Eduardo Paolozzi was a lifelong collector and hoarder. Over the course of his career, a towering mass of material accumulated in his studio (Figure 1.1
). Among the artist’s working models and cast elements were stacks of toys, books, broken machinery and printed ephemera (Figure 1.2
). The artist’s personal collection of popular culture, donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum as the Krazy Kat Arkive, reaches into excess of 20,000 objects. The majority of Paolozzi’s printed ephemera has been left to The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Looking through the hundreds of folders of Paolozzi’s material held in the gallery’s archives is an overwhelming experience. In the vast mass, one encounters a dizzying array of material that includes loose receipts, empty envelopes, menus, advertising, concert programmes, technical diagrams (Figure 1.3
), telephone sex cards, magazine cuttings of robots, a giant picture of a flea seen under a microscope, aerial views, images of bombsites, pictures of Mickey Mouse.… When looking through the collection, one initially has a tendency to search for relevance, to attempt to sort the material into hierarchies of importance, to search for categories and taxonomies. But the material continually seems to fight back. Over time, one begins to see the collection in terms of action. To understand Paolozzi’s processes, one has to approach all the material as equally important—the result of an activity that produced a landscape from which the work emerged.
Throughout Paolozzi’s career, the collection of printed ephemera formed the basis of the artist’s collages, prints, mosaics, tapestries and films. One can see everything in the collection as held in a state of readiness, transformed from waste material to play material. Indeed, Paolozzi’s avid collecting was an activity that dated back to his childhood days; making scrapbooks was a practice he had continued from childhood through to adulthood (Figures 1.4
). Reminiscing about his early years
growing up in Edinburgh in the 1920s and 1930s, Paolozzi stated: “It is difficult to think of a time when cutting images out of magazines was not a daily event.”7
The literary critic Susan Stewart defines collecting as “a form of art as play.”8
In her publication On Longing
, Stewart provides us with a necessary distinction between the souvenir and the collection with reference to time. For Stewart, the souvenir is commonly used as an aide to memory: “This childhood is not a childhood as lived; it is a childhood voluntarily remembered… manufactured from its material survivals.”9
By contrast, for Stewart the collection is not concerned with a focus on the past, nor is it an attempt to restore material to an origin; rather, time becomes simultaneous within
the collection. To regard collecting as a play activity is to engage with the means by which assembling creates new contexts and new relationships between material. Using Stewart’s terms, we do not need to see Paolozzi’s continued collecting as a nostalgic act; rather, collecting can be seen as a continued play activity concerned with inventing changing, evolving relationships within assorted material. It is therefore necessary to see the items in Paolozzi’s collection not in isolation as a “diagram” or “advert” but as part of a process. It was the mess—the open relationships between the items—that was so important to their usefulness. The mass of material was continually on the move within the artist’s studio. In preparatory notes for a lecture, Paolozzi himself described how this shifting landscape was the generative source from which all his work sprang:
In the preparations for this talk I had to move endlessly a lot of material around my studio projects old and new, plaster, plywood, cardboard pieces, discoveries and long forgotten items. The room resembles in its chaos the various dramas that go into making a drawing or sculpture. What is that moment when something torn out of “Time” magazine, date unknown, reveals itself in view of others… meaning subject to interpolation or image subject to translation redefines its identity.—Transfor...