Knowledge is Power: Collage is a Tool

Knowledge is Power: Collage is a Tool

Hannah Hoch, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, Collage, 1919.

Assemblage, collage, photomontage, these artistic practices, while subtly different in process, all fundamentally achieve the same goal: re-contextualization. The method of removing imagery from its original context and “deconstructing” its original meaning by placing it within a new context, allows for a different reading of the image or images. With collage, the artist often uses a variety of images from multiple sources to be re-purposed and re-framed, creating new meaning with the materials used to convey an idea. This effect can produce not only aesthetically pleasing results but also be an effective tool for the dispersal of knowledge. Many educational platforms are utilizing these artistic practices in a world with increasingly digital-based learning. The available technologies for online education have allowed for new and inventive ways to engage learners beyond the traditional setting of a classroom or power-point presentation. Using enticing compositions and artistic practices, companies such as Likemind find engaging ways to captivate their audience, as well as establish new ways of learning. While bold design and delicious fonts have captured many new learners, School of Life, goes even further, using collage as a way to inform and delight their audience. A prime example of this art-in-action educational series is the episode: “PHILOSOPHY: Jacques Derrida.”

Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), a French philosopher known for his analytical theory of deconstruction.

Using imagery from historical and contemporary sources, the artists (and teachers) convey information about the controversial philosopher Jacques Derrida and three of his essential theories: deconstruction, aporia, and logocentrism. The video employs images of Derrida alongside familiar religious symbols, historical documents, and even contemporary political figures to explain complex terms and theories in a digestible and physically appealing manner. An investigation into the life of Derrida allows us to quickly understand his background with imagery of Jewish and other religious symbolism, recounting his battle against Anti-Semitism during his education in Paris as an Algerian-Jew. Additionally, images from popular media allow the audience to understand his rise to fame. Later use of contemporary figures, both famous and ordinary, guides the viewer into better comprehending complex theories like logocentrism and how they may directly affect us.

Raoul Hausmann, Tatlin at Home, Photomontage, 1920.

The juxtaposition of these images allows for an easily digestible educational experience. The images, while conveying evidential facts, also create a physically appealing and stimulating learning experience. Complex intellectual material activates the right brain, while the left gets a visual treat: aesthetically pleasing compositions of familiar imagery. These images help the viewer to quickly understand and break down the new and sometimes complex information they are receiving. These components of re-purposed and collaged images, evidence, and new ideas create a powerful visual sense of urgency and expediency to the information brought to us by the School of Life series. In its mission statement, Likemind encourages a form of education in which “science and story intersect to become art.” School of Life offers just this, as it combines complex ideas and information with physically appealing collage-based videos to educate its audience.

Andy Warhol, Mao, Screenprint, 1972.

Collage has historically served as a useful tool for the distribution of knowledge, new concepts, ideas, and theories. Photomontage pioneer Hannah Höch used collage as early as 1919 to explain in a visual language the current political strife of her time, as well as to create a manifesto on the effectiveness of the art movement Dada as a political tool against the rise of nationalism in Berlin, Germany after the First World War. Scholar Matthew Gale explained in his 1997 tome Surrealism and Dada that “in the process of experimentation it became clear that, even when severely distorted or cropped, photographs remained convincing as slices of reality and as such demanded the observer’s attention.” Many notable artists such as Raoul Hausmann, Richard Hamilton, and Pop darling Andy Warhol, used familiar imagery to re-contextualize them to suit the artist’s intended meaning. In the case of Höch, she used newspaper headlines and images available through mainstream media to create her political discourse. These headlines and news photographs are incredibly effective as they are simultaneously evidence of lived reality. Such images are widely available and thus all the more potent in their expression as fact rather than fiction.

Richard Hamilton, Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, Collage, 1956.

Within School of Life’s “PHILOSOPHY: Jacques Derrida,” the audience is met with visual evidence of Derrida’s life and rise to popularity for his ideas, as well as images and symbols recognizable in contemporary life. From famous paintings to currently elected officials such as Donald Trump and ordinary, relatable human beings, just like the ones watching the video. These images seamlessly blend to help the viewer analyze and understand the information, the results of which conduct a highly effective learning platform capable of fostering a profound educational experience.

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