There are artists who seem to live a few tenths of a second ahead of time. They are disruptive people even in the way of looking, who read through books like windows, and for whom the imagination is practically everything. We know that the key is there, that the world makes sense when we interpret it, and perhaps nobody works as much on it as the artists, especially those who think about it. collage. I think of a classic, the American Allen Ruppersberg (1944), a crew of John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha and Allan McCollum on the west coast and a benchmark of conceptual art since Harald Szeemann invited him to the exhibition When Attitudes Become Form and the mythical Documents 5. He had not yet turned 30 at the time and was already an avid collector of postcards, magazines, movies, records, comics, books, and posters. An anthropologist of the indigenous. His last job, Planet Stories, which was presented a few months ago at the ProjecteSD gallery in Barcelona, is a science fiction narration about the complete disappearance of contemporary art from the face of the Earth.
The story is futuristic but it seems to tell us about today, when art is also confined to closed museums. The series will grow, but the seventeen collages that he has released are already quite eloquent: they combine letters from old anagram games on images of Uncle Gilito and the Donald clan, whose power struggle soon becomes an ironic comment on the art market and the vain superficiality of the art world, reasons, according to him, for the collapse.
The subversion as the center of collage is still endless in its ability to surprise. In the hands of Allan Ruppersberg they offer muffled comic relief and work like an armed lie. His affinity with the Dadaists, Surrealists and authors of the Beat generation is evident in the way of thinking the collage, close to the literary technique of decoupage, the construction based on text clippings, which was the quintessential modernist shock medium of the 20th century avant-gardes. Braque was the instigator in 1911 and soon Picasso followed him along with a long chain of artists who used it to make way in that of questioning the idea of truth in the viewer, throwing down the canon of visual representation.
In the current era of fake and post-truth, the meaning of “cut and paste” multiplies in the hands of artists, many of them referents of “collage thinking”: from Richard Hamilton to Bruce Conner, from Thomas Hirschhorn to Richard Prince (@richardprince_official), from Mark Leckey (@ mark.leckey) to Hannah Höch, from Martha Rosler (@martharosler) to Kara Walker (@kara_walker_official), from Carmen Calvo to Joan Fontcuberta (@joanfontcuberta), from Henrik Olesen to Isa Genzken (@isagenzken), from David Maljkovic to Negar Azini (@negoush) or veterans like Geta Bratescu (@ getabratescu.apparitions) and Elisabeth Wild, who died just a few weeks ago. The collage it is a file of the banal, a big data, a hack of copyrights, a mestizo image, a hidden meme, pure appropriation of symbolic capital, a visual labyrinth. Undoubtedly, the format that has crossed the most borders between artistic disciplines, the one that has opened the most doors to other creative territories.
A century later, it has even changed its name. Today we talk about mampling, from remix, from mash-up. The ready-made always but full of detours. Cut, paste, mix, merge, filter, alter, rework, recycle. Sometimes, it is like a kind of detoxification in the face of saturation of images. Others, a way of telling the everyday with the covering of the unexpected. It carries in its DNA the “handmade”, tradition and the avant-garde. And the silent voice of women, something that is not always known: from the ladies of the 19th century and their afternoons doing scrapbooks, to the union of fabric scraps that so well defines the spirit of the rural environment. From there they drink the works of Sonia Navarro (@ sonianavarro.estudio). He has been telling his story for two decades in every scrap he uses in his collages, sometimes sculptures and installations, other photographs and drawings. In his memory are the cloth scraps with which he entertained himself with his grandmothers, with whom he now questions the mechanisms of power and gender hierarchies. A struggle of the women and the established standards that are at the base of their sewing and esparto fabrics, which now wear the Sala Verónicas in Murcia.
Like her, there is a generation of artists for whom the mix it is an attitude more than a recipe. A way of thinking. Artists who use DIY as a strategy looking for a language later. This is the case of Ira Lombardía (@iralombardia) artist and professor of photography history at the University of Syracuse, who also issues a feminist proclamation. In his works, he subverts the photographic image to question the current status of the image and highlight the residual, as in the Impudens Venus series. The immediate thing is for Ángela Cuadra (@angela_cuadra) the engine of a work based on collection, the dialogue between color and form, and on the poetic act of choice. It is not far from the work of many other artists of his generation who in one way or another explore a new iconographic material. The works of Elisa Pardo (@elisapardopuch), Alfredo Rodríguez (@alfredo: r_o_d_r_i_g_u_e_z), Miren Doiz (@miren_doiz), FOD (@fodoff), Esther Gatón (@esthergaton), Miki Leal (@mikileal) or June Crespo (@june_crespo). Miguel Ángel Tornero (@tornerochico) take one more turn. He is one of the artists who has stretched the idea of photographic composition the most, first from the digital montage, then with his Random Series and now with a return to collage analog in his last job, Burn ramon (2020), which has opened the Juan Silió gallery in Madrid. Cardboard and bitumen to talk about olive trees and pruning.
Today the collage maker explores, transits or wanders through that immense memory of networks aware that the memories are no longer in us, but uploaded to some website. The screen is the new still life. Hito Steyerl (@hito_steyerl), another brilliant artist of the sampler, shouts it in each of his installations. Art is a way of using the world, a counter power full of counter images. An infinite negotiation between points of view.