Sometimes I feel the need to take a break from plugging away at ongoing projects that feel never-ending and just play for a while. In today’s prompt I focus on fragments – drawing inspiration from objects, words and images in my environment and putting them together to make something new.
Creating something from fragments around us is an exercise that can be quick and fun to do. In poetry this is often referred to as erasure or blackout poetry, where a poet redacts parts of an existing text to make a new poem. Digital poet Dave Bonita does this at Via Negativa, where he writes daily erasure poems based on the 17th-century Diary of Samuel Pepys. Bonita explains that he sees the project ‘not as erasure but as discovery—a kind of deep (mis)reading. From a secret diary, these are the secret poems hidden even from the author himself.’ The new poems are whimsical and surprising. The language in the original text might sound dated, but the extracted poem is concrete and fresh, transforming it into something entirely new.
In visual art this practice can be found in techniques such as found object art, readymade art or assemblage art and has been used by a number of art movements. Artist Fiona Hall’s work Wrong Way Time, created for the 2015 Venice Biennale, is an example of how juxtaposing objects can create new relationships of meaning. As the National Gallery of Australia explains, Hall ‘brings together hundreds of disparate elements which create tensions around three intersecting concerns: global politics, world finances and the environment’.
One piece, ‘Manuhiri (Travellers)‘, consists of a large installation composed of found driftwood. Hall gathered all the pieces on the beach at Awanui, on the east coast of the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. The wood was washed down the Waiapu River, a site that has been heavily impacted by deforestation, erosion, chemical runoff and the accumulation of silt due to development. Although the objects aren’t altered, their form (often looking like living creatures) and the way they are arranged creates a poetic and poignant installation that evokes a graveyard of once-living beings destroyed by development.
Video editing is another way of putting together fragments in a new way, and it doesn’t always have to be your own original footage. Videopoet Marie Craven, for example, often uses raw images from a subscription website, which she then transforms in editing with changes to speed, light, framing and colour, and long dissolves that blend and juxtapose the images, creating a work that takes the original footage in new and intriguing directions.
Why don’t you have a play with found objects, words or images and see where it heads.