History of Photography Journal Publishes Essay by Head of School Charlie White

Posted on February 24, 2020

Collaged artwork by Amanda Ross-Ho

Head of School Charlie White‘s essay “Cut and Paste: Charlie White on the Collage Impulse Today” was published in the scholarly journal History of Photography in volume 43, issue 2: “Is Photomontage Over?” The article was first published in the March 2009 issue of Artforum.

“Cut and Paste” starts by tracing the history of collage beginning with Cubism and continuing through Martha Rosler’s work juxtaposing American domesticity with war photojournalism. In this historical trajectory, “collage has thus been deployed both as a mode of political resistance and as a protest against the commodity form, as an instrument of totalitarian propaganda and as a capitalist advertising tactic.”

With the increasing dominance of mass media following the late 1960s and through the advent of the early internet (Sesame Street through Napster), White posits that “we might reconsider the late-twentieth century history of collage as a consumer-as-creator genealogy.”

The proliferation of the internet in the aughts melds the desire to remix media with methods to do so with ease and endless availability. The internet tools of this time emphasized collage as a shopping experience, an aesthetic that White likens to the teenager’s bedroom wall, both the online experience and the physical space of the bedroom wall creating a “consumer portrait.”

The shift in the role of collage to a youth-oriented visual culture began to find resonance in contemporary art in the mid-1990s. Since then, in a resurgence of collage, artists’ work “faces the facts of a technologically redefined pictorial field—and reckons with the normalization of collage as an everyday experience, one that surrounds us all.”

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