The Poetics of Collage

full name / name of organization: 
Centre for Creative Collaboration, London

Si ce sont les plumes qui font le plumage, ce n'est pas la colle qui fait le collage.

Max Ernst, 'Au-delà de la peinture' (1936)

What collage achieves, then, is a metalanguage of the visual. It can talk about space without employing it; it can figure the figure through the constant superimposition of grounds; it can speak in terms of light and shade through the subterfuge of a written text [...] As a system, collage inaugurates a play of differences which is both about and sustained by an absent origin.

Rosalind Krauss, 'In the Name of Picasso' (1981)

The invention of collage in the 20th century is attributed to Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, whilst the poet Apollinaire is credited with naming it. From its inception, then, collage evolved as a plastic process with strong poetic associations, a practice that is as much about an intellectual and emotional relationship with a given aesthetic environment as it is about sticking scraps of ephemera to paper.

Jeffrey Weiss, The Popular Culture of Modern Art: Picasso, Duchamp, and Avant-Gardism

The art of collage originates in a cut, in a process of dismemberment, provoking in both the artist/writer and the viewer/reader 'the sensation of physically operating on the world' (Robert Motherwell). It culminates, however, in synthesis; the viewer/reader undergoes an anatomy lesson as dislocated fragments are shown to correspond across the surface of a painting or text. The viewer/reader finds themselves required to play a role in the work they are encountering, to see it with their own eyes and to experience simultaneously both the chronicle of the composition and the composition itself.
Artists and writers as diverse as Picasso, William Burroughs, Kurt Schwitters, Frank O'Hara, Adrian Henri, Robert Rauschenberg, Lee Krasner, Anne Ryan, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Julio Cortázar, John Cage, Kurt Cobain, John Ashbery, Joseph Cornell, Allen Fisher, Tony Lopez, and Redell Olson have used collage as a means to dissect, explore, and re-present the culture in which they lived. This conference seeks to explore what might be called the poetics of collage. Is it viable as both a plastic process and a theoretical principle? What can its origins in the art world teach us about the way collage is used in literature? How can we define literary collage? How is its use in literature related to its use in the art world? How significant is the context in which a collage is made? We hope to address these and other issues during the course of our one-day conference.
We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of the poetics of collage, which could include, but are not limited to:

~ Deconstructing barriers between language and art

~ Fragmentation in art and literature

~ The role of the viewer or reader in a collage

~ Subverting expectations: collage and the iconoclastic urge

~ Love and theft – collage and plagiarism

~ Experiencing rather than interpreting art/literature/music

~ Physical practice vs. theoretical principle

~ The anxiety of influence – collage and 'askesis'/purgation

~ Acts of aggression against tradition or attempts to make art/write in a new way

~ Collage and revolution

~ Musical collage

~ The collage-esque: practice vs. concept

~ Collage and performance

~ Ellipses, fissures, intersections, and borderlines

~ The permissiveness of collage: illusions,
misrepresentations, disguises, temporal shifts, and fragmented narratives
~ Collaging identities

~ Collage as assault/collage as invitation

~ Conceptual writing and collage

Keynote speakers: Prof. Robert Hampson; Prof. Geoff Ward; Catherine Marcangeli. We will also be hosting two poetry readings (poets TBC) following on from the conference.

Panels will follow the format of three 20-minute papers followed by questions.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words are invited for submission by Friday 31st January 2014.

Please email abstracts and a brief biographical paragraph to the conference organisers Dr Helen Taylor and Dr Rona Cran at

For more information, please see the conference website: