top of page

BLURRING IDENTITIES / Cut and Paste Culture - The Art of Sampling

Hand-made collage series / 2015 - to date (more than 350 collages)
Tanya St-Pierre


The starting point for Blurring Identities relates to collage history and sampling culture in the visual and photographic literacy. The collage technique opens up different uses in various art disciplines: literature (cut-ups [1]); music (musique concrète [2]); film (found footage films [3]); along with DJ's, VJ's, and mash-up cultures. These different spheres that stem as much from the art world as from the popular culture contribute to the revision and redefinition of copyright and related cultural meaning. This redefinition brings forth the idea of derivative works.

Fascinated by cultural heritage within a context of digital revolution in constant movement, I approach, with Blurring Identities, some questions concerning authenticity and copyright issues in the photographic and visual realm. While witnessing a rethinking of these issues in a free culture movement [4], I aim to engage a reflection related to the practice of derivative works, the art of sampling, cutting and pasting. Themes that stimulate my reflections are the tearing, extracting and plundering mechanics. A related theme is re-contextualization, since collage is all about the integration of the plundered fragments into a new contextual image.

Blurring Identities is also about blurring the identity of the image itself. By adding to an existing photography despoiled fragments from other photographies, I create another image with a new narrative. My intention remains to hijack meaning and aesthetics of the images.

With Blurring Identities, I play with what the images say, but I also engage an applied reflection on how we think about images within the larger context of digital revolution. For Blurring Identities, I also envision the final piece as an installation that conceptually bring forward the relations between these themes and the digital realm.

The act of recombining others' photographies in order to create a new narrative also addresses the authenticity of historical archives in this Ubiquitous Computing/Media world that we now live in. Hence, for this series I selected images from a single collection of books on photography from the 70's, edited by the very popular Time-Life Editions, so that the quality of the foreground image was not alien to the background. Consequently, the results of the collage and combination are more subtle so the new image (which is a false reality) seems at first glimpse as real as the original documents, and therefore addresses authenticity.

Thinking of copyright issues has brought me to a new procedural approach: I integrate textual information from the caption of the collected images, as a hint toward some imcomplete or connected reference. The blurry copyright definition operates as a tool to scan the cultural and conceptual reverberations of these types of works.


Burnett, Ron, How Images Think, 2004.

Cameron, Fiona and Kenderdine, Sarah, Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage – A Critical Discourse, 2007.

Grau, Oliver (éd.), Imagery in the 21st Century, 2011.

Manovich, Lev, The Langage of New Media, 2001.

Miller, Paul D., Sound Unbound – Sampling Digital Music and Culture, 2008

Mitchell, William J., The Reconfigured Eye – Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, 1992.



[1] Creative technic in literature invented by the artist Brion Gysin and mathematicien Ian Sommerville, and experimented by the writer William S. Burroughs, in wich the original text is cut-up in random fragments and re-arranged to make a new text.

[2] Musical genre permitted by electroacoustic technics. Theoritical and aesthetics bases have been developped in France during the 40's by Pierre Schaffer.

[3] Experimental film created from pre-existing film footage.

[4] The free culture movement takes the ideals of the free software movement and extends them from the field of software to all cultural and creative works.

bottom of page