Case study

Addressing the history and identity of welsh wales through Realistic Collage

Understanding our past can help us learn and discover how and why historical events occurred. Researcher Marc Bosward is concerned with how history and society can be understood through the practice of archive film collage, and whether our interpretations of the past change when we look at history in a different way. 

Archive film collage is a form of film created by combining found footage (misplaced, forgotten, or archived film footage that documents past events) from different sources. Researcher Marc Bosward uses film collage to consider how the composition of film fragments can capture the complexities of history. The research specifically aims to connect audiences with the social identities and the past of Wales, particularly around the representation of working-class communities. By using film collage in this way, the research aims to question interpretations of history, and whether the dominant stories can be challenged. 

The research 

The research project addresses the history and identity of South Wales through investigating and using the archive film collection of the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales. The research deploys collage as a practical form to explore the history of the region, alongside its political, cultural and social identity. Theories of Welsh history and identity are used in the analysis, interpretation and composition of the archive materials as evidence of a complex and layered culture. This explores the cultural, economic, social and political forces that have contributed to the formation of shared identities. In the creative manipulation of factual film material, the collage work aims to reveal these invisible, non-physical powers that have produced historical events.  

What was discovered 

The research aimed to consider whether film collage can uncover and negotiate the complexities of history and identity and whether it can uncover the unseen causes of events in the past. To date, the research contribution lies in the analysis and articulation of the collage process as a staged system. It has highlighted the principles of collage as a potentially transferable and portable visual research method. 

In relation to identity, the research has shown that identity is a fluid, complex and layered structure of many, sometimes conflicting and contradictory factors. To understand identity, we must be sensitive to this complexity if we are to gain a better understanding of how it comes to be formed and how and why it changes. 

Insight into the researcher 

Marc Bosward’s background, which inspired this project, is his practice in collage and combining collage with documentary and archive film. His previous work in collage has been with ideas and themes that address features of the factual world, and it has always been about using collage as a method of negotiating the complexity of reality. This has led to his interest in thinking about collage as a philosophical concept, and not just a material process or method.  

Marc is also passionate about the capacity of archive film to connect audiences with our collective, social history. He believes archive film has a unique capacity to give a tangible sense of history that resonates with the present. Marc believes that it can tell us that the conditions of the past, the ‘then and there’, are directly related to our present conditions, in the ‘here and now’. This has considerable power in fostering awareness of how our current social and political contexts were produced.