In her new book, Handbook of the Spontaneous Other, Aikaterini Gegisian presents new collages that bring together an eclectic catalogue of imagery from the 1960s and 70s
In Handbook of the Spontaneous Other, a kaleidoscope of block colours provide backgrounds for 59 new collages by Aikaterini Gegisian. The works, which incorporate imagery collected by the artist over the course of four years, bring together found photography from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, made in Western Europe and the USA. Gegisian’s collages range from playful to confronting, each presenting uniquely surprising contrasts thanks to the breadth of imagery the artist has collated.
For Handbook of the Spontaneous Other, Gegisian’s focus is on consumerism, and how norms like nature, the body and pleasure can be used in imagery to fuel consumption. The artist questions and subverts such practices through her collage: images from nature magazines, travel brochures and pornography collide, forming an irreverent look at how such imagery thrives in popular culture and contributes to a national identity.
“I read all these images as expressions of lifestyle culture, and lifestyle culture is an expression of consumerism,” Gegisian has explained of the works. “All of these things are ways of being part of this capitalist machine of assimilation.” Gegisian has been based in the UK for 25 years, and is of Greek and Armenian heritage; her research-rich collage and film work often explores the complexities of identity, both her own and in wider global culture. Themes of national identity ran through her contribution to the Armenian Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, when the country won the Golden Lion for best national participation.
Gegisian extracts new meaning with her deft photographic combinations in Handbook of the Spontaneous Other, and plays with contrasts like desire and decay, masculinity and femininity, the aspirational and the grotesque. A glimpse of a woman’s naked body might sit next to shots of an octopus, its tentacles unfurling, underwater; a man’s glistening torso appears alongside various spiked cacti; hands are sandwiched between an intricate, up-close photograph of an insect. Pulled from magazines like National Geographic and Providing Special Services to Women – a 1980s manual for male sex workers – Gegisian’s eclectic material makes for a captivating and surreal selection of collages.
Handbook of the Spontaneous Other by Aikaterini Gegisian is out now, published by MACK.