Mechanical Montage: Appropriation, sticking and white spaces

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

Broomberg and Chanarin are photographic collaborators who now work by appropriating photographs from archives and applying them with their own curatorial messages and concepts. Their project ‘Divine Violence’ particularly interested me for picbods first task; creating a mechanical montage that is different to a passport.

Divine Violence is a collaboration with philosopher Adi Ophir. The project takes photographs from ‘The Archive of Modern Conflict’ and embeds them around the words of the bible; inside the King James Bible. It comments on appropriation, ethics, morals, the author and the image, and most radically publishes their research on the injustices of the bible on a surface that mimics a christian ritual.

‘Right from the start, almost every appearance he made (God) was catastrophic.’

Divine Violance, Adi Ophir, 2013, page 1


The presentation of the project inside the King James Bible particularly interested me because it could be seen as their authorship of a Holy text, but constructed in a way that highlights how it contradicts the good will it intended.

I intend to present a set of images inside a passport. It wouldn’t be as controversial because the passport is a convenient document of identification; not intended for getting to know people. It will act as a way to fuse the horizons between author and audience, as passports present one stage portraits, not a set of different portraits and still life’s (which I will explain soon).


Robert Rauschenberg

From erasing some of his own drawings, as you do naturally as an artist after you make a mistake, he found art in it. He turned to renowned painter De Kooning and asked to erase his paintings, to which De Kooning accepted and Rauschenberg created a blank canvas out of what would have been an expressionist mixed media piece. He argues it’s poetry while others say its vandalism. The work is psychological in the respect that he might have destroyed a masterpiece, but surely the suspense and the mystery of the blank canvas provokes the same, if not more poetry than the information that would have been kept. 


Mishka Henner

Mishka Henner is a working photographer who creates original work. He uses digital media to appropriate someones work, add further meaning to it and contextualise it within the history of photography. He saw inspiration from Rauschenberg to create his series ‘Less Americains’. A project that takes the images from Robert Frank’s ‘Americans’ and erases the people and most of the scenery, revealing only shapes and textures. Like Rauschenberg, Henner’s project created much controversy. But like Rauschenberg’s, I can appreciate the poetry and abstract concept that makes the viewer search their memory for the right information, or make their own scenes out of whats left. I think that being told that something once filled a blank space only makes us what to imagine or find out what was once there.

Mishka Henner: Canal Street MH-Americans-02_1_900

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

This concept has also been carried out by Broomberg and Chanarin in their project ‘Afterlife’ where they used Razmi’s images from the 6th August 1979. It was ‘taken just months after the revolution, records the execution of 11 blindfolded Kurdish prisoners by firing squad.’ (


By separating the victims and killers in the photograph from the background, it de-contextualises the images and again, make you consider what is beyond the frame.



The task is centred around identity. Stuart Hall argues that identity is never solid, it is forever changing with the information that we consume.

‘Above all, and directly con tray to the form in which they are constantly invoked, identities are constructed through, not outside, difference. This entails the radically disturbing recognition that it is only through the relation to the Other, the relation to what it is not, to precisely what it lacks, to what has been called its constitutive outside that the ‘positive’ meaning of any term – and thus its ‘identity’ – can be constructed’

Hall, S (2000) Who needs Identity? – 17
‘Identities are thus points of temporary attachment to the subject positions which discursive practices construct for us’

Hall, S (2000) Who needs Identity? – 19

Therefore, I hope to present images with items, people, places, creations and clothing etc whose information has been consumed in my lifetime, and became a part of my character. An opinion of mine (which is flexible) is that there is a fabrication or a construction with self portrait photography because they are very subjective. I think that to reveal my identity then the most accurate response would be to appropriate images from the past of me and scan in objects that have given me character. I would carry out the same process with my girlfriend Sam, because she would be comfortable with me asking questions to locate these objects and influences.

The reasoning behind researching Rauschenberg, Henner and Broomberg and Chanarin (afterlife) is that for the audience to understand more about identity, then the actual appearance of the body will distract from the objects and people that are important. I will then cut out me and Sam from each image to reveal the connection with the other people in the image, and let the audience focus on the importance of them, instead of the distracting view of the protagonist.

As mentioned before, I hope to place the images inside a passport much like the ‘Divine Violence’ project to give the images a platform and fuse the audiences horizons.


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