Escaping Ideology Pt. 2 – Collage Films

Three weeks later after reading Althusser, I still struggle with the notion of escaping ideology.  Is it possible?  If so, how do we avoid it?  Do we want to avoid it?I couldn’t help but be struck by this notion of ideology continuing into my readings for my Lost and Found course this semester (a Film and Media studies course about using, appropriating, and editing found footage, for those wondering).

One article for this week, “Ambiguity and Theft” by Joshua Clover specifically examines the medium of collage.  Collage, as mentioned in both the Sturken text and my article, is a sort of “culture jamming.”  It changes the nature of existing material to create “often in the form of ironic juxtaposition” (Negativland 119) a new material.  Essentially, collage films take pre-existing clips (found footage) and create new meanings based on the text as a whole.

Still confused?  Bruce Connor’s A Movie ( is an example of a collage film.

Most YouTube mashups are collage pieces.  Taking favorite clips of Ron Weasley and Hermonie Granger set to the background of Coldplay’s “Lights Will Guide You Home” is also an example of collage.  (Yes, I did just make a Harry Potter reference.  Yes, I do cry after watching that video.  Yes, I am that person.)

According to Clover, “collage is a kind of speech given to the mute, frozen clash of the dialectical image; it is a formal practice that reveals the discontinues of form” (86).  In doing so, “collage, a broken form, endeavors to break ideology” (Clover 86).  By acting as a medium that takes and places existing footage, it acts in conversation with its individual pieces and as a whole piece.  It marks a “shattering of representation” (Clover 87) by taking the original piece outside of its context into a new context and creates new meaning.

My initial reading of this passage got me excited.   Immediately, I was excited to notice a connection existed between my classes.  These weren’t just theories; these were conceptual frameworks that intertwined between my two classes.  This is exciting!

On another level, I was also excited because finally! an out emerged to struggle with grasping and escaping ideology.  I wrote a blog post about this topic.  It’s like Joshua Clover read it and responded through means of an article assignment.

However, Clover’s article further went on to explain a barrier to collage artists: copyright.  Copyright laws confine only the wealthy to access to use preexisting text to create a new art.  In doing so, many artists continue to create new works, however, illegally so.

In a shocking twist, Clover remarks, “of course it is an illicit pleasure, this theft [the making of collage films], and it cannot be repeated indefinitely without becoming ritualized—and finally becoming a submission to the laws that allow the sense of the illicit” (92).

Essentially, collage, by seeking to break from ideology, in fact becomes an “other” that reinforces the ideological hierarchy.  By being an illegal activity, collage film making, becomes a criminal activity.  Criminals, if we remember Althusser, become the outliers that are necessary to define the norm.  By gaining pleasure from something that is illegal, we are in fact, reinforcing the definition of legal by acting inversely.

I am again left more confused.  Every “out” that seems to appear to ideology really just appears to reinforce ideology.

Does this cycle ever end?


One thought on “Escaping Ideology Pt. 2 – Collage Films

  1. Is it considered acting inversely if one does not profit off the act? As for as I know (take with a grain of salt since I am not an expert) one is free to use copyrighted properties at their leisure as long as a profit is not being made. I would even argue that the lack of profit helps to further break away from ideology as the medium is used for pure personal satisfaction and not capital gain (which is rare in our current capitalistic society).

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