In partnership with the Bodleian Libraries and the Centre for the Study of the Book, the organisers of Collage Comparison propose to bring together a group of artists, practitioners, and scholars from a range of disciplines within Oxford and beyond—from English, Modern Languages, and History of Art to Ethnomusicology, Visual Anthropology, and Curatorial Studies—for a one-day symposium, structured around two workshops, to be held at St Anne’s College and the Bodleian Libraries. In this symposium, the organisers propose to explore the ways collage, both conceptually and practically, can provide a new and decolonised rhetoric for understanding comparison and archival work. Importantly, the organisers propose taking collage as a point of departure from which to experiment with what constitutes critical writing in the first place.
The choice of collage is motivated by the practice’s long-standing relationship with the African continent and its diaspora. Collage’s balancing of appropriation and expropriation, fragmentation and juxtaposition, its “disjunctive synthesis”, animate the poetry and prose of writers Kojo Laing, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Calixthe Beyala; the “history as collage” of William Kentridge’s performance piece The Head & The Load (2018) and Lorna Simpson’s work on black identity and hair; as well as a range of independent sonic, visual, and print cultures. Collage provides a vivid metaphor both for histories of language contact in the contexts of colonisation, and a model for the experiences of archival work, curation, and translation. From the “gaps” and “disjunctions” of censorship and memory to the complex layerings of diasporic identity, collage has lent itself in hitherto underappreciated ways to a decolonised conceptualisation of the archive. Allowing a methodology to arise from the very “fragmentation” and “juxtaposition” of these materials and practices, the organisers of Collage Comparison seek to create a space in which modes of African and diasporic expression may generate their own terms of engagement.
By drawing attention to, and providing a vocabulary for describing, the relational logic underpinning various forms of comparative practice, the collaboration between invited artists, practitioners, and scholars, as well as between the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) Research Centre and the Bodleian Libraries, will constitute a meaningful, practice-based, and future-oriented intervention in ongoing conversations on the role of difference, synthesis, and identity within a comparative framework.
View the chapbook produced during the Collage Comparison symposium via the link here.