Collage process - life in layers

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Collage to me is such an amazing metaphor for life and the interplay between the unconscious and ego itself, and so is my process. I like to think that how we do anything is how we do everything, so here's a little more background on how I make collages.

The layered unconscious

The way we perceive the world is in layers. Throughout our lives, we have all of these experiences that our unconscious stores, as to make up our unique story, our current experience – for better or worse. Ever wonder why you have behavioral patterns? Why certain things trigger you and others don't? Well, that's just being human, because we are made of an unconscious fabric that we began to weave from the moment we first opened our eyes.

Neurology will tell you that up until a certain age, we can't even register experiences in the then-underdeveloped right brain, so we process these things with only the left brain, which is less structured and more intuitive. So they return as bodily issues emotions without words etc. later on, as our unconscious still stored these things we processed with only the left brain. It's one reason why things that happened to us so early on tend to later affect us in a way that's challenging to grasp. A bunch of stuff gets added on with every day, some conscious, some not. Collage does exactly the same.

Then there's this thing called the collective unconscious, a term coined by Carl Jung, who has definitely inspired my thinking (I see a Jungian therapist who is incredible). The collective unconscious is the idea that certain layers are shared among beings of the same species. So things that happened to us a species over centuries, may be stored in this collective unconscious. This idea makes sense to me as I find that collage taps into that collective realm equally as it taps into my personal unconscious.

 

Collage layers materials the same way that the psyche stores what's happened to us, individually and as a collective. Picking material is effortless, similar to having experiences, and both the process and result is often non-linear. 

Automatic process: expansion

My process is automatic (stream of consciousness) once I picked out the magazines I use. Thrifting and my preferences with materials deserves a whole lot more words and I will get into it in a different post.

I prefer to work analog, as it is less planned or conceptual from the start then digital, so there's time for the concept to form with the constrictions and possibilities of the material. It’s expansion (selecting lots of imagery) and contraction (arranging only a small selection), just like our existence itself.

When I'm at my studio, I automate the picking process as to let the unconscious arise naturally /without restricting it. I trust that my psyche will make me pick what needs to be addressed. What does that mean feasibly? It means I make a big mess by ripping hundreds of pages out of magazines that speak to me that day. Hundreds. Look at my studio floor and my studio floor and desk at the moment. 

Bless this mess! Here, I'm working on the collage 'Kingdom came,' see the video about that below.   

Bless this mess! Here, I'm working on the collage 'Kingdom came,' see the video about that below.

 

notice that I take my shoes off as not to ruin materials. Often people coming to my studio think it's a mess but they're actually ruining my babies.

notice that I take my shoes off as not to ruin materials. Often people coming to my studio think it's a mess but they're actually ruining my babies.

As you can tell by the mess, it is an on-going process. Which is awesome, because a magazine that I thought I've ripped everything valuable out of a week earlier, all of a sudden feels completely new and exciting again today. And that's the art of reusing (: The messiness of my studio is a good metaphor for the messiness of the unconscious itself. So many things happening in there, so many things added up!

Automatic process: contraction

Anyway, once that is done, getting specific, I begin to integrate the layers. Assembling specific layers is the hard part, making something or re-understanding the set of materials, or experiences given.

I go through all that mess, that expansion, and try things out, try to get more limited. It's an attempt of recreating small glimpses of understanding we get daily.

I ask myself questions like 'How would this go with that? Do I like those colors together?' Usually, the less planned, the better. My unconscious is way more on point with the visuals than my ego. Whenever I think nothing's gonna come of what I'm doing (my ego feeling like it's on the backseat and has no say) is when my unconscious does the best work (raw and truthful).

Most times I finish a collage in the last hour before I have to leave the studio for that very reason. Here's a video of one of those last hour spent in the studio actually making the collage:

The very last part is trying to understand what the meaning to me is with my finishing touch. The ego is good at bringing things into complete form, and here's where I let it become part of the experience. If you want to learn more about this collage specifically, find it here .

I'll happily tell you more about the technicalities of my process (what scissors/glue I use etc.) in a later post should that be of interest.

For now, thank you for reading. If you want more collage talk here's my artist statement, or connect with me on Instagram.