Introduction to the Exhibition


Interventionist Collage: From Dada to the present
February 12 - April 3, 2005
Hoover-Paul Works on Paper Gallery, The University of Iowa Museum of Art


Images of the displays in The University of Iowa Museum of ArtThe exhibition was presented as part of the 2004-2005 Obermann Humanties Symposium, "Collage as Cultural Practice" and was curated by Dr. Rudolf Kuenzli, University of Iowa Professor, of English and Cinema and Comparative Literature.

This exhibition focuses on the connections between today’s interventionist collage artists who creatively and critically respond to the flood of mass media images, messages, and sounds, and twentieth-century avant-garde movements that have served today’s artists as examples of interventionist art. Among these movements, works of Dada, Surrealism, the 1930s, Situationism, the Beats, Pop Art, and Fluxus are exhibited.

Collage has been widely recognized as one of the major innovative techniques in twentieth-century art, literature, film, an music, from Cubism to Hip Hop. Given the rich and varied practices of collage, the exhibition focuses on collage as critique and intervention in mass media, consumer culture, and everyday life. Newspapers were the ubiquitous mouthpiece of ideological representations throughout the century, but for artists armed with scissors and paste, the ideologies they embodied and disseminated could be literally cut up, rearranged, and thus transformed. Similarly magazines, magnetic tape, vinyl albums, and film footage could be subjected to hands-on manipulations. Through these transgressive and critical manipulations of mass media, the collagist turns from being a consumer of mass media into a creative producer. Collage has proven to be a potentially powerful strategy for intervening in media representations of reality, since it uses socially coded representations and returns them in the form of a new critical contextualization.

Today’s collage artists increasingly face the question of how the practice of collage is possible in a society where much of its “culture” is owned by corporations. The last section of the exhibit on “Collage from 1980 to the Present” highlights this question with the court case that Mattel filed against Tom Forsythe and his Food Chain Barbie.

The works in this exhibition are from the collections of the University of Iowa Museum of Art and Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, including the International Dada Archive, Stephen Perkins Collection of Zines, and Alternative Traditions in the Contemporary Arts. Other lenders to the exhibition include The Des Moines Art Center, Northwestern University Library and private collectors.

The sound collages, which are continuously broadcast in the exhibition, are by the Tape-beatles, a former Iowa City group, and by Negativland. The collage videos include work from Carrie McLaren’s Illegal Art exhibition and a video by Hans Breder.

Funding for the exhibition, conceived to accompany the University of Iowa 2005 Obermann Humanities Symposium “Collage as Cultural Practice,” March 24-26, was provided by an Arts and Humanities Initiative Grant.


— Rudolf Kuenzli, Guest Curator