Surrealism despite the movement’s apparent demise. Bringing together published and unpublished tracts by early surrealists, new work by survivors of that earlier iteration and work by post-war conceptual artists and writers, such as Ian Breakwell and Alan Burns, as artefacts they take on the appearance of a scrapbook. Sections of text and image, often on the same page, are each surrounded by a halo of noise generated by the photocopier on which the issues were produced. Following the events of their present day, the Vietnam War, May ‘68; Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood,’ in each issue Lyle physically collages past and then present surrealist text and image around themes responsive to each issue’s moment of production. And, as such, Lyle creates a personal project of collage, from the very corpus of Surrealism itself. Through this process of cut and paste and xerox, he reforms the history of Surrealism. Surrealist work past and present, across national languages, boundaries and borders are continually mutated, warped and reformed into aesthetically new critical spotlights; through the prism of a curatorial Lyle the corpus of Surrealism becomes itself collage, continually rehistoricised; reaestheticised.
With this paper I will build a discourse around John Lyle’s collage treatment of the corpus of Surrealism, and the aesthetic processes of cut and paste and copy he employed as an attempt to reconcile the unreal new of the post-war era with the strictly held doctrines of Surrealism’s 1930s.
Thursday, 7 October, Keynote and Artist Presentation
Claire Zimmerman, 'Alison’s Mind: Collage and Architectural Thinking in Postcolonial Britain'
Some time in the 1950s, Alison Smithson took a copy of Charles Knight’s Old England: a Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial, and Popular Antiquities of 1845, and began filling it with images. Over the next four decades, she created a collage work of astonishing depth and thickness, with images culled from a heterogeneous array of material. The source and substrate of this years-long collage, a book of 478 pages in two volumes, was hardly distant from the concerns Smithson pursued elsewhere. A wide variety of lithographed images of artefacts, buildings and mise-en-scène fill its pages, drawn from the English past or from its encounter with other lands. The end result is a massive object, its binding strained by the material interleaved throughout its pages. This paper presents the fragile scrapbook for the first time, considering the unfolding dialogue between the book’s images and Smithson’s continuously layered additions throughout its pages and over an extended time frame. A private sourcebook, the book records collage as an artist’s working method, showing its utility for the generation of new ideas and suggesting corollaries between mental image-making and material output.
While the precise sequence and order in which Smithson filled the pages of the book are impossible to reconstruct (she did not work from front to back), nonetheless the early pages suggest an ongoing dialogue between book and architect, where images of medieval moats, monuments and abodes recall projects that she and Peter Smithson projected or executed in their architectural work. Set against her life, the scrapbook illuminates the fate of a highly intelligent, ambitious woman nonetheless thwarted by oppressive gender prejudice and cut-throat professional competition in post-war British architecture. Similar collage works by others in the IG group, most notably Nigel Henderson’s scrapbooks in the Tate collections, evince similarity in kind and radical difference of degree in the end results. As a private sourcebook, the scrapbook offers a window into Smithson’s working methods, allowing viewers access to one of the least-filtered outputs of her creative intelligence. Taken together with Smithson’s thesis, her forays into creative writing, her graphic work and her international correspondence with fellow travellers, such as Charles and Ray Eames, the scrapbook represents an under-explored record of architectural thought in post-war Britain. The paper is a first step in parsing the rapidly decaying scrapbook to help understand the workings of one of the most important minds of post-war architecture culture, situated within a changing postcolonial landscape in which the very concept of Englishness – of nationhood itself – is put on display. At a moment when this concept has resurged in the United Kingdom as elsewhere, we might consider the scrapbook as Alison’s record of rapidly changing national identity, with images of international consumer culture covering and nearly obliterating the English source material over which she mounted them.
Claire Zimmerman’s published work has focused on architecture and photography: recently in ‘The Anti-Photograph,’ (Modern Management Methods, The Shed, 2019) ‘Anticipating Images’ (Buffalo at the Crossroads, Cornell, 2020), ‘Reading the [Photographic] Evidence’ (JSAH, 2017), and Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century (Minnesota, 2014). Architectural images, whether in two or three dimensions, connect a disparate array of projects on twentieth-century built environments and their cultural mediation. Zimmerman’s curatorial work has focused similarly on architecture and mass media, particularly in her collaboration with Victoria Walsh, New Brutalist Image 1949–1954 at Tate Britain in 2015–16. A book project on the mass-production architecture of Detroit’s Albert Kahn is nearing completion. Zimmerman is Associate Professor in architectural history and theory at the University of Michigan.
Victoria Walsh is Professor of Art History and Curating at the Royal College of Art and Head of the Curating Contemporary Art Programme. She is a curator and researcher whose projects span from the post-war period to the contemporary with a particular focus on interdisciplinary collaborations between artists, architects and designers; the reconstruction of exhibitions; practices and histories of gallery education; issues of curating in relation to the changing conditions of technology. In 2015 she led the reconstruction of Richard Hamilton’s 1951 exhibition Growth and Form for the Tate Modern / Museo Reina Sofia major retrospective of the artist’s work in 2014, which built on her previous experience reconstructing the 1953 ICA exhibition, Parallel of Life and Art. With Claire Zimmerman, she co-curated the Tate Britain research display New Brutalist Image 1949–1955 and together they published the photo-article ‘New Brutalist Image 1949–55’, British Art Studies, Dec 2016.
Martina Attille (Judah, she/her) is a recipient of an AHRC TECHNE award for doctoral training, currently working towards her PhD, titled ‘Africandescence’, at the University of the Arts London. The research includes an enquiry into how avant-garde filmmaking strategies can frame complex interpersonal narratives.
A founding member of Sankofa Film and Video with Maureen Blackwood, Robert Crusz, Isaac Julien, and Nadine Marsh-Edwards from 1983-1988, Attille contributed to the events ‘Black Women & Representation’ (1984) and ‘Black (feminine)—Exploring Images of Black Women’ (1986) and to the debut films of the collective, including Territories I & II (1983), The Passion of Remembrance (1986) and Dreaming Rivers (1988). Attille later joined the visual arts forum, Black Women Artists Study Group in 1995.
Atille has contributed to publications including The Fact of Blackness: Frantz Fanon and Visual Representation (1996), Rhapsodies in Black: The Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997) and Today I Shall Judge Nothing That Occurs: Selections from the Ektachrome Archive by Lyle Ashton Harris (2017).
Martina Attille (born 1959, Castries, St Lucia). Certificate of Registration as a Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, 1982).
Friday, 8 October, Panel 3
Amy Tobin, ' "I Can’t Swim I Have Nightmares": Linder and Photomontage'
This paper emerges from my work on Linderism, a survey exhibition of Linder Sterling’s work at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and Hatton Gallery, Newcastle. The aim is to trace two approaches to photomontage in the early works produced in the 1970s, and in the later works produced after 2011. I will discuss the competing influences on Linder’s practice from Berlin Dadaism, to the gender and erotic politics of Surrealism and the Situationists. I argue that this confluence of chosen histories, combined in the crucible of the post-industrial North, formed a new and radical post-punk romanticism. The other side of the more obvious association between punk and the aggressive cut – in this paper I suggest that transition, transformation and juxtaposition are also crucial to photomontage, and become particularly important to Linder’s practice as she explores the mythic undercurrents of visual culture; first in the earlier photomontages through the de-sublimation of desire and consumerism and second in the later photomontages through Linder’s exploration of archaic figures and archetypes in her reimagining of Barbara Hepworth’s The Family of Man and her refiguring of St Wilgefortis. I argue that Linder’s photomontages are concerned with an economy of images and the unique effects of their inappropriate juxtaposition, rather than playing with the real and realism that collage allows. Working with images, symbols, archetypes and ritual, I suggest that Linder’s practice has shifted from the 1970s and from a Situationist-inspired critique, to an embrace of photomontage toward a new figuration tuned to a culture shaped by images and style.
Alice Correia, 'Chila Kumari Burman: Punk Punjabi Protest'
In his influential writings on the histories of Black and Asian artists in 1980s’ Britain, Kobena Mercer identified a trend in artistic practice: across the work of Rasheed Araeen, Eddie Chambers, Keith Piper and others, he noted a ‘cut and mix aesthetic’ whereby artworks comprised hand-made images, collated visual sources, texts and objects, that were selected, manipulated and positioned in proximity, in order to express something of a lived diasporic experience. Indeed, Mercer has argued that ‘the formal dynamics of collage … [are] especially relevant to the hyphenated character of diaspora identities’.
Although Chila Kumari Burman has been a consistent presence in discussions of Black and Asian art in Britain, much of her work has been neglected in narratives of British art. Burman’s collages, photo silk-screen prints and multi-media works have utilised archival family photographs, images amassed from magazines and books, and the material culture of everyday life. Cumulatively, her works present and reflect upon her active participation in, and solidarity with, racial, gender and class struggle. However, despite being ‘one of the first Black women artists in this country to produce political work’, prior to her celebrated Tate Winter Commission (2020–21), she was perhaps most well known for her seemingly kitsch, pop, self-portraits.
This paper offers a timely assessment of one of Burman’s earliest collages, the diptych Convenience, Not Love (1986–7), which, amongst other referents, utilises the image of Margaret Thatcher and a British passport to present a scathing indictment of British immigration policy in the post-1945 era. In doing so, Burman championed the resilience of the South Asian migrants, and South Asian women in particular, in the face of persistent institutional racism in Britain. Taking issue with the Orientialist stereotype of South Asian women as ‘meek and passive victims’, in Convenience, Not Love Burman harnessed the operations of collage in order to cut and break, open up and expand, the range of visual referents available. In her choice and juxtaposition of counter images, Burman constructed a matrilineal history of resilient and powerful women, which includes the Rani of Jhansi who in 1857 led the Indian rebellion against the British in India; participants in the industrial action at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory, London, 1976–7; and members of her own family.
Throughout her career, Burman has had a clear ambition to draw attention to the complexity and multi-faceted nature of female British-Asian identities. This paper will conclude with a rereading of her Pop photo-montage self-portraits which utilise multiple and repeated images, presented in a hyper-vibrant colour palette. It is the contention here that unabashed and uncompromising works such as 28 Positions in 34 Years (1990), evolved from Burman’s highly nuanced engagement with the vicissitudes of South Asian womanhood, as evinced in Convenience, Not Love.
Catherine Grant is Senior Lecturer in the Art and Visual Cultures Departments at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently researching the legacies of feminist histories in contemporary art. The project includes the essays Fans of Feminism: Re-writing Histories of Second-wave Feminism (2011) and A Letter Sent, Waiting to be Received: Queer Correspondence, Feminism and Black British Art (2019). She is the co-editor of Fandom as Methodology with Kate Random Love (2019), as well as the collections Girls! Girls! Girls! (2011) and Creative Writing and Art History (2012). She co-edited the questionnaire 'Decolonising Art History’ with Dorothy Price, for Art History, February 2020.
Amy Tobin is a Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge and Curator, Contemporary Programmes at Kettle's Yard. She has published her research in Tate Papers, MIRAJ, Women: A Cultural Review and Feminist Review, along with books chapters in numerous edited books. She is the co-editor of London Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks 1960–1980 (Penn State University Press, 2018) with Jo Applin and Catherine Spencer and The Art of Feminism (Chronicle and Tate, 2018) with Lucy Gosling, Helena Reckitt and Hilary Robinson. For more information on publications see: https://www.hoart.cam.ac.uk/people/dr-amy-tobin. In 2019, Tobin organised exhibitions of Louise Bourgeois, Julie Mehretu and Rose Garrard, followed by a retrospective of Linder Sterling in 2020, she is currently working on exhibitions of the work of Sutapa Biswas (autumn 2021), Howardena Pindell (summer 2022) and Li Yuan-chia and the LYC Art Centre with Hammad Nasar and Sarah Victoria Turner (winter 2022–3) all at Kettle's Yard. In 2019–20 Tobin was the Terra-PMC Fellow, in 2021–2 she has a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to work on a new project on art and feminist sisterhood.
Alice Correia is an art historian. Her research examines late twentieth-century British art, with a specific focus on artists of African, Caribbean, and South Asian heritage. She is currently Research Curator at Touchstones Rochdale, and has previously worked at Tate Britain, Government Art Collection and the universities of Sussex and Salford. In 2017 she was a mid-career Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art, where she initiated her on-going research project, Articulating British Asian Art Histories. She is currently working on a monograph provisionally titled, South Asian Women Artists in Britain, and her articles have appeared in Art History; British Art Studies; Journal of British Visual Culture; and Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. She is Chair of Trustees of the journal Third Text.
Friday, 8 October, Panel 4
Allison Thompson, 'Come Together: Collage Aesthetics in the Work of Sonia Boyce'
One of the most important recurring themes in the career of artist Sonia Boyce, which now spans almost four decades, is her fascination with bringing seemingly disparate elements together to see what new meanings might be generated. Tarzan to Rambo: English Born ‘Native’ Considers Her Relationship to the Constructed/Self Image and her Roots in Reconstruction (1987) in the Tate Collection marks an important transition in her early work from her intimate pastel drawings of domestic interiors to a more confrontational and radicalised commentary that relies on the collaged assemblage of diverse images and materials, resulting in troubling relationships and juxtapositions aimed at interrogating the ways in which images and identities are constructed. Boyce’s work of the following decade began to focus increasingly on performance but, I will argue, her early interest in collage has informed much of this work which can be regarded as a kind of ‘social collage’. This is evident not only through placing performers or participants in contexts which are strange or unusual for them, and in which they are often asked to collaborate, but also the ways in which the materials or documents of the performances are subsequently assembled as installations. A good example of this is Six Acts (2018), a six screen installation in which the monitors are mounted on a background of intricately designed wallpaper which assembled multiple images in repeating patterns. The result is a collaged work of images and experiences, history and contemporaneity.
Six Acts was commissioned as part of Boyce’s 2018 retrospective at the Manchester Art Gallery. The artist invited five performance artists to respond to various works in the historical galleries with an audience of gallery goers. At the end, a late nineteenth century painting by John Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, was temporarily removed and in its place a notice was posted explaining that a temporary space had been left ‘to prompt conversations about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection’. Members of the public were then invited to react by adding comments on post-it notes which were ‘collaged’ onto the surrounding wall. Museum practice and audience response became an integral part of the work, interrogating where and how meaning is generated and challenging viewers to see works in non-binary, more complex and open ways. But no one anticipated the firestorm of responses that ensued. The multifaceted performance as well as the subsequent compiling and layering of imagery in the final installation reflect a collage aesthetic which is often informed by Boyce’s fascination with the work of the Dada artists. Like them she recognises that the way that collage, whether two dimensional, expanded into three dimensional installations or collaborative and spontaneous performance, has been used to challenge established and institutionalised power structures. It deliberately disrupts familiar narratives thereby opening up new readings and alternative ways forward. These social collages can also be linked to both feminist and diasporic aesthetics, resulting in what Stuart Hall has called the ‘condensation’ of a series of overlapping, interlocking but non-corresponding ‘histories’.
Chandra Frank, 'Fragmentations and Glimmers: Archival Experimentations with Collage'
Archives produce and hold fragmentation, which can generate experimental, new and complex relationships between materials, stories and people. With a particular focus on how artists have used collage, this presentation will explore how collage might trouble the idea of a legitimate archive.
Elizabeth Robles is a researcher and lecturer in contemporary art in the History of Art Department at the University of Bristol. She is particularly interested in the formation of ideas around ‘black art’ across the twentieth century and is currently a British Academy postdoctoral fellow working on a project entitled Making Waves: Black Artists & ‘Black Art’ in Britain from 1962–1982. Most recently she co-edited the exhibition publication The Place is Here: The Work of Black Artists in 1980s Britain (Sternberg, 2019) alongside curator Nick Aikens. She also co-leads the British Art Network Black British Artists Research Group.
Allison Thompson is an art historian and curator living in Barbados. She teaches in the Division of Fine Arts at the Barbados Community College and is co-director with Ewan Atkinson of PUNCH Creative Arena, an initiative for creative action. Thompson has worked with a number of cultural organizations including the Barbados National Art Gallery Board, the Black Diaspora Visual Arts Project, ICOM Barbados, and is the president of AICA Southern Caribbean. She co-authored Art in Barbados: What Kind of Mirror Image and co-edited Curating in the Caribbean.
Chandra Frank is a feminist researcher who works on the intersections of archives, waterways, gender, sexuality and race. Her curatorial practice explores the politics of care, experimental forms of narration, and the colonial grammar embedded within display and exhibition arrangements. Chandra holds a PhD from the Department of Media, Communications, and Cultural Studies with an emphasis on queer and feminist studies, from Goldsmiths, University of London. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and exhibition catalogues, including Feminist Review, the Small Axe VLOSA catalogue, The Place is Here publication and the collection Tongues. She recently co-edited a special issue on archives for Feminist Review. Chandra’s dissertation and book project looks at the everyday experiences of the transnational feminist and queer Black, Migrant and Refugee Movement in the Netherlands during the 1980s and the role of the archive therein. Currently, Chandra is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati.
Wednesday, 13 October, Workshop Panel 1
Danae Filioti, 'Cutting the Cosmos: Liliane Lijn and Collage, 1960/9'
This paper will argue that Liliane Lijn's collage, Inner Space – Outer Space – Same Distance no. 4 (1969, 53×43 cm), executed after she had moved to London in 1966, was rooted in an earlier innovative and mechanical practice. Lijn had come to prominence as an abstract kinetic artist by this time, participating in Hayward’s survey show on the theme for instance. And so it was perhaps an odd choice for her to portray the ultra-technological frontier thematic of outer space – coinciding with the Apollo11 moon landing nonetheless – in the ‘deskilled’ modality of paper-collage. This paper will therefore consider the case for a shift in Lijn's practice towards a 'British vernacular’ by looking in detail at the relationship between her kinetic work and the collage. The consequent dialectic of motion/stillness was arguably vital to a reconceiving of space for a 'kinetic milieu’. The character of the cut and the condition of movement embedded, implicit or explicit, will be considered as key techniques. Not only does Lijn’s montage hijack the cosmic spectacle but it is remarkable for its evasion of any reference to it. The paper will discuss how this work derived from an earlier engagement in Paris. Collage-like operations, especially William Burrough’s and Brion Gysin's cut-up experiments, had been inventively applied to produce mechanised, literary ensembles: the poem machines. More recently still, histories of collage have been considered as ostensible
In this series
Collage Dreamings and Collage Hauntings: Cutting Edge
05 Oct 2021
Cuts, Copies, Clips and the Curatorial: Cutting Edge
06 Oct 2021
Collage as Method, Manuscript and Moving Image: Cutting Edge
07 Oct 2021
Collage Politics and Punk Practices: Cutting Edge
08 Oct 2021
Cutting Edge: Workshops on Collage, Day 1
13 Oct 2021
Cutting Edge: Workshops on Collage, Day 2
14 Oct 2021