Digging and drawing on the unknown…

Not long ago, I revisited an old idea with a friend at work: The Exquisite Corpse drawing game. We wanted to use it as a way to encourage some asynchronous play-activity among members of our busy and dispersed work group, to share or generate ideas, and to maybe generate some humour and surprise by chance.

The Exquisite Corpse game developed originally as a writing activity where participants contributed successive lines to a hidden story and revealed the full results later. The name “exquisite corpse” came from one contributed sentence from one particular game. It evolved into a drawing game where players would add sections to the end of each other’s drawings, without seeing the previous contributor’s work.

Surrealism evolved out of the Dadaist movement after World War 1. It was originally literary, expressed in poetry, prose, and sometimes through an experimental activity called automatic writing (and as I recall, another term for this may have been “psychic automatism”). The Surrealist movement was driven by poets and writers like Andre Breton, painters like Freida Khalo and Salvadore Dali, and photography and film artists like Man Ray.

Surrealists were deep explorers of internal landscapes and of the meanings that emerged from the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated symbols. They were interested in exploring subconscious imagery; the themes and symbols that lay beneath the conscious mind, such as dreams, non-verbal desires, or primal urges.

These ideas were inspired by the development of psychotherapy (Freud, Jung and others) and the popularization of ideas like the collective unconscious (Jung). Later, in the 1950s, Beat-generation writers like Burroughs and Kerouac used similar techniques for their own purposes.

Personally, I’ve found a lot of satisfaction in using collage of magazine and newspaper imagery to create unexpected images. Whereas in the exquisite corpse game where each participant hides their contribution from the next player, a solitary collage doesn’t involve other people, but still provides unknown directions or unexpected ideas from moment to moment, based on a somewhat-random selection of visual elements, and any haphazardness or chances taken in how images get cut up, torn, and recontextualized.

I usually start with a large plastic bin full of magazines and scraps from coverless comics or newspapers. I just reach in and pull out as much as I think will cover the sheet of paper in front of me. Sometimes a few scraps will be so visually strong that they’ll drive an idea to be formed around them. Other times, a theme only emerges after a few pieces have been placed to set some scene (like sky, ground, trees, or buildings). I may use tape to tack things down, and use glue or rubber cement once a piece has remained in place for a while, as I build and develop things around it.

My themes almost always involve the human figure or some almost iconic form, and emerge from my internal themes of power, helplessness, mother/father, joy, ego and pride, fear of the unknown, virtuous ideals, sexuality, or pain.

For me, it works like a kind of visual self-talk therapy; a way to build a personal mirror, and to explore what stares back at you.

#cca0991 Novel Unit – Lesson 3: Activity 1 – Informal Presentation

For an online English course that I’m helping to develop, I’m now taking the Student role to do some careful usability and functionality testing.

This is one of my assignments.


Novel, Lesson 3: Activity 1 – Informal Presentation

In Defense of the Character of Sal Paradise

Over the backyard, grey clouds thickened and threatened to rain. Two crows fought raucously over a chicken bone near the garbage cans, and two sets of shoulders propped themselves on opposite sides of a common fence.

“So, that nephew of yours took off again, did he?” Cora Wilkes never did much to hide her disapproval of Sally’s young charge.

Sally Morgan wasn’t having it. “The boy’s only taking his journey – doing what he needs to do, that’s all.”

Cora snorted a little. “Don’t you worry about him? What’s he going to do? Running off and bumming around like that? What about school?”

“Well, Sal’s taking his own path. He’s…”

The dispute between the crows became louder and more heated. One grabbed the chicken bone and flew off, drawing shrieks of protest from the other crow on the ground.

“He’s being a bum!” Cora hadn’t expected to blurt it out like that, but there it was, how she felt, plain as day and she couldn’t take it back now.

Sally squinted and held Cora’s face in narrow, squinty contempt for a long three seconds before breathing out and letting a calm understanding smile take her face. “He’s not being a bum, Clara, and he’s not running away from anything. Why, it wasn’t that long ago that my folks and I had to move around from place to place to find work. My uncle rode trains and trucks from one side of the country to the other looking for work! A little travel’s not the end of the world.”

“That was different,” Clara retorted. “Folks had to move – to live! To find a new start!”

“Sure – a new start. They did it to pay the rent, and feed their families. Sal’s doing it to pay his dues, and feed his mind and soul.”

Cora mumbled something about her laundry, and turned away, not willing to meet Sally half way in Sal’s defense. Sally felt a loss, but knew that some people just need to experience the world face first to learn anything. That was something Cora and her nephew actually had in common, although Cora would never see it.

Farther down the sidewalk, a small bone fell from the sky, and a young crow swooped down from a branch where he’d been watching his peers fight. He picked up the bone and took off easily, heading into the wind with new rain in his face.

#cca0991 Novel Unit – Reading Log for “On the Road”

For an online English course that I’m helping to develop, I’m now taking the Student role to do some careful usability and functionality testing.

After many weeks of transforming course content from Word documents of in-class handouts to various file formats for the Moodle LMS, it’s so refreshing to walk slowly through the narrative of the course and absorb what it means – to “get into it” – and evaluate it from a learner’s point of view. I love this part…

For the Novel Unit of the online course “CCA English 12″, I’ve chosen to read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. While I read it, I must keep a Reading Log of my observations of the characters and plot of the book.

Continue reading #cca0991 Novel Unit – Reading Log for “On the Road”

fingerpainting: ghosted cold, memory

finger painting: scrubbing colour into a sick man

#StoryMOOC : My Creative Task for Chapter 4

I’m enjoying the MOOC “The Future of Storytelling” (#StoryMOOC).

This little video is my response to the Creative Task for Chapter 4 (“Inspirational Week”)

The proposition for the task was this:

Take a camera, be it you mobile phone, a webcam… Introduce yourself to the other StoryMOOCers, telling us who you are where you are . . . → Read More: #StoryMOOC : My Creative Task for Chapter 4

Wondering at The Eastside Culture Crawl 2013

The Eastside Culture Crawl is East Vancouver’s own open studio tour. I don’t go every year, but have gone for many years. It feels good to wander through studio space, smelling paint, sawdust, and sometimes coffee, tea, and cookies.

Wandering through a painting studio always gives me a sense of wonder, like I’m exploring a . . . → Read More: Wondering at The Eastside Culture Crawl 2013

The Future of StoryTelling #StoryMOOC

I’m enrolled in the MOOC “The Future of StoryTelling” (#StoryMOOC, iVersity.com).

This Massive Open Online Course provides a foundation in the principles of the formats and methods of fictional storytelling.

The reasons this online course attracted me are:

The topic interests me: I’m beginning to write again, and I want to learn more… The method . . . → Read More: The Future of StoryTelling #StoryMOOC

Have mobile web devices un-widowed the “Computer Widow”? #edcmooc

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a term called “The Computer Widow”. This referred to the wives who hardly ever saw their computer-obsessed husbands, except from the back.

It’s a morbid metaphor, but served a purpose: obsession with computer-based work or distractions took time away from relationships, leaving wives feeling bitter, . . . → Read More: Have mobile web devices un-widowed the “Computer Widow”? #edcmooc

Reporting Life: Creating blog musings, scribbles and other artifacts…

This is like an inventory of things I do to express myself. I don’t know why I nee to do a catalogue, but it feels right – like emptying a closet before you reorganize it.

Writing I post musingsand observations to my blog. Theseoften are like a journal of reflections, or

some passing whim or . . . → Read More: Reporting Life: Creating blog musings, scribbles and other artifacts…