All human experience is one big collage… – Eduardo Paolozzi
A technical and visionary masterpiece, Eduardo Paolozzi’s Bunk suspended time, freezing moments that invite us into a visual world from another generation.
In the early summer of 1952 Paolozzi presented a groundbreaking lecture to the Independent Group of artists. Projecting collages made from magazine clippings, newspaper shreds, commercial copy, and pin-up postcards onto a large screen, he spoke at length about their artistic value. In a single presentation, he had changed the face of 20th century art forever: the notion of ‘Pop Art’ was born.
Whether the title of the suite came from Henry Ford’s pronouncement that History is more or less bunk remains unknown. Regardless, Paolozzi’s collages, produced in post-war Paris throughout the late 1940s, put forward a definitive statement in British art: that the graphics of ad agencies contributed more to the art world than anything produced by contemporary artists.
Abandoning the collages soon after his seminal presentation, Paolozzi only rediscovered them some 20 years later as he prepared for a retrospective show. Frank Whitford describes in the 1972 portfolio how prescient the suite then seemed: Already in 1952 it was all there: science fiction, sex, technology, the movies, mass advertising, comics, packaging… The ephemeral had been raised to the level of art; the underrated, undervalued and misunderstood had been proposed as the key to an understanding of contemporary culture… 47 of the collages were chosen by Paolozzi to be replicated in an edition of 150 prints, 50 of which would be produced as specials, signed and numbered by the artist (as illustrated here). The facsimile method was not just complex; it made for a subversive statement in and of itself. Elements of the original collage were reproduced by lithography and screenprinting. These printed pieces were then torn, folded, and creased by hand to mimic the scraps before being pasted onto sheets, making identical ‘impressions’ of the original collage.
The process was both effective and absurd, as Paolozzi expert Rosemary Miles later wrote: The ‘original’ was of course unique, but made up of mass produced articles. It was then ‘mass produced’ itself but by an exceptionally skilled craftsman… Technically, this was a highly sophisticated, paradoxical comment on production and mass production; iconographically it was an ultimate statement.
In its combinations of milk-skinned poster girls and science fiction androids, Bunk offered a rich cultural tapestry from everyday images; and in its exacting method of reproduction, it immortalized not just the time from which each element originated, but the creative act of the collage itself.
An artistic, historical, and anthropological landmark, Bunk now stands as a powerful human document, and one of the most influential aesthetic projects of the 20th century.