Double - N° 24, 2012
Timothée Chaillou: In your work, what happens between two pictures when they get joined or juxtaposed?
Linder: Making collage is like running a marriage bureau with lots of very demanding customers. Those that you think will rub along nicely, often file for divorce within minutes. I think that when I find images, they have to go through a homing period. You know, they just have to lie around and breathe a little, one doesn't want to launch in with a scalpel too soon. My father who was a builder used to say: ‘measure twice and cut once’. When elements of two pictures do finally marry, then immediately there is a birth - to extend the metaphor, something new exists, something that wasn't there before. You cannot contrive it, although sometimes one tries. What happens to the two pictures is very difficult to articulate, that is why I am a collagist and not a writer.
TC: Do you recycle, appropriate or steal?
L: Picasso said, ‘I do not search, I find’ and my mother said, ‘you always find what you're not looking for’. So, no theft; more a sense of getting everything out of the way, so that things can find their way to me. This has to operate psychologically and physically too - there are only so many copies of The Rose Annual and Men Only magazine that one can live with. I sometimes feel as much a social historian as an artist. I learn as much from the changing fashions in cake decorating books, than I do from volumes of history books.
TC: Do you feel connected to the collage tradition itself?
L: I was adopted by George Grosz when I was ten.
TC: Who owns the images you use?
L: Life seems to be a ruthless game of ‘finders keepers’ and I can be as guilty of that as the next person. Images that I have made have been re-appropriated within advertising and editorial. Some pop stylists have borrowed blatantly from my work too but plagiarism is such an ugly word! It seems difficult to keep track of who owns what anymore. You have to work with as much integrity as you can. I work with original negatives from 'glamour' photography sessions - they are beginning to be available for sale in certain quarters - I don't know if it is because a certain generation of photographers have now died, or whether it is because everyone has gone digital. Does possession of a negative grant possession? It is as much a philosophical question as a legal one.
TC: Do you feel close to what Barbara Kruger when she writes ‘my work is more about pleasure, desire only exists where there’s absence. And I’m not interested in the desire of the image. (...) I am basically interested in suggesting that we don’t need to destroy difference.’
L: The fascination is how the arrangement of the pixel and the halftone dot configure and stimulate desire. The challenge then is to divert that drive, to hijack it, take it to somewhere it doesn't want to go.
TC: Elad Lassry says that there is something ironic when talking about the appropriation of contemporary images. What do you think of that in your own work?
L: I have only recently started to appropriate contemporary images (for the Revolutionary Hardcore series). I wanted to repeat the experiments that I made in late 1976, i.e. go to a newsagent and buy a selection of men's and women's magazines, then collage what I found therein. Very little has changed over thirty five years except that everything is far more pumped up now - inflated even- women's breasts, cup cakes, leather sofas, roses, lips - all portrayed as glossier and firmer than they used to be. I have a Larry McMurty quote pinned on my wall: ‘and the ironic shall yield to the mythic again’ and I am sitting it out culturally, waiting for that to happen.
TC: Do you try to treat all pictures in an equal and democratic way?
L: No, I'm very undemocratic. Each picture has to earn its place in my world. I'm becoming more and more interested by the spaces between images too, hence making thirteen hour performance works last year is an attempt to find the place where spectacle runs out. I am incredibly picky about which pictures I work with and again, it is almost impossible to articulate why, that is why I have to make the work I do - to offer myself some form of articulation when words fail.
TC: Do you think collage is a dirty medium, infected as it is by waste when using residues, leftovers, rest of images?
L: I often use pornography magazines that have been sold and resold several times. I know this because one of the shops that I visit offers this service. I am always reminded that I can return the magazines after a fortnight - if I am not happy with them - and then purchase new magazines at a discount price. Maybe the pornography shop operates a sort of casual masturbatory library, or maybe it is their form of sexual recycling. The covers of the magazine end up with various prices scrawled over them and various pages missing.
So, the material I use could be seen to be dirty in various meanings of the word. I tend to become quite forensic when I handle it, both psychologically and physically. I wear white gloves to protect the pages, rather than to protect myself. I cut images from the pages on a sheet of glass using a surgeon's scalpel. On a good day I am Dr Frankenstein using a Pritt stick instead of suture thread.
TC: Would you say that collage is ‘thinking with your hands’ (Denis de Rougemont)?
L: No. Collage is never about thinking - collage happens in the spaces between my thoughts. My hands help to keep the space open long enough to create something new.
TC: Does collage deal about fragility?
L: Collage reflects the fragility of the collagist. We are a strange species, not particularly robust. Anyone who spends their waking hours wandering around with a knife in their hands is either a serial killer, a surgeon or a collagist. All prone to more than their fair share of anxiety.
TC: Are your collages synecdoche?
L: Yes, one collage tells you more about my life than twenty years of diaries ever could.