For our first task this term, we have been asked to produce a mechanical* montage, that looks at the ideas around identity. We need to produce two montages, one for ourselves and one on someone else; this will make us spend time considering and getting to know the theme and also the other person you are using to create one. The montage should seek to be all that a passport photograph is not – something which tells us of the complexities of identity rather than attempt to provide neatly packaged information for digestion.
*Mechanical montages are made with paper and glue rather than with digital software – allowing a less linear manner of working to take place.
After doing previous work on identity and especially looking at the ideas around what our ‘true’ identity is and biological identity, I want to continue looking into these ideas deeper for each montage. I believe that the physical appearance of a person, yet often used as identification, is not the ‘truest’ form of identification as people can change the way the look such as with make-up and plastic surgery, for these reasons I believe our biological identity is our ‘true’ identity as we cannot change that easily if at all. Some areas around biological identity that I could look at for my montage could include; DNA, Blood, Teeth, Eyes, Fingerprints, Hair, Appearance (who do we look like from our parents, they influence how we look), our background (where we have lived in our life, does this effect our accent?), and our personality. I plan to explore different ways to represent these biological identities for my montage. As well as looking at biological identity for my montage, I will also consider other areas such as forms of identification to show the complex nature of identity.
We have been given a range of people to look at, their work is to help inform our own montages and influence them where we see fit. The first photographer I looked at was Jim Goldberg, a member of Magnum Photos. He has been exhibiting for over 30 years and has an innovative use of image and text. He began to explore experimental storytelling and the potentials of combining image and text with “Rich and Poor”, (1977-85), where he juxtaposed the residents of welfare hotel rooms with the upper class and their elegantly furnished home interiors to investigate the nature of American myths about class, power, and happiness. In another body of work “Raised by Wolves” (1985-95), he worked closely with and documented runaway teenagers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, creating a book and exhibition that combined original photographs, text, home movie stills, snapshots, drawings, diary entries as well as single and multi-channel video, sculpture, found objects, light boxes and other 3-D elements.
Goldberg’s use of combining different mediums works well in his work as it gives the work a clearer meaning and context, yet there is also still space for each viewer to contemplate the work and its meaning. In my own work for my montage, I think that by combining text with my imagery would give a greater understanding of a person, especially as if I look just at biological identity, the text will separate each person.
The Grey Line is a reflection on war told from the perspective of US and UK soldiers who have spoken out against the Iraq War. Photographer Jo Metson Scott combines imagery and text to tell the stories and opinions of soldiers; the book becomes very personal and engaging, this is enhanced by the fact that the stories are hand written. In my own work I feel adding the personal feel to biological identity would enhance the understanding of the persons identity.
Hannah Höch was an important member of the Berlin Dada movement and a pioneer in collage artwork. Combining together images taken from popular magazines, illustrated journals and fashion publications, she created a humorous and moving commentary on society during a time of tremendous social change. Even though for my work I do not plan to make such humorous collages, I could take influence from her work and the use of layering to give the work a greater meaning and visual quality.
Similar to the work of Höch, Kurt Schwitters was influenced by Expressionism and Cubism. He created his own form of Dada in Hanover called ‘Merz’, using rubbish materials such as labels, bus tickets and bits of broken wood in his collages and constructions. Once again I could take influence from the use of layering, and using materials that are relevant to what I want to portray in my work.
All of these images can influence my work and help me to create strong montages that address the ideas around identity.