INTRODUCTION TO RECYCLED WORDS & IMAGES
Introduce students to the work of Dada artists and poets. Discuss
why artists in the beginning of the 20th century began appropriating
words and images from printed sources. Ask whether students consider
this a valid way to make art. Have students suggest and collect
examples of popular culturemusic, TV shows, or rock videos
that make use of appropriated, re-contextualized images and words.
For an introduction to chance poetry, try Tristan Tzaras recipe
for writing Dada poetry. (See the Context Chapter.) However, this
may irritate students too much and thus may be unwise as an introductory
Divide students into groupsthree or four students at
each table or grouping of desks.
Ask students to randomly cut out words from the headlines. Tell
them not to be consciously selective. Allow their minds and hands
to freely wander. Have students stand on the same side of the table
so that as they select words and lay them down on the table the
words will all be facing in the same direction.
Begin by asking each student to gather 20 or 30 words. This will
take only 5 or 6 minutes. After students cut out the requisite number
of words, survey the words and then ask them to cut another 20 or
30 words. You may want to repeat this procedure several times. You
could, of course, ask the students to cut out 50 to 75 words at
once, but if you do this many students will complain this is too
difficult. Its actually not that time-consuming or difficultmost
students start to enjoy the process and cut more words than required.
Its a good idea to suggest that students use different sections
of the newspaper in order to get a range of vocabulary. Also, suggest
that each student spend one cutting session cutting
words from the headlines of magazines. It can be interesting to
discuss how the vocabulary drawn from various newspaper sections
or magazines creates a different vocabulary to describe experience.
Each student selects a piece of colored construction paper.
Deep colors will have a tendency to emphasize the rectangular structure
of each word rectangle. Words on white paper may look lost unless
the space on the paper around each word is closely cropped and the
words are then closely spaced.
Pre-cut the paper for the class. When cutting the paper, consider
the relationship of the scale of the paper to the scale of the words.
In the first version of this project, we used 9-inch-square paper.
This allowed space for enough words to make an interesting poem,
but the regularity of the square did not seem to encourage experimentation
with the layout and composition. In a later version, we used long,
narrow sheets and this tended to produce more visually dynamic pieces.
Students begin writing poems by selecting words and laying them
out on their papers. Do not stop now to glue the words down. This
inhibits the unconscious flow of meaning making and prevents spontaneous
re-arranging as the words of the composition of the poem continues.
CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS
Explain to students that there can be no failures in this project.
All that the project requires is surrender to the process. If the
student artists go with the flow, the projects will
be an automatic success because the intent of the project is to
introduce students to historical (and still valid) methods for tapping
the creative imagination.
Explain to students that when they are in the initial stages of
a poem or artwork, they can use Dada and Surrealistic techniques
to mine the wealth of the unconscious, rather than sitting and fretting
about not having any ideas today. When artists dont have a
clear direction in mind, they engage in creative play.
GLUE DOWN THE POEM
After the poem is complete, suggest that students may wish to fine-tune
the arrangement of the words as they glue it down.
PERFORM THE POEM
Each student reads his or her poem to the class. Students should
stand and deliver with style and conviction. Tell students
about Dada cabarets and provocative performances. Encourage students
to read in strange or experimental styles. (Many teens will draw
on knowledge of rap and hip-hop styling.)
If this project is used early in the year, it can set a climate
for un-self-conscious experimentation and for students taking responsibility
to engage in idea generating activities throughout the year. It
also teaches students to immerse themselves in a process and then
to step back, consider, fine tune, and then judge the results.
Organizing a classroom "poetry slam," helps students understand
that they are part of a creative community and that part of their
task in the artroom is to share art and ideas and respond to the
work of other students.
Consider submitting some of the poems to the schools literary
magazine or newspaper.
Consider creating a Dada performance for a school assembly or talent
Consider creating small poetry posters and posting them in unexpected
places around the school and community.
Consider reproducing the poems as transparencies using a xerox machine
or scanner and printer. Using an overhead project, create a changing
poetry installation on the school hallways or cafeteria walls.
Click here to
print out process plans for the Headline Poetry project.