Exercise 2 – Recontextualising images – Collage exercise and notes

For this Exercise I decided to take global warming as a start, also in consideration of its connections to the course main themes of time and place and of the exercises I have already done in the first two parts which touched upon the environment in different ways. My preference went to a hands-on approach and I chose to actually make a collage.

My first idea was to use images of the same glaciers taken at different times and show how these have changed and melted in the last century, but as interesting as these photos are I thought they could not communicate a message strongly enough. I did also some research online to see what has been visually produced on global warming and climate change; there are a lot of diagrams and graphs accompanying studies on this subject, but again as interesting as the data may be they don’t seem to really show what’s going on. On a more popular level there are plentiful images of polar bears drifting away on melting ice and of refinery chimneys discharging black smoke into a purple sky and I wanted to try something else.

I wished also to use images and texts together and I thought of the tazebaos, those hand drawn posters used for political propaganda by the Chinese students during the Cultural Revolution and adopted by Western protesters as an instrument of political accusation in the Seventies. I think they are yet another form of the alternative messages used as a grassroots tool and identified as such in Project 1.

I collected faces and declarations of the global warming deniers and decided to combine them without adding any other element, wishing to let them do the talking. I modified some pictures with PaintShopPro software, scaled them up and down, played somewhat with the colours and some special effects. I also collected their words and pasted them all together, sentence after sentence, above them. For these texts I chose a typewriter font because this was what self-produced tazebaos used, in the pre-computer era.

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Proposed collage “In My Own Words”, size: 44×54 cm, below two details

Some notes

First of all it was great fun but difficult too. I tried to convey meaning in an implicit way. I did not connect words to faces, I decided to mix them all up and produce a cacophony of voices. To me it did not matter who said what, but to show the confused mass of (in my opinion) ill-advised and even absurd utterances on the subject. Of course I had to make a choice of which ones to include or omit and I too of course am biased. To underline my point of view I showed also laughing faces, dumb expressions and even cartoon pictures that do not really belong, so there is on my side no attempt at objectivity. What I wished to convey was a certain grossness of feelings and thoughts and a general unawareness.

My attempt is certainly too literal and rather amateurish when I compare it to the strong works of the artists examined in the latest post. What I most admire is the sort of mental and political short circuit produced by John Heartfield’s and Peter Kennard’s photomontages together with the cleanliness and economy of means of their art. I am fascinated also by the intriguing narrative and the skillful composition of Martha Rosler’s visual stories. These are the features that I think I will take and study from their works.

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