The collaborative brainchild of three individuals, “Collage Culture” is a multi-faceted appraisal of the 21st century as an artistic era built on references to the past. In accordance with its composite-driven theme, the project is available both as a nonfiction book—featuring two essays and unique artwork—as well as an LP that pairs the book’s texts with an original score.
Rather than praising the millennium as one rife with originality (art “sui genesis”), authors Mandy Kahn and Aaron Rose take today’s artists, designers, writers and musicians to task, offering thought-provoking arguments that the artistic foundation of the past decade has been built by collagists, comprising projects enabled by mining and stitching references and pieces from previous decades.
In her essay “Living With the Mess”, Kahn describes a kind of nausea induced by the overwhelming inundation of references: from fashion designers who repeatedly take inspiration from earlier times—and the reviews that often champion them—to the familiarity of recycled pop music and the comfort of describing an artist with regards to the sounds of something that already exists. In his own essay, “The Death of Subculture”, Aaron Rose, an artist and the director behind the documentary film “Beautiful Losers”, challenges the next wave of artists to adopt stronger philosophies to be unique creatives.
To add a jarring dose of visuals to the book, as well as the LP’s packaging, graphic designer Brian Roettinger of Hand Held Heart co-created a computer application to generate collages based on Kahn’s and Rose’s text. Furthering the notion of an all-sensory collage of sorts, the LP features the voices of 20-plus individuals reading Kahn’s and Rose’s essays (one on each side), interwoven with an instrumental score by the LA-based band, No Age. By using a stereo’s balance knob a listener can choose to hear just the text, just the score or both together.