COLLAGE KIT: LEAVING
31st March 2021
by Alia Wilhelm
This year has looked like a fuzzy freeze frame stuck on the TV. We've all been caught mid-action, our faces blurred to the point of near anonymity, and no matter how hard we try to press the button on the remote, the image stays static. At times I've fought against this feeling of being stationary by trying to fit more seconds into the frame than it can fit, to cram as many home improvements, hangout-simulating phone calls and freelance assignments into the day as I can. I'll sit at home and watch my apartment with my eyes bulging out of their sockets, surveying every inch of the walls, the shelves, the floorboards, making mental notes of all the imperfections, all of the opportunities for improvement. As long as things are imperfect, there is work to be done, and work means being busy, which means feeling useful, which means there is a point to the day, and maybe to life.
Of course, this is still based on the subjective belief that for a day to have value, you can't just be, you have to do. The feeling is especially strong for me on Saturday mornings, when I feel unmoored and directionless, like one of those American Beauty plastic bags bopping about in the breeze. Suddenly unanchored from the predictable shape of the work week, I stand in the middle of the room, looking with desperate urgency at a dust bunny under the side table, while also feeling relieved that I have some kind of task to throw myself into.
As a result, my house, which I love, has recently become an unsettling place to start the weekends, and I've ventured hesitantly out into my garden instead, a way to leave without really leaving. I have no idea how plants work, and I'm overwhelmed by how much people seem to know about gardening, so sometimes I just stand around looking at things. This week I've learned about something called bulb lasagne, which is a way of growing tulips on top of one other, and also that you can protect flowers from slugs and snails by laying down little pellets of wool. I don't know what I'm doing, so I tear at ivy that looks dry as twine and cut off the dead ends of a bush I don't know the name of, enjoying how cold and silent it is. Usually I'm in fluffy white slippers and the huge sweater I've slept in. Always I come back into the house with my voice an octave higher, feeling a mixture of alert and at peace, and after that I know I've done something good. I know it's born out of the same desperate urge to feel like I haven't wasted the day, or the year, like the pandemic can't take away the meaning I tend to think is a part of every day. But it's one of the only things, unlike all the emails, the calls and the cleaning, that feels enriching, like it adds to who I am, instead of taking away from it.
This collage kit is my way of encouraging you to bring the outdoors inward, and of paying homage to the idea that there isn't really a different between the two anyway. Appreciating the outdoors and the beauty of nature feels like an extension of taking care of own body, like it's some kind of a flower too, and so I've included photos of legs and limbs as well as lilies and lavender. I hope you enjoy our last ever Nearness collage kit. Thank you for spending this year with us! Print these pages out and use good old-fashioned scissors and glue to do some arts and crafts, or download the kit and create something digitally. When you're done, send a photo or scan of your artwork to firstname.lastname@example.org
Download the first page here.
These background options here.
And two more here.
Alia Wilhelm is a 28-year-old collage artist, photographer and art director based in London. She is also a Nearness co-founder.