Eduardo Paolozzi: Collaging CultureEduardo Paolozzi: Collaging Culture

The History of Nothing

From 1960 to 1962 Paolozzi was teaching at the Hochscule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, where he used Surrealist methods to teach a course entitled 'The Translation of Experience'. This approach fed into Paolozzi's 12 minute black and white film called 'The History of Nothing' which he described as an 'homage to Surrealism'. The film was an assemblage of still images, made with single-frame animation by shooting a series of collages created from pages of German photography books illustrating interior decoration, architecture and machinery. These incongruous images flash across the screen accompanied by primitive, exotic music to create 'a peculiar reality in the perceiver's mind from a sequence of unlike images.' It makes a playful nod to Max Ernst's 1934 graphic novel 'Une Semaine de Bonté' (A Week of Kindness), which was created from 182 images collaged from cut-up Victorian encyclopaedias and novels.

The non-linear sequence of disparate images in the film confounds any attempt by the viewer to make any logical connections or create a narrative, and instead the viewer is forced to rely on intuitive connections. The ideas and images in the film relate closely to Paolozzi's artist's book 'Metafiskal Translations' (1962) which is a textual collage of poetic and fragmentary descriptive images and ideas, and informed some of his early screenprints such as 'Metallization of a Dream' (1963).