Both assemblages and collages are art forms that make use of collections of different materials. For example, they can include wood, wire, paper, cloth or other items that fit with the overall concept of the design of the artwork. However, the two art forms are not the same, since they have subtle differences that will enable you to tell them apart.
Assemblages are pieces of artwork that can be either three-dimensional wall hangings or sculptural walk-around pieces. They are constructed in a range of materials of different thickness, texture and composition and normally require physical involvement from the artist, who might have to screw, nail or weld the pieces together. Glue is not normally used as joining material for the objects. Assemblage is more of a construction piece of art than a collage.
Unlike assemblages, collages are normally two-dimensional forms of art that contain different items that are glued together to form a design. They can involve the use of different textured materials, but in essence, they will usually be a piece of art that can be framed and hung on the wall. Common types of materials used in collages include colored paper, thin pieces of fabric, sticks and twigs and thin pieces of metal and leaves.
The histories of the two art forms are also different. Collages have been around since 200 B.C. when paper was first created in China. In the 12th century, Japanese calligraphers prepared surfaces for their poems by gluing paper and fabric together, while in the 15th century, bookbinders in the Near East started to use marbled paper and pasted intricate designs within their books. On the other hand, assemblage has a more recent history, dating back to the surrealist movement of the early 20th century, with artists such as Andre Breton.
The impact from the two forms of art can differ, depending on the types of materials used and the subject matter covered. The three-dimensional nature of assemblages means they can produce a more immediate and interactive impact on the viewer. It does not matter if the same materials are used; you will never have an assemblage or a collage that looks the same.