Week 7: From Cut-Up to Copy-Paste

of-this-museum1

 

 

 

To create is to destroy.

In the making of this poem, in which I use a museum as an analogy for life, I destroyed a brief introduction to a Sterling Ruby’s exhibition at the Gagosian gallery. The purpose of this exercise was to engage myself with an editing method that David Bowie himself used to create his magnificent lyrics – the cut-up technique.

The cut-up technique consists of an aleatory literary approach in which an existing text is literally cut up into little bits and rearranged to create a new piece of writing.

The concept can be traced back to the poet Tristan Tzara and the Dadaists of the 1920s. However, it wasn’t until the decades of the 1950s and 1960s that it became widely popularised by the writer William S. Burroughs, author of The Third Mind. Since then, this method has been used in a great variety of contexts.

Although collage was the dominant form in the arts for much of the 20th century, it wasn’t until after World War II that it really took hold in literature and music. The man who almost single-handedly transformed the former and ultimately influenced the latter was author William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), a pioneer of the cut-up technique, a method of cutting up pre-existing media and rearranging it to form something entirely new. (Pallanck, 2005)

Revolutionising not only literature but also music (songwriting) and visual arts, the cut-ups acted as a breakthrough to the traditional way of producing content.

Burroughs found it interesting how the source material’s style remained intact after being processed and, furthermore, that the seemingly chaotic reordering of words, sounds and images that a cut-up yielded was similar to human experiences (…) “Consciousness is [always] being cut up by random factors,” Burroughs noted. “Life is a cut-up, not a nonlinear narrative.” (Pallanck, 2005)

However, one very important question arose: Where do we draw the line between cut-ups and plagiarism? When does rearranging someone else’s words becomes authorship theft?

Edward S. Robinson questioned himself just that. He developed an interest in the works of writer Kathy Acker and the effect Burroughs’ writings and ideas had on her practice. He writes (2011): “Although many writers have cited Burroughs as an influence, few have followed his lead to the extent that Kathy Acker has. (…) Acker often wrote using methods derived from Burroughs, taking The Third Mind as her inspiration. (…) Acker herself described how she used The Third Mind as experiments to teach herself how to write.”

He analysed the use of the cut-up technique by Acker, explored the significant influence of the writings and ideas of William S. Burroughs on her works and discussed how Acker moved away from the cut-up approach into a so-called copy-paste collage method, expanding the principles of the technique to include notions of plagiarism and intellectual ownership.

Living in the digital era, we no longer need scissors to make cut-ups. We have access to almost all the books we could ever need and texts and articles from newspapers and magazines are merely a click away.

The cut-up technique – or rather a version of it – , even if unconsciously, has become ordinary, a common use when typing our word documents.
It is thus, more than ever, necessary to be conscious, take a step back, and analyse how we use the words we can so easily copy from the Internet, this huge virtual library with no members’ fee.

As easy as it is to create something by copy-pasting from a variety of sources, do you really want to call it a creation of your own?

Bibliography:

  • PALLANCK, L., 2005. WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS. Remix, 7(3), pp. 130.
  • Robinson, E. (2011). Shift linguals. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
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My thoughts on the US election

I never write about politics. Ever. I enjoy discussing it with friends, but I’ve never felt the need to write about it before. In fact, it wasn’t until two or three years ago that I started developing an interest in politics.
As someone who recently got the right to vote and being as concerned about what is going on around me as I have always been, I suddenly became painfully aware and open to the political situation of my country and subsequently, the world.

2016 has been an exhausting year regarding politics and I am awfully tired of this weariness, thus the need to write my thoughts down.

x

I had been closely following the US presidential campaigns for the past few months and, even though the result of the election wouldn’t affect me, I still worried about it.

The week before the election, I wasn’t worried though. Every poll and article I read assured me that Hillary was going to win so, naturally, I believed she would. On the 8th of November, I went to bed convinced that the US was going to have a woman for president. I was glad.

The next morning, I woke up to the shocking news that the media hadn’t predicted. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to. It made no sense. I was in disbelief. I was sad, angry, frustrated. I had lost all faith in humanity. How could people had been so dumb? How could the people who Trump is against still had voted for him? I was mad. I was upset. I wanted to cry.

The emotions I felt that day left me devastated. For me, it wasn’t about Trump himself – he is only a foolish, judgmental man, a celebrity who wanted to play make-believe –, but rather what he represents and the people who listen to him, who agree with him, those who can actually cause problems and make the lives of their neighbours a living hell – and they will, now that they feel entitled to. Trump can’t change or create laws by himself; they must be approved by others. I don’t worry about him; I worry about the minorities who suffer from bigotry every day.

For many of us, this was a very depressing and discouraging day. The last drop in a year that has been anything but ideal. As mentioned, I had lost all hope. However, while reading posts and comments from both Trump and Hillary’s supporters, and watching videos on the reactions and thoughts that followed the news of the president-elected, my perspective changed.

I realised I was so into it that I was actually mad at Trump’s supporters, something that is just not in my nature. I realised how incredibly powerful this election was and how it was able to divide everyone into two sides and made them fight against each other. This was a 50/50 argument with no in-between. You either wanted Hillary or Trump; you either won or lost.

Trump’s supporters may have celebrated a victory but, in reality, we all lost. Hating each other and insulting people because we don’t agree with their opinion doesn’t change or solve anything.
We have to be better than this. We must listen and understand each other’s perspectives and compromise.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from this election, is that we are all detached from each other. It really saddens me to see how easily we get divided, to a point in which we only care and accept those who share our own opinions and discriminate the ones who have a different view, without even stopping or wanting to listen to them.

I don’t agree with the reasons that led people to vote for Trump and I guess I didn’t want to understand them before but I get it now. I understand why they wanted him. I can see their point.
We don’t all have to believe in the same things but we can try to understand each other. We can’t take politics so personally. When someone has a different opinion on the system we should have, it doesn’t mean they think any less of us. We are not defined by our beliefs.

We millennials are still barely heard. Nonetheless, we must keep fighting and make our voices heard. We have four very interesting years ahead and we must be alert and not let any legislation that we don’t agree with getting passed. Not only in the US but everywhere in the world. We will do better next time.

However difficult it may be, we can’t let this bring us down. We have to accept that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the US and that some regrets may come from it. It is a lesson well learned. We won’t let this happen again.
We shall not be divided again.

Week 6: ‘Disassemblaging’, a product of Collaborative Writing

Is the combined smell within a train a product of the people or a product of the mode of transport?

I was on the Bakerloo line from start to finish. I got on at Elephant and Castle and went all the way to Harrow and Wealdstone.
It was a god-awful journey, a piece of immaterial performance fart.
There was a woman with sweaty armpits, a little boy picking his nose and a business man who seemed to have smoked a whole pack of 20 Sterling Fresh Clicks before his morning commute.
Why does the Bakerloo line smell like your grandma’s garage? And why does the Jubilee line smell like a hospital?
I don’t know, maybe a case study is needed.

When on a train, we associate smells within it to other things we have previously seen or smelt in life. This is called nostalgia, a condition in which your nose takes you back to a time when you last smelt that familiar odour.

A lot of people think Carroll was on drugs while writing the story and that is how he came up with Wonderland, but I believe he got his inspiration from the Bakerloo line – Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s horrid.

Think about it… The queen of hearts must smell like raspberry pies, the Mad Hatter and March Hare, like custard cream and Earl Grey, the caterpillar surely smells like tobacco and the white rabbit, like a wet dog after a rainy day.
These are all smells you are not only likely but almost certain to find within the Bakerloo line. Can you see it now? The Bakerloo line as Wonderland, beautifully decorated with the caption ‘KILL’ underneath?


The text above is a compilation of re-arranged ‘stolen’ bits and sentences from a piece of collaborative writing – derived from an editing exercise –, with some additional text of mine, composed into a new satirical piece of writing.

The exercise – ‘Disassemblaging’ – consisted in experimenting with the process of collaborative digital writing – in this case, several people writing individually and simultaneously in one shared Google document –, creating an interactive dialogue of unedited, live text.

With no rules or limits to what we could do, destruction and corruption became a way of creating new bits of text, meaning we could cut into, interrupt and edit the content and context of each other’s original pieces of writing to create a collaborative outcome.

Something I found quite interesting about this experiment was our attitude towards each other and the exercise itself. We started off by being very polite and respectful of each other’s space, having only one paragraph each and writing only about our given themes, but as soon as realised we had no rules or limits, we dived into a loop of profanity and ridicule. “Interesting two-way dialogues were formed, topics expanded beyond the frame, humour and images were added”, Josefin (*) wrote on her blog.

In conclusion, ‘Disassemblaging’ proved itself to be a blast and exceeded our expectations, both in the matter of interest – for it was much more fun than we thought it would be at first – and functionality – I wasn’t sure good pieces of writing would come from it but I’m glad to confirm I was wrong. Collaborative writing is, in fact, a revolutionary method to an art that is – and has always been – traditionally solitary.

C-a-t-a-l-y-s-t: Part I

Task 1: Sourcing

  • To choose a single news story that has surfaced in the last 10 days using only the media (no social media) to source the narrative.
  • The story needs to be evidenced physically; it cannot be hearsay.

The existing story I have chosen
(click here)

Task 2: Deconstruction and Analysis
Using your chosen news story, deconstruct it using the four components – theme, characters, setting and plot. Each of these areas should be researched and considered.

London – Housing Crisis – Gentrification

Task 3: Personal Narrative
You are required to change/rewrite either one or two of the components within the story whilst keeping the remaining two or three as they were. This will affect both content and aesthetics.

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A town in shades of grey

Ella Pomeroy – better known as Ms. Pomeroy – was a devoting teacher. She was independent, determined and persistent, and liked to pretend she couldn’t care less about what others thought of her.

Much to her parents’ chagrin, Ella lived on a boat. When questioned about it, should would say she liked to travel and that a boat allowed her to move anywhere she wanted, whenever she wanted – which wasn’t a lie – but in reality, she simply couldn’t afford a house.
Still, she did move frequently. Following the course of the rivers and canals, she jumped from town to town in search for new adventures.

She had met all kinds of people and seen all kinds of things but there was one incident in particular that she would never be able to forget:

It happened a few years ago. Ms. Pomeroy had just accepted a position in a public school in the suburbs of East London. She sailed her boat through Lea River and chose a nice ‘parking’ spot, not too far from her new school.

Ella walked through the door and jumped off her boat onto the wooden wharf. She couldn’t believe her eyes: the town had no colours; everything existed in shades of grey. She took a few steps forward. People passed by, acting naturally as if they didn’t realise there was something wrong. Were they not seeing the same as her?

Ella looked around, astonished. Not a single person seemed surprised with their surroundings. Maybe she was imagining it. She felt tired. Perhaps that was causing the sudden sight glitch. She decided to go back to her boat and sleep it off. Surely, she would wake up the next day and everything would be back to normal.

It wasn’t. Ella woke up and everything was still black and white. She got up, got dressed and left for work. On the way to the school, she entered a coffee shop and asked for a flat white and a blueberry muffin. She had her breakfast by the window while reading the daily newspaper and then left to school.

The next day, Ms. Pomeroy was on her way to work when she passed by the same coffee shop from the day before. There were tens of people in the street, looking confused and talking to each other. The coffee shop had been coloured. She could now see the bright white of the window frames against the subtle blue of the walls. It was so beautiful and different from everything around it that it made her eyes ache.

She headed down to school. What in the world was happening? All the places in which she had been the day before (her classroom, the cafeteria, the teachers’ lounge, the ladies’, etc.) were now coloured. Everyone was amazed.

After a week in her new town, she started to realise she was causing the change. Wherever she went, that place would become coloured and soon people that were strangers to the town would appear out of nowhere to populate those spaces.

A few months went by. These new residents – creatives and business people – were bringing more colours with them – different colours; expensive shades. The town grew brighter, bigger and busier.

Looking around, Ella could see colours everywhere but also buildings and people. Sure, she was happy to see colours again but the new buildings were so high they were blocking the sun and the view to the canal and the town was always so busy that she would barely leave the boat. Whenever she went downtown, she couldn’t recognize any faces anymore. All people were strangers and no one smiled or said ‘Hello’ to her.

Ella wasn’t happy. She decided to leave. She quit her job at the school and sailed her boat to a new town. Weeks later, she heard from one of the teachers at her old school: the colours had faded and returned to original shades of grey. The town deteriorated and the creatives and business people left, leaving tens of abandoned grey buildings behind.

Week 5: Exhibition Review

Teenage Bedrooms:

‘Like a house inside of a house’

Entering a world of low-quality, home printed photos and posters on the walls; dirty laundry on the floor; bits and bobs of something unidentifiable scattered all over the place. A mother’s nightmare or a metaphor for something deeper?

In a partnership with Queen Mary University of London, the Geffrye Museum is currently displaying an exhibition curated by Carey Newson – a researcher at the Centre for Studies of Home – , who spent a year (2013-14) interviewing teenagers and their parents for her doctoral research into the material culture of the teenage bedroom, in collaboration with the photographer Kyna Gourley.

Georgia's room, aged 15
Georgia’s room, aged 15

In this curious and prominent exhibition, we are welcomed inside the bedrooms of 26 teenagers in London and able to explore, through interviews, photographs, a collection of objects and an installation piece, the modern reality of the meaning and significance of these complex spaces.

“Teenagers are here for such a short time; they’re changing constantly, putting up new things on their walls, and before you know it, they’ve gone,” says Newson. “These rooms are very transitory places. What they’re putting up in their rooms reflects what’s going on in their lives.”

In fact, most teenagers see their rooms as a reflection of themselves, a part of their identity and individuality. These are unique spaces where they can gather their thoughts, express their feelings and display their memories – openly, without the fear of being judged.
They are a sort of retreat, “especially important at times of stress; a place to simmer down or let rip; to shut the door with relief – or slam it in anger.”

bedroom_belonging_to_flo_aged_18_north_london_875
Flo’s room, aged 18

“Our whole way of thinking about teenage bedrooms from the 60’s onwards has been as this sort of moody, solitary retreat, but I think that’s changed,” Newson argues. According to her research, while bedrooms are still very propitious to reflection, they’re not quite as solitary. “Home is where the WiFi connects automatically now”, and so while teenagers in the 60’s and 70’s relied on the – rather exposed – family telephone to talk to their friends and conduct their personal life, their children are now able to manage their social affairs from the safety and privacy of their own bedrooms.

Another idea that has been demystified by this research is that of the teenagers’ bedrooms being forbidden areas for parents. Privacy is still important. However, parents – as well as other family members and, obviously, friends – are welcome to get involved in helping them creating their own individual space.
Perhaps, then, a teenager’s bedroom isn’t a clear, candid outburst of their personality onto the walls but rather the product of a sophisticated process that shapes their personality in relation to others as much as reflecting it.

Either way, we cannot argue that these spaces help teenagers expand their cultural interests and broaden their horizons outside their home – for there is no better place to prepare yourself for the world outside than in the safety and comfort of your own bedroom.

emily-109203145_teenage_bedrooms_display_-_geffrye_museum___detail_of_bedroom_belonging_to_emily_aged_17_n-large_transzgekzx3m936n5bqk4va8rwtt0gk_6efzt336f62ei5u
Detail of Emily’s room, aged 17

Upon visiting this exhibition, I felt engaged. Some of the photographs and objects from the teenagers’ bedrooms reminded me of my own bedroom growing up and I could relate to some extent with the interviews being shown.
In one of the last panels, for instance, the curator presented some of the teenagers’ reasons for having “so much stuff” and I realised these were also some of the excuses for why I hold on to objects in my room that have no current practical utility.“…I honestly couldn’t remember where I got the shells from, but I knew if I collected them I must have wanted to hold on to them. So I think a lot of it was, if I threw this away, it would be a misdeed to my previous self.” (Pearl, 17) “… everything’s got meaning, everything, so it’s just really hard to eradicate meaning.” (Theo, 18)

Being a product of a research study, I found this exhibition to be very interesting and amusing. However, I would not consider it to be an art exhibit. The display is not art, but rather a collection of visuals to illustrate the research and conclusions of the study conducted by Newson. There are a scientifically process and logic behind it, and a concern for making her analysis more appealing.

That being said, ‘Teenage Bedrooms’ is, in my opinion, an accurate representation of the influence and meaning that bedrooms have to teenagers. It successfully portrays how these can play a critical part in social constructs, links to the past, and inspire self-realization and self-expression.
Be prepared to be transported back in time to your own teenage bedroom and ever-changing walls.

Bibliography:

  • Craig, Z. (2016) Peek Inside Teenagers’ Bedrooms at This New Exhibition. Available at: http://londonist.com/2016/09/teenagers-bedrooms-at-the-geffrye-museum (Accessed: 1st November 2016);
  • Davidson, L. (2016) The mess in your teenager’s bedroom? It’s art, apparently. Available at: http://telegraph.co.uk/property/news/the-mess-in-your-teenagers-bedroom-its-art-apparently/ (Accessed: 1st November 2016);
  • Sutton, J. (2016) Justin Bieber on the wall and ‘Keep Out’ signs in new teenage bedroom display. Avalaible at: http://islingtongazette.co.uk/ (Accessed: 1st November 2016);
  • Teenage Bedrooms: ‘Like a house inside of a house’ (2016) [Exhibition]. Geffrye Museum, London. 4 October 2016 – March 2017.