by Brenda Haroutunian
Ever wonder how many times in a day you’ve needed to disconnect from reality? What exactly prompted you to do so? For me, the television commercial for Cialis provides a choice model for disconnecting.
Aging people improving their sex life with pharmaceutical assistance is something that I never wanted to see or think about. Before I could find the remote, the advertisement was listing a killer disclaimer. Cialis could result in an embarrassing trip to the emergency room.
The warm, fuzzy music in the background completes the cliché. Yuck. We look at this creepy mismatch and asked ourselves how stupid exactly the producers think that we are. If we look closely, we see dissonance everywhere around us. We are expert at tuning it out.
The December 2013 edition of ARTnews featured a nuanced article entitled “Cut-and-Paste Culture: The New Collage,” by art writer Rachel Wolff. Wolff offered a thoughtful examination of contemporary artists, their art, and this notion of rupture in cut-and-paste society.
If these artists defy easy categorization, they share a common preoccupation with fragmentation. They have said startling things in assembled art form. Cameron Gray and John Sparangana have offered glimpses into this crowded world that is worthy of inspection.
Remarkably, Cameron Gray has used the medium as a coping strategy. He travels beyond the Cialis moment and the contradiction that we may identify with to the Internet. Navigating the contemporary moment with its sensory overload in print, mass, or social media form prompts one to tune out on a massive scale. Or in my case, to become a Pinterest addict. Few are willing to drown in simulacra.
How jaded are we exactly? The potential is there.
Gray foraged from the Internet and its junkyards, including such sources as dump.fm. It wasn’t entirely unlike Picasso scouring the dumps of Paris for choice pieces to be assembled. The resulting assemblage gives form to linking, scanning, and surfing. Apparently, tumbling deep down the online rabbit hole turned up some surprises.
“I spend a lot of time isolated,” Gray explained. “I get excited when I find something weird or unexpected. And I love that the esthetic is informed by others. It’s the esthetic of others—the esthetic that’s happening on the Web.”
The artist found a new appreciation of a shared human experience during his exploration.
John Sparagana’s cut and spliced conclusions are poetic. This mad scientist experimented with the sense of touch in his work. He fatigued paper is closer to the truth. He kneaded and crumpled newspapers, magazines, and other glossy pages. Eventually he saw that they “took on the look and feel of disintegrating flesh … they became something very fragile.”
Sparangana’s project returns us to human concerns and reality with its rough edges. Others, such as Laure Prouvost have produced powerful art that appeals to all of the senses. One may feel as if they’ve inhabited another universe filled with mind bending sight and sounds when viewing her latest installation. Reality is not so far away.
Collage engages sight, sound, and touch. The artists featured in Wolff’s article seem to have re-discovered a richer, nuanced perception of reality. They nod to a part of our self that is hardwired to cut-and-paste. They call to that part of our self that innately collages.
See me, feel me. Touch me, they implore.