over/time Essay

excerpt from “Some Assembly Required: Ten Fragments Toward a Picture of Collage” by Mark Alice Durant in Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post-War America published by The Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY.

1.

The twentieth century was the century of collage.

The process of breaking, fragmenting, and tearing images, objects and concepts from their original or “natural” contexts and reassembling the disparate elements into new configurations is the most pervasive cultural practice. Why did this medium, most notably developed in Europe during the tumultuous decades between the two world wars, find its most fertile ground in American culture? Collage, once the sharp-edged weapon of revolutionary artists, has been entirely absorbed as one of the most common forms of image making. Every school child in art class learns to make collages before they can even write their own name. The radical “cut and paste” gesture of the early twentieth century is now a simple tool on our computer menu.

We are culturally (and maybe biologically) wired to try to put A and B together. We rely on relationships between things to know where we stand. Artists have long used this human predisposition toward literal meaning to confound viewer’s expectations.

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9.

Martina Lopez, Zoe Beloff, Diane Bertolo and Paul Chan are the four artists in this exhibition whose work largely employs digital technologies for its concepts, processes, and presentation.

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Diane Bertolo’s work explores, symbolically and procedurally, the relationships between technology and personal and social construction. She claims to ground her work in equal parts media theory and old-fashioned quackery. Bertolo often uses the Internet as a site and activator for her work. In channelUntitled, for example, she uses the model and metaphor of Morse code to “communicate” with the disembodied voices of the technolgical age and explore the magical possibilities of the telephone, the computer, and the radio. While the viewer/participant interacts with the piece, certain signals from the Internet itself are simultaneously feeding into the system, bringing chance operations into how the piece unfolds. For this exhibition, Bertolo presents the projection piece over/time, an ambient artwork that takes the form of a temporal and variable collage. Her image sources include classical Greek statuary, medical images such as microscopic views of cells, and nineteenth century photographs of women hysterics. Bertolo hooks the image sequence into the computer’s internal clock which then regulates the image juxtapositions, evoking issues of time and decay, the frailty of the human body, and the blurring boundaries between bodies and machines.