Visual Dada, 20–25 June, 2016 Bucharest



Collage as Form and Idea: Tristan Tzara, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Rousseau

Kathryn Brown

Loughborough University, United Kingdom

This paper examines the artistic practice of collage as an exchange of ideas between modernist poetry, painting, and theatre. Focusing on Tristan Tzara’s critical writings about the works of Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau published from the 1930s to the 1950s, I analyze collage as both a form and an idea that develops from early Dada poetry and that unifies Tzara’s conception of the relationship between the visual, the verbal and – ultimately – the social. I consider different ways in which collage disrupts the rules of grammar, narrative, and the spatio-temporal order of figural painting and functions as a ‘vehicle of thought’ that exceeds its representational content. Tzara’s focus on the wider social potential of works by Picasso and Rousseau defends what is essentially a metaphysics of collage and shows the importance of this style of art production to a transformation of the way in which individuals envisage the narrative of their own lives. Collage may be a visual art form, but for Tzara it is also a means of demonstrating a new way of engaging with the world and of comprehending humankind’s place within it.

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