Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dreams and Dada with Jo Berry and Vicky Ellis - Week Five

This week I (Vicky) joined Jo and the groups to continue the theme of dreams and brain illuminations.  We started out with a fun word improvisation exercise based on word association.  Everybody started by writing down the name of something they might come across in a dream.  Taking it in turns, someone would read out their word for the person beside them.  That person had to say the first word that popped into their head, ie relating to that first word.  So if we had 'dance' we might have 'strictly', then the next person might say 'come' and the next, 'tower' etc.  Once a word had been passed round the circle, the last word to be spoken was given to the person who had started and that became the word they wrote down.  This is a way of generating random pairs of words.

Next, when everybody had two words written down, I explained a bit about the Dadaist movement which sprung up at the start of the 20th century.  We talked about the artists' frustration with the status quo and their desire to break the rules, to write nonsense or surrealist poetry, to create collage and abstract images.  David Bowie's method of writing lyrics by cutting up newspapers and sticking random words back together came straight out of the Dadaist movement.

Everybody used A3 pieces of paper for writing in this session to allow for greater freedom with their words.  They were told that they should feel free to write in whatever form they pleased.  If they wanted to make a list of words that was fine, as was writing poetry, lyrics or prose.  The words could be written as large or small as they liked, upside down and back to front.

With the pair of words from the initial exercise in mind, everyone set off with some automatic writing for five minutes, allowing the words to fall from their minds onto the paper as they came.  This was to create another sense of freedom, so that nobody felt the words had to conform to a particular style.  After five minutes I stopped everyone and gave them a random word (note to self: don't use the word 'wind' for this exercise as pointing at someone and shouting 'you've got wind' is not polite).  They then had to continue with whatever they were writing and include their new word somehow.

After a couple of minutes I stopped them again and now everybody took it in turns to read out what they had written.  We listened collectively and then repeated back the words or ideas that had stood out for us from the text.  Each person underlined the words which the group had spoken back to them and those became their key words.

Once all those wonderful words and ideas were collected, the real fun began.  We looked at calligrams, poems which are shaped to represent objects or people, and lots of possibilities for illustrating the words became apparent.  I was startled and delighted by the creative dynamite that the groups brought to this task.  Nobody approached their art in the same way and the resulting images and words are a testament to their artistic integrity.  The selection of photographs shows what can be achieved in a short space of time by a really creative group of willing artists.

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