Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Collage as Gesamtkunstwerk

I'm still reading my way through "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" which is a chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment ( Adorno & Horkheimer, 1944). There I came across a marvelous German word: gesamtkunstwerk.

Translated as" total work of art," the idea of gesamtkunstwerk implies ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form, or total artwork. The term was first used in 1827 by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff. As a "supernaturalist," Trahndorff opposed theological rationalism and embraced the indeducible, supernatural and mystical nature of religious revelation. German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in his 1849 essays "Art and Revolution" and "The Artwork of the Future", where he speaks of unifying all works of art via the theater.

I see collage as a synthesis of both the visual arts (painting, photography, graphic design, etc.) and of the ephemeral bits of life, memories and dreams; a curio cabinet of the soul.

And, in keeping with the German theme, check out Alexander Korzer-Robinson's amazing collages constructed with the German encyclopaedia Brockhaus Konversationslexikon.

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