Our artists' book, And we stood alone in the silent night (2008), in the collection of the State Library of Queensland, is discussed by Siganto Foundation Research Fellow, Victoria Cooper, in Reading Montages: perceptions, dilemmas, edges and resolution.
Responding to terminology dilemma:
As I progress through the research I am continually confronted with terminology issues and questions regarding the nature of montage and its intersection with collage. The dilemma is with me as a kind of Sisyphean cycle where, after climbing the mountain of wondrous diversity in the Australian Library of Art artists’ book collection; I am drawn back down by the weighty issues of inconsistent terminology.
Many artists, who cut, arrange and glue disparate and/or mixed media elements refer to their work as collage or for computer made images, digital collage. This should be the end of the debate as the etymology of collage is the French word ‘to glue’. But there are others who cut and piece together disparate elements and ‘glue’ and then fuse them within the image and refer to their process as montage (or digital montage for computer images). Also interesting to note is that the origin of the word montage is a French word meaning ‘to mount’. Is there a need to differentiate between these similar practices? Does terminology affect the ‘reading’ of these works? In my art practice I refer to myself as a montage maker, thinker and reader and as such I bring my own perspective to reading visual narratives.
Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, who prefer to be known as paper artists, make collage works. Their unique state artists’ books and democratic multiples in the form of zines and editions of artists’ books have a place within this discussion.
Haby and Jennison responded to my email question regarding the nature of the digital work in their book, And we stood alone in the silent night, where they state that: ‘Digital collages are made in chorus with unique state pieces. They are all a means of making, with the ‘how’ of lesser interest to us than the ‘why’ or ‘message’.
In their statement above they suggest that the means of the making is secondary to the final work. Even when the collage has been digitally scanned and then printed it remains, for them, a collage.
The book, And we stood alone in the silent night, presents the reader with an enchanted narrative through the composition of images and poetic texts across the pages. Underpinning the reading is the smooth and seamless joins of the elements creating a surreal landscape with a theatre of colourful inhabitants. The compositional elements draw the reader into a kind of Alice in Wonderland experience of reading: where the fused elements are arranged in a mise en page; and the turning page emulates the scenes of a paper movie [i]. The small size text comes through the reading as a poetic aside to underscore the scene.
Haby and Jennison’s careful cutting and pasting of added elements over or alongside the original image distinguish their broader collage work. Again, in these works the silent edges between these interventions and the original image provide uninterrupted reading. Importantly as this transition or interval between the elements goes unnoticed the added element ultimately colonize the interior space and time of the original image.
[i] Lou Stoumen is the author of visual books including Can’t Argue With Sunrise: A Paper Movie (1975)