Cutting Edge: Workshops on Collage, Day 2
Conference, Workshop – Ben Cranfield, Isabelle Mooney, Rachel Stratton, Samuel Bibby, Leila Nassereldein, Lisa Maddigan Newby
- 14 October 2021
- 2:00 – 4:30 pm
- A workshop, as part of the multi-part conference programme 'Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now'
The Cutting Edge: Workshops on Collage feature papers from early career researchers, who explore the art of collage from new and compelling perspectives. These sessions are hosted as Zoom meetings, allowing the attendees opportunities to engage in dynamic exchanges and group discussions. Numbers will be capped at a maximum of 50 participants for the workshops to enable more focused interactions using breakout rooms. Note, you do not need to be an academic to join the workshops, but should have a strong interest in collage and be willing to take an active part in discussing the papers.
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)
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
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
Isabelle Mooney, 'The Fragmented Maps by Nigel Henderson and John McHale'
At times of social and political turmoil, especially during conflict, artists have mobilised the disruptive potential of collage to respond to violence, devastation and brutality. This paper will focus on two works of art: Maphead (1956) by John McHale and Rocket Landscape (1960) by Nigel Henderson. Both are collages that engage with the re-mapping of urban space, using physical map fragments and aerial photographs to re-visualise the metropolis in the post-war period. A close reading of these works illuminates how they are connected to processes of destruction and reconstruction, and subvert the map’s perceived authority and dominance over landscape.
Rachel Stratton, 'Theo Crosby: Collage and the Graphic Arts'
The field of graphic design proliferated in 1950s Britain, as magazine and journal editors fought to revitalise conservative layouts by embracing new ideas and techniques from the USA. The ‘creative revolution’ of Madison Avenue advertisers in New York had a significant impact, as did new semantic research from the US, which argued that structures of visual communication impacted on the way people processed information. In London, the architect, sculptor and technical editor of Architectural Design (1953–1962), Theo Crosby, became influential in this debate, promoting assemblage as a methodology for transmitting information and encouraging a culture of collage practice in art, exhibition design and graphic design.
Crosby is considered on the periphery of what has become known as the Independent Group (IG), a misnomer implying a cohesive collective with a shared mandate, where none existed. Scholarship about the collaborative working practices and collage aesthetic of the artists, architects and critics associated with the IG has proliferated in the last decade and Crosby has become known for his role in organising the famous exhibition This is Tomorrow.
This paper moves away from the well-trodden ground of 1950s exhibition design at the ICA, and instead takes as its subject another site of collaboration: the print journal. With Crosby at the centre, the paper will examine the relationship between collage practices and magazine design in the 1950s, arguing that communication methodologies emerging from graphic design paved the way for artists to adopt the collage medium. Crosby is placed at the heart of discussions about the function of collage and assemblage for promoting active viewership and relative thought processes.
The paper will consider Crosby’s innovative overhaul of Architectural Design and his experimental small-circulation journal Uppercase (1958–62) alongside his collage practice and that of his peers. It makes a case for the dialogic relationship between graphic design and collage, positing that the graphic arts, and Crosby’s contribution in particular, recontextualised the collage medium for a mass-media age. Of particular note is Crosby’s inclusion of collages by John McHale, Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and others in Architectural Design, in some cases the first or only context in which these works were seen by audiences. The paper argues that the journal format – the relationship between text and image, close viewership and the ability to turn pages – alters how we should interpret them. The discussion will draw on Crosby’s published writing and unpublished manuscripts from his archive in Brighton, as well as the journals and collages he produced.
The focus of this paper on the relatively unstudied relationship between collage and the graphic arts in post-war London will broaden the discussion of collage beyond the realms of art alone and deepen knowledge of how collage was consumed by audiences.
Leila Nassereldein, 'Humphrey Jennings’ Pandaemonium, and the ‘Collated Aesthetic’ as a Historiographic Practice'
Humphrey Jennings is most known for his contributions to the 1930s British documentary film movement; Spare Time (1939); Listen to Britain (1942) and The Silent Village (1943) overshadow his little-known contribution to critical historiographic practice. Posthumously published in 1985, Pandaemonium: The Coming of the Machine As Seen by Contemporary Observers is almost entirely composed of quotes Jennings collected from pre-published novels, diaries, letters and poems penned between 1660-1886. Having juxtaposed fragments extracted from a range of genres and perspectives, Jennings portrays a long history of the industrial revolution through a variegation of evocative passages. Culminating in a polyvocal cacophony of divergent experiences, Pandaemonium presents the history of modernity as conflictual, discordant and non-conclusive. This paper addresses the cultural milieu of Jennings – an unsung organiser of London’s first International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936, in developing a historiographic technique which promotes a critical form of confusion and a productive form of ambiguity which potentialises the provocation of new ways of thinking. Pandaemonium resists the singularity of meaning, the concept of progress and the image of a cohesive, agreeable collective; it is, according to Jennings, the ‘real history of Britain’, a history ‘never before written’.
Lisa Maddigan Newby, 'Exhibiting ‘Ethnographic Collage’ in London: From the ICA to the British Museum'
The critical potency of Eduardo Paolozzi’s enthusiasm for incorporating objects and images associated with ethnography into his collage-based practice varied significantly over the course of his career. I explore this in relation to his references to ethnography in two experimental exhibitions: Parallel of Life and Art at the ICA in 1953 and Lost Magic Kingdoms at the British Museum in 1985. The connections that Paolozzi made between these projects in the 1980s usefully highlight his longstanding commitment to the creative and transgressive potential of collage. Both exhibitions encouraged people to rethink the hierarchies that informed their experiences of visual culture and its display in Britain. However, the changed significance of ethnographic objects in British visual culture in the decades that separate these two exhibitions opens up a broader question about the historical contingency of collage and its shifting capacity to disrupt dominant narratives. By unpacking the different conditions that marked Paolozzi’s engagement with ethnography at the ICA in the 1950s and the British Museum in the 1980s, this paper addresses the challenge of accounting for a creative practice that could at once disrupt, conform, inspire and frustrate. Together these responses illuminate the changing possibilities and tensions that ‘ethnographic collage’ presented for artists and institutions in London in this period.
About the speakers
Ben Cranfield is Senior Tutor in Curatorial Theory and History on the Curating Contemporary Art programme, 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 ongoing work into the histories of art institutions, the theory of archives, and shifting ideas of art and culture in postwar Britain. Recent articles include, “On (Not Being with) Time (Queerly) in Post-War Britain”, Performance Research, October 2018; “Mind the Gap: Unfolding the proximities of the curatorial”, Performance Research, September 2017; “All play and no work? A ‘Ludistory’ of the curatorial as transitional object at the early ICA,” Tate Papers, Autumn 2014.
Isabelle Mooney is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews, supported by a Carnegie Trust scholarship. Her thesis considers how artists in Britain navigated the apocalyptic landscape of bombed-out London as it underwent social reconstruction and urbanisation in the post-war period, placing the visual impetus of the bombsite at the centre of this discussion. Isabelle recently conducted research on post-war collages made by John McHale and Nigel Henderson at the Yale Center for British Art as a recipient of a Visiting Scholar Award.
Rachel Stratton is an art historian and curator of British and American mid-twentieth century art who earned her PhD from the Courtauld in 2018. She completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art (2019/20) and is currently writing her book Grammars of Form: Art and the Crisis of Language in 1950s Britain, supported by a Paul Mellon Centre postdoctoral fellowship.
Samuel Bibby is Managing Editor of the journal Art History. His current research focuses on the intersections between collage, magazines and historiography within the context of 1960s and 70s British art history. He is currently working on a virtual special issue of Art History entitled ‘“Ever Tied to the Fragment”: Art History and/as Collage’, as well as a book-length study, Art History as Things Seen: The New Art Historiography, which looks at art magazines and art-historical periodicals from 1970s Britain. Parts of this project have already appeared in British Art Studies and Art History.
Leila Nassereldein is a CHASE and AHRC-funded doctoral scholar in Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London, where she also teaches BA and MA students across the English and History of Art departments. With a BA in Politics, and an MA in Critical and Cultural Theory from the University of Leeds, Leila’s teaching specialisms include modernism and the avant-garde, modernity and the city, nineteenth- and twentieth-century intellectual thought, debates in art history, and the historical contextualisation of London literature. Leila’s PhD thesis addresses montage as a historiographic practice through correspondences in the interwar work of Walter Benjamin and Humphrey Jennings, critically examining a shared milieu of Surrealism between the two world wars. Alongside her academic work, Leila has developed, overseen and managed curatorial projects at Turner Contemporary, the British Library, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image, and the Peltz Gallery.
Lisa Maddigan Newby completed an AHRC-funded PhD in Art History at the University of East Anglia in 2017. The title of her doctoral thesis is ‘Assemblage in Practice: Artists, Ethnography and Display in Postwar London (1948–85)’. She is a research associate in the Art History department at UEA and is currently working on publications that develop the core themes of her PhD research. This work is supported by a research continuity fellowship from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. She has worked as an associate tutor at UEA, as a museum curator and as a project manager for artist-led galleries and studios.
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Cutting Edge: Workshops on Collage, Day 1