For Benjamin West, collage is about making a statement. Like the Dadaists who pioneered collage as a medium to socially and politically provoke, Benjamin uses his practice to raise questions about the human impact on the environment. Juxtaposing fragments from botanical reference books with images of machinery, motorways and factories, Benjamin brings into plain sight the ugliness of urban expansion, land conversion and loss of habitat.
Immaculately cut and glued together by hand, Benjamin's illusions can fool the eye. His compositions lull the viewer into confronting difficult content that only reveals itself upon closer inspection. His series of botanical studies, 'Processed' (see below), are at first glance very charming but as we look further you see that these lifeforms- so pure from the outset- have been manhandled, interfered with, spliced with bionic limbs and mechanical parts.
The theme of violation is also present in his piece 'Page 53 (more roads) - BW0076' (see bottom left), a misleading image of a motorway slicing through the countryside. It's admissible- just your average highway cutting through farmland- but then the bogus edges and artificial seams reveal themselves to you. It doesn't belong there. By distorting reality, Benjamin intends to make us re-evaluate what we justify and accept as normal.
Benjamin delivers the past, present, and possibly even the future. Forming an unusual dialogue between ages, where old and new ephemera are fused together, he presents humanity's exploitative and destructive nature in perpetuum. In keeping with Linder Sterling's statement, "With collage, you make things wrong to make them right," Benjamin West's effort to show us our wrongs hopefully better illuminates the path to what is right.
View Benjamin West's poignant and thought-provoking collage here.
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