The filmmaker Jim Jarmusch – whose deep connections to the New York School poets has been discussed here before – has quietly been making collages for the past twenty years, but never exhibited them before and “was content to keep this practice to himself.” As Max Lakin reports for the New York Times, Jarmusch “recently decided to organize and present this strain of his practice. The result is Jarmusch’s first monograph, Some Collages, and “Newsprint Collages,” a solo show of the original collages, his formal gallery debut,” which recently opened at James Fuentes.
The New York Times piece gives an extended look at Jarmusch’s interest in collage and appropriation, identifying it as a through-line that runs across the gamut of his work:
“‘The interesting thing about them is they reveal to me that my process of creating things is very similar, whether I’m writing a script or shooting a film or making a piece of music or writing a poem or making a collage,’ Jarmusch said. ‘I gather the elements from which I will make the thing first. Like, shooting a film is just gathering the material from which you will edit the film, you know? The collages reduce it to the most minimal form of that procedure.'”
Jarmusch also traces his aesthetic roots back to his early exposure to the New York School of poets during his studies at Columbia University:
“Before he landed on filmmaking, Jarmusch intended to be a poet, studying under the New York School poet David Shapiro (who also made collages) and Kenneth Koch, and traces his animating principle to their strategies. ‘Koch once gave me a poem by Rilke, and said, bring me your translation in two days. I said, “But Kenneth, I don’t know any German.” And he just looked at me with a kind of twinkle in his eye and said, “Exactly.” And so the idea is take something, anything, and make a new thing out of it.’”
Altough many of the collages are playful, Jarmusch also acknowledges that “Some of them are a little scary or dark. Some of them, I hope, are funny. The New York School poets taught me if there’s nothing funny in any of your stuff, then wow, how unfortunate for you.”
You can find out more about Jarmusch’s book, Some Collages (a title that perhaps nods to Ashbery’s debut, Some Trees), here and read an interview with him about his collages in Dazed, here.
The Koch/Jarmusch story reinforces my thoughts that translation (even naïve or unlearned translation) is a powerful too-little-used way to get inside the poetic method.