New Brunswick

Collage art as a form of protest: What creators around the world have to say

Creators from around the globe have submitted collages that express their worries about the current state of the world. They will be displayed at UNB's Cut, Paste, Resist art show on Feb. 10.

Collage submissions from around the world will make up the Cut, Paste, Resist art show at UNB

RM Vaughan, co-curator of Cut, Paste, Resist, a collage art show, pasted posters around UNB asking for collage submissions. The posters themselves feature a collage on top of an image of himself to show students how informal their submissions can be. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

RM Vaughan was walking down a street in Montreal when he saw a protest poster about the climate disaster. 

It was a cut-out of a dinosaur flipped up and pasted on an image of a flatbed truck, so it seemed like it was dead. The message, written in French, was "We are next."

"And I thought, of course, protest and collage have always gone together." 

Vaughan is an author and video artist from St. Martins who now lives in Montreal. He said he writes journalism for money and writes books "for no good reason."

He's also the writer-in-residence for the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton this winter.

 In August, when he came across the poster, he had been pondering how to show students that creativity wasn't something just for special people, but for everyone.

"I thought about collage, which basically everyone does by the time they are three. And we forget how. We forget that moment of making something without consequences," he said. 

"I wanted to give students that moment to feel free."

Resistance was chosen as the theme of the art show, but submissions range in topics from climate change to equality. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Submissions from all over the world

Vaughan and co-curator Ken Moffatt, the Jack Layton chair at Ryerson University, decided to ask students, art enthusiasts online and community members for collage submissions, and put on a show around the theme of resistance.

"Most young people have a lot of things to worry about these days and they might have something to say about the current state of the world," said Vaughan.

As of now, they have received more than 70 collages from students, as well as people from all over Europe, the United States, Asia, India and South America.

They expect to receive around 50 more before the Feb. 7 deadline.

A collage by St. Thomas University student Chloe Rousseau. Students who want their collages back will be able to pick them up after the show. Creators who sent collages from other countries have included return envelopes to get them back. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Shannon Webb-Campbell, a Creative Writing PhD student at UNB, submitted two collages.

One of them she created with Virginia Woolf's Orlando in mind. The novel, published in 1928, is about the life of a young poet who changes sex from man to woman and lives for centuries.

To create the collage, Webb-Campbell used images she found in an art magazine and an old Harper's Bazaar. 

"There was something liberating in the idea of tearing up a book, tearing up a magazine and revisualizing it," she said.

As a poet, Webb-Campbell said she feels an internal pressure to always produce good material.

"There was something about collage that I didn't have the attachment to the outcome ... It was just fun, playful. And we don't get to do that a lot as adults."

A collage created by Shannon Webb-Campbell, a PhD student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, inspired by Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando. (Submitted by Shannon Webb-Campbell)

Common themes not based on location

Vaughan anticipated collage themes might emerge based on location.

"I was wrong. It's all over the map, there's no predicting," he said.

Primarily, issues have been around equality, sexism, climate change and whether it is ethical to eat meat. 

People from different countries in Europe, Asia, South and North America have sent their collages in the mail, and some have even decided to do mini collages on the envelopes with stamps. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

Vaughan said getting work from all over makes you feel like you're part of a larger conversation. 

"Sometimes when you are a student you can feel very isolated in what you are making and what you are studying, so it builds connections between people."

Collage list: Pizza boxes, magic

A variety of paper and flat surfaces have been used to create the collages, including pizza boxes and glass. 

"So much of our lives now are digital that people really want something they can touch and make with their hands," said Vaughan, who has done some collage creations himself for the show.

WATCH: Co-curator of Cut, Paste, Resist art show talks about how art and protest come together in collages

Co-curator of Cut, Paste, Resist art show talks about how art and protest come together in collages

2 years ago
Duration 3:40
RM Vaughan is the co-curator of Cut, Paste, Resist, a collage art show that features the theme of resistance. 3:40

He uses "good old glue sticks" to paste it all together.

"I found these awesome ones that are purple and then when they dry they go clear. I have no idea how that works but it's magic."

This collage titled Species at Risk was created by RF Côté and sent by mail from Rimouski, Quebec. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

No rules or excuses

Vaughan and Moffatt created an Instagram page in which they'll post photos of all the collages they get so everyone can see the different works.

"They'll see and say 'Oh, I see what people are thinking about in New Brunswick, in Canada,'" said Vaughan.

There are very few rules to participate in the art show. 

The collages can be of all sizes and shapes and creators only need to submit their names and their countries when emailing or mailing their collages.

The art show will have a collage-making station as well. People who come to the show will be able to create their own collages and paste them on the walls.

"We don't want anyone to come in and say, I wish I had made something. Well, now you can. It's right there," said Vaughan.

Cristina Holm submitted this collage from Barcelona, Spain. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

The station will have papers, magazines and scissors. 

"I'll even have the purple glue stick." 

Cut, Paste, Resist opens Feb. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Student Union Building, Rm 103 in UNB. The show will be up until February 12. It's free and open to the public.


Maria Jose Burgos is an award-wining journalist with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Tips?


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