via Wangechi mutu
via Wangechi mutu
ART COLLAGE: Wangechi Mutu : A Fantastic Journey by Alexandra Thom
  Violence is in the very nature of collage. The physical acts of cutting and tearing precede the reconstruction of the resulting fragments into a new whole that is inherently jarring. A sense of tension and opposition necessarily remain between the external reality from which the foreign materials originated and the space of the picture that receives them.
Art historian Dawn Ades speaks to the way that collage succeeds in creating a dreamlike alter-reality: “By the juxtaposition of elements by nature strange to one another, hallucinatory landscapes are formed; commonplace objects become enigmatic when moved to a new environment. Our thought struggles to encompass them and is baffled, or a new thought is made for them. Different realities are thus revealed.”
This notion of deconstructing existing versions of reality and then reconstructing them to create a new hallucinatory landscape began with the German Dada artists, who were living and working in the aftermath of the ruinous World War and trying to make sense of what had happened and what was to come. Kurt Schwitters, a member of this group, wrote, “One can even shout with refuse, and that is what I did, nailing and gluing it together… Everything had broken down, in any case, and new things had to be made out of fragments.”
The notion of shouting with refuse is at the core of Mutu’s work, from her collages to her videos. Her work tackles issues ranging from race to consumer culture and draws from a wide variety of influences – from Catholic ritual to traditional West African religion, histories of oppression to current events, and the gamut of art history. At the heart of Mutu’s work is a desire, or perhaps more urgently, a need to set the body in motion: her figures leap from the page, permeate her spaces, straddle and mount other collaged elements, and finally, come to life in her videos. On her reasons for working with video, Mutu has said, “Nothing is clear cut. Issues shift. Video allows me the capability of creating yet another world and putting myself in the middle of it because I am part of it... the problems and the solutions. Video, for me, is a means by which to dramatize the urgent issues, to invent and re-invent.”

Wangechi Mutu’s otherworldly landscapes are spaces where the artist envisions and creates, destroys and rebuilds, and in turn, the visitor experiences the world anew.
~Alexandra Thom
Alexandra is the co-founder of boutique creative agency Archer&Leo and a Kress Fellow in the Exhibitions Department at the Brooklyn Museum. She holds a BA from Vassar College and an MA in the History of Art from The Courtauld Institute in London. She is also a published author of academic articles and short fiction, an avid reader and a passionate traveler.
October 2013