on metaphor

James Gallagher, Domestic 2, collage, 2010 

This is how many of us feel after the grant and essay submission deadlines of last week – the whole community of architects who write or curate exhibitions, or try for the Prix de Rome, and publishers of same, and then [brkt] setting its call for submissions deadline on the same day: it did a lot of people in.  

James Gallagher feels (as quoted by Rick Poyner in 'Collage Now') that 'collage is the perfect medium for coming to terms with a culture saturated in images, both printed and online ... today's collage artists carve out fragments from this frenzy and force the disparate pieces to become one...'   This is probably the definition of all art, that one accumulates things: ideas, marks, scraps of paper perhaps, maps, photos – everything trailing histories, accumulated meanings, ambitions and contexts – and then makes something out of them, in some other medium. 

I doubt that fragments ever re-coalesce to 'become one' leaving their separateness behind.  Rather they are used to force a metaphor that might have some sort of unity, but which is only effective if it is complex and layered enough to cut through the frenzy of information, images and ideas with which we are surrounded.  But is this frenzy actually a frenzy, or is it just a very rich world we live in?

In previous times it was probably organised belief systems that sorted out our information for us; in a secular world lots of other things step in and on competing terrains of ideology and politics we are confused.  We have always turned to art to make sense of things in that completely illogical way that artists consume and transform and represent the confusing, from mediaeval religious icons that stood in for the utterly ineffable, to poets that crammed it all into fourteen lines, to composers who shout into an open piano, as did John Tavener for The Whale, planting the transcendent and very useful understanding of metaphor firmly into our young heids.

Whether or not metaphor is actually what allows me to make sense of things, I don't really care.  It does, and that'll do.

Stephanie Whitecollage