Sunday, December 10, 2006

These Purely Formal Questions of Arrangement

For some reason Nicholas Manning's comment to my last post has been hidden from view. Here it is in full:

What's so interesting about this model for me is that it makes me think of a probably important distinction between two different types of collage that up until this point we haven't really explictly made.

For on the one hand there is this type of collage, which is purely about choice and formal arrangement, (though interestingly Lynch does not at all consider here the role of choice: the bits of paper are considered "random" and the choice of the material apparently "unimportant"), and on the other hand, collage which includes the introduction of "original gestures" on the part of the artist: that is, the cubist painter or Rauschenberg painting over collaged surfaces with marks which are recognisably his or her own, marks which must have, I think, a different statute to that of the found and arranged material.

For it seems to me that these marks, though still governed by such rules of arrangement as Lynch outlines, are still to an extent different, and make the confrontation and interaction between more-found and less-found materials (in order not to say "found" and "original") infinitely more complex than these purely formal questions of arrangement imply.

For it is almost like the confrontation of two entirely divergent theories of art and artistic creation (inspiration and techne perhaps, or Plato and Aristotle), and it is this, I feel, over any formal devices, which leads to the often stunning complexity of collages' aesthetic statements.

I wonder if the most important distinction here is one between pure collage and hybrids of various kinds. This also goes for Flarf, where there is no rule against "writing over" the collaged the materials with "original gestures". The point, for me, however, is that collage focuses the writer on "purely formal questions" precisely by setting the problem as one of arrangement ...

... and selection, I should add. Nicholas is right to point out that Lynch's exercise does not include this aspect. But I did leave out Fig. 51d: the finished product called Cliff with Cloud in which he adds a piece of paper obviously either made or selected to that end.

In any case, my questions are largely formal. What I like about collage/flarf is that it approaches form as the selection and arrangement of materials, instead of something that is violently imposed on content. This strikes me as a more sane approach to both the origin and the terminus of the art work.

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