Cut-and-paste

Speaking to Jim Jarmusch: the legendary filmmaker talks us through his collage art compositions
By Finn Blythe | Art | 31 August 2021

Filmmaking genius rarely manifests in singular form. Orson Welles was an amateur magician, Jean Cocteau a painter and playwright, Derek Jarman had his diaries, stage design and garden – each pursued a synthesis of mixed-media expression to channel the full extent of their creativity.

As one of the most venerated voices of independent cinema, it makes sense therefore that Jim Jarmusch has always shared affinity with art forms beyond moving image. Having aspired to become a poet in his early twenties, Jarmusch has been in and out of bands for as long as he’s been interested in film and has recently released his debut monograph of visual art.

Titled Some Collages, the book comprises around twenty years worth of the director’s visual musings. Using old newspaper cuttings, a ‘fabric’ that has fascinated him since childhood, Jarmusch has cut and paste hundreds of clippings into typically surreal mise-en-scènes, some disturbing, others comedic, yet all exhibiting the same powerful resonance of his work on film. These postcard-sized compositions are less considered artworks than whimsical improvisations, crafted through instinct and feeling more than any kind of conceptual theme.

Below the legendary director speaks to us about the importance of this new work, outlining his influences in three chapters: ‘Newsprint’, ‘My Collages’ ‘Cut and Paste’.  Beginning with his life-long appreciation of newsprint and its growing sense of anachronism, Jarmusch also discusses the wider history of collage as an agar plate for artists, musicians and other creatives to grow their vision.

GALLERY

NEWSPRINT

“I remember as a kid, I received a microscope for my birthday. The first thing I examined through its lens was a tiny scrap of torn newspaper. I was astounded. Instead of a single, solid sheet-like material, it was in fact a tangled mass of threadlike fibres, a chaotic jungle of microscopic pulp. Fascinated, I then checked other types of papers, and some fabrics, which were also interesting and even unexpected – but nothing was quite like the texture of newsprint. Ever since, the fragility and inherently temporary nature of this particular (and now nearly obsolete) material has attracted me. Even when watching an old movie and I see the big “presses rolling,” my newsprint neurons fire up immediately.”

From ‘Some Collages’ by Jim Jarmusch, Published by ANTHOLOGY EDITIONS.

I remember as a kid, I received a microscope for my birthday. The first thing I examined through its lens was a tiny scrap of torn newspaper. I was astounded.”

MY COLLAGES

“For years now I’ve been constructing these small very minimal collages. I use only newsprint for their sources, and most involve only the removal and/or replacement of heads – possibly the most minimal way of reorganizing visual information. Faces and heads become masks for me, and I can change or switch identities, details and even species. The reproduction on newsprint of a drawn or painted head can replace a photographic one, or vice-versa. Sometimes I decide to just remove a head or face completely, leaving only a blank background. Or I replace it with typeface – always with a text that accompanied or pertained to the original image. I never use sharp cutting tools, like scissors or X-Acto knives, always preferring rougher, partially torn edges. This preserves that particular texture I first observed through my little microscope. And I am very particular about background materials – usually off-color or black card stock, rough brown paper or distressed cardboard. I construct my collages when alone, calm, my mind just drifting, music playing. I try very hard never to ‘think’ too much about what I’m doing.”

From ‘Some Collages’ by Jim Jarmusch, Published by ANTHOLOGY EDITIONS.

I never use sharp cutting tools, like scissors or X-Acto knives, always preferring rougher, partially torn edges.”

CUT AND PASTE

“The word ‘collage’ comes from the French verb ‘coller,’ meaning to paste or glue things together and appears to have been coined by Braque and Picasso in the very early 20th century. Anyone can make them – some of the most striking are made by children, or those referred to as self-taught. But many of the most innovative artists have used this form for well over a century, including the cubists, Dadaist, Surrealists, Expressionists, Pop artists, minimalists, punk artists, street artists, etc. etc. My own loose definition of collages also includes assemblage, decoupage, and excavations of the affichistes. A little more abstractly, the techniques and concepts of collage have often crossed into other forms, including the cut-up process in writing used by Burroughs and Gysin, the experiments of Tristan Tzara, the works of the Oulipo group, innumerable films by the likes of Harry Smith, Antony Balch, Man Ray, Dziga Vertov, René Clair, Luis Buñuel, Stan Brakhage, Fernand Léger, Bruce Conner, Chuck Statler etc. … musical creations by John Cage, Brian Eno, Jamaican Dub artists, and practically all of the music in Hip Hop… Now, of course, we also all are familiar with the cut and paste functions we employ daily on our digital devices.”

From ‘Some Collages’ by Jim Jarmusch, Published by ANTHOLOGY EDITIONS.

Jim Jarmusch: Some Collages is out now via Anthology Editions – purchase the book here

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