Moving Image 11-14-2007

Bits and Pieces In a Semblance of a Whole, an essay by Jon Nelson

Festival of Appropriation co-curator Jon Nelson gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the assembly of this one-of-a-kind exhibition of collage art in a variety of media, all created by artists on


THE FESTIVAL OF APPROPRIATION HAS ALWAYS BEEN FOCUSED, quite simply, on artists who use bits and pieces of previously existing images, objects, and sounds to create new and compelling works of art. It’s the visual counterpart to my sample-based music and audio art show, Some Assembly Required.

Collage is a fairly simple concept, really. You take an existing cultural artifact, like a movie or a postcard, and take it apart—strip its soundtrack or isolate an image from the card. Then, re-use the pieces you’ve appropriated, or taken as your own, in concert with one or more other fragments from other cultural artifacts, combining and juxtaposing all the elements to create something new. The creative effort involved in collage work is defined by what you choose to use and also by how you choose to use it.

My own reasons for being attracted to the form have less to do with an interest in appropriation than with a strong interest in the surreal (and even more, in the absurd). It just so happens that these interests are often best expressed through the appropriation and reworking of existing materials. If attempting to make sense of an apparent non sequitur is one of the primary goals of philosophical thinking, the same could be said of the process behind listening to and looking at works of collage. Collage imagines the viewer as participant in the creative process. The artist’s intentions, whatever they may be, are secondary. Assemblage, by its nature, is open to a variety of creative and unusual readings.

While Kate and I each had our own personal reasons motivating our individual choices of work for this year’s Festival, our selections were also informed by a desire to reflect the diversity of backgrounds represented on In the curatorial process of putting together this year’s show, we uncovered a microcosm of what this website is all about: with everyone from outsiders to emerging and established artists, all living and working in Minnesota. The Star Tribune referred to two of the artists in this year’s Festival of Appropriation as “giants of sculpture;” and, to be sure, there are several artists in this year’s show who have been doing amazing things for quite some time. However, you’ll find just as many artists on exhibit this year who’ve yet to receive that kind of attention. We welcomed them all. Using the form of appropriation as our only filter for choosing artwork, Kate Iverson and I searched through the countless images, movies, and sound files uploaded by Minnesota artists whose work is available on

Our focus for the Festival of Appropriation, since day one, has been to represent different styles of art, all of which utilize appropriation. Early on, the show started out as a showcase for small-scale assemblage and photo collage. As the venues improved and space for work increased, I’ve been able to invite artists working on a larger scale to participate, as well as those whose work features sound and moving pictures. <

Thanks to the Soap Factory’s abundance of space, in this year’s exhibition Kate and I are able to show some huge assemblage pieces, along with work by two excellent film and video collage artists. In fact, on November 29th, we’ll be presenting some film collage by Coleman Miller (and the Tape-beatles) at the Walker Art Center, along with an art lab about circuit bending (the art of appropriating electronic toys and instruments), with Beatrix*JAR.

I hope you’ll take an hour or two this month to visit our collection of Minnesota artists at The Soap Factory. You’ll find collage, assemblage and mixed media artworks by: Eric William Carroll, Andy DuCett, Kyle Fokken, Greg Gossel, John Grider, Brant Kingman, Suzanne Kosmalski, Cory McNally, Coleman Miller, Mari Richards, Erik T. Ritter, Chad Rutter, Ian Sorlie, Scott Stulen, Michael Thomsen, Sheryl Tuorila and Anastasia Ward, through November 30th. Make your own interpretations – take part in the creative process! For more information please visit the exhibition website,

CLICK HERE to see a showcase of work from the Minnesota artists featured in this year’s Festival of Appropriation, on exhibit at the Soap Factory through the month of November.

About the curators:
Jon Nelson is an artist, curator, and producer focused almost exclusively on collage, with forays into radio, visual art, theater, writing, and installation. His nationally syndicated radio program, Some Assembly Required, is a weekly radio art show airing locally on 770 Radio K and in podcast form on The show highlights the talents of audio artists who appropriate sounds from their media environments and, since SAR’s inception in 1999, Nelson has also produced over two dozen artist features, interviewing everyone from John Oswald and The Evolution Control Committee, to Christian Marclay and DJ Spooky—providing a variety of unique perspectives on the nature of this daring and creative style of expression.

Kate Iverson is an award-winning art photographer who has been shown in numerous galleries locally and nationally. Her work has been published in The Onion, Lavender Magazine, Underworld Magazine, l’etoile magazine and on Kate is the Arts Editor for l’etoile magazine, a local arts and style publication, and she also serves as the Marketing Director for Some Assembly Required. Kate sits on the Board of Directors for the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) and is also a board member at Altered Esthetics gallery. Once curator for the now defunct Density Studios Gallery (2004-2006), Kate still works closely with artists, galleries and arts organizations and will be curating visual art shows at various locations, including the Festival of Appropriation now on exhibit at the Soap Factory.

What: The Festival of Appropriation, presented by and curated by Jon Nelson and Kate Iverson
Where: The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, MN
When: Exhibit runs through November 30
Admission: FREE and open to the public