on the wall

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Hello again.

Collage has been my go-to medium for a while now - having maintained my art journals (though I don't really like calling them this) on and off for five years. Many (nearly all) of my works remain private: many things I do remain private. There's a satisfaction in this strain of self isolation, but I'll let you in a little.

There's this kind of ambivalent dissociative and physical quality to collage art. It's piecemeal, the body unrecognisable in origin, but always grounded and informed by its source. It is impossible to separate from its home body, though it is now someone else entirely. It lacks the spontaneous generation of drawing, painting, writing, or molluscs. It has a history written upon its flesh. It is trying to escape this history through annihilation, or self obliteration. It is caught in the gap between two worlds, never quite making it to or from. It is a lack.

I think of two things: A letter from scrapbook artist Jane Wodening, "I am, or can see nothing more in me at the moment, distorted quotes of everyone I know" - her sense of self now, in part, mine. I think of a zine mailed to me by a friend, the cover itself collage art by Ashley Blanton reconstituted into reflection on disordered eating and inheritance. Hers, theirs, mine.

There's also, of course, the process itself. Its tactile nature. The cut and paste! Playing operation with scalpel and pritt stick. Playing! The finding of materials and discovering of placements. Composition is less composed and more hunted. In this way it is exploratory, exciting, akin to landing on some alien shore and taking it for your own. Colonising the page, in a sense, distortion of natural landscapes, with all the danger attached. Often I have cut my hands working and allowed the blood to stain the page, the drops evidence of authorship and of domination.

When I feel my expedition has come to an end, I am rewarded with a completed map. It's self pleasuring, the textures and heights and materials. The ability to touch is underrated, and missed in digital exploits.

More appeal. A part of myself that I find particularly shameful, maybe you'll relate to this/maybe not, is a desire to see myself in others.

I want a person to be a mirror. This is, of course, unfair - because a person can only ever be a person. I find myself often frustrated in relationships, frustrated with the version of myself existing in the heads of others. I try and fail to achieve self recognition. Instead, I find myself in their work - I've been reading Claire Donato's Kind Mirrors, Ugly Ghosts, a work of autofiction. Ironic as it is, where her own ghost haunts her words, as does mine. Hers, hers, mine. I see a reflection so stark it's startling. Distorted quotes. "It happened to me. It happened to me."

My favourite scene in Upstream Color goes like this: our protagonists are on the floor. We should go on a trip. They're in a parking lot, looking at a tree filled with a swarm of black birds. They could be starlings. Clap - the birds murmur. We see moments of their lives together, meals and bathrooms and tv. I knew this kid named Renny... Moments. Floor. We should go on a trip. Where would we go? How would we get there? Parking lot. They could be starlings. Who said they were grackles? No, I knew a kid named Renny... this fat kid. They're arguing. I was six- No, I was six. You always do this, you take my stories and make them your own. So I'm not allowed to talk about my childhood? He almost drowned me. No, just don't talk about mine. How would we get there? They could be starlings.

Their memories belong to one another. They are enmeshed. Distorted quotes of one another. "It happened to me. It happened to me." The scene itself is a scrapbook of their relationship - condensed and torn and nostalgic, existing solely in vignettes. It's beautiful. It's terrifying.

Eternally mixing metaphors and media and mumbling my words, not just to you but to everyone, I wonder how much of this is authentic. Even if the answer is "none of it", at least it's sincere.