A poetic journey with John Cage: Saturday 4th June

At first this Saturday promised to have a low rate of participation, as the gallery was extremely quiet and most of Bexhill was settling itself on to the beach to enjoy this warm and sunny day. My quest today was to develop the first workshop I’d led on the theme of creative text and the use of elongated writing tools in order to write from standing onto the surface of the floor. The objective was for words to become liberated from conscious control by this disconcerting means of writing and consequently to use the inspiration of Cage’s approach to generate a new understanding and respect for the creative use of text.

I decided to frame areas within the larger surface of paper to connect with the way in which John Cage’s art was hung at varying heights and amounts of space between each work. By focusing the writing to work in a defined area, the author might be prompted to explore the contrast of space and the patterning of words, as well as a literary content. The stimulus was to either create a personal title for a favourite piece within the exhibition, or to be drawn to one of the existing titles and to randomly take the word or words which stood out to the individual. This was the starting point for exploring an uncontrolled direction for a detached and yet personal expression of the original stimulus.
Despite an initial reluctance amongst the adult public, there were numerous young people who were not unwilling to take part, and some very interesting poetic journeys began to unfold.
My first family: Jasper, Louis,Ben, (and sister Flora), were extremely responsive to the concept of exploring an inventive use of text, with eloquent sophistication. Jasper, the youngest of three brothers, felt very strongly that a favourite print should be entitled “Stripey Snake” and created a beautifully spacious text to portray his new title.
Louis used the word “fire” to create a colourful and non linear atmosphere of the sensations associated with it.
Ben chose “Urban landscape” and created a dynamic text influenced by a sense of congestion, and the upright linear qualities of the man made world.
As the gallery began to attract more public, it was interesting to witness family members negotiating a collaborative approach with a respectful sense of equality. I really encouraged adults to take part to promote an integration of responses to encourage the influence of a child’s inherent playfulness on the more considered response from an adult. Conversations on the theme of memory began to emerge from the words of the existing titles; “Stones” was very evocative for one gentleman who couldn’t elaborate further than smiling as he enjoyed the reconnection. “Global Village” reminded a woman of the ceramic design that a very old friend of hers used to create and as such established a trigger of association.
A second Ben and his inspiration from “Rocks and Smoke”
Molly collaborating alongside her father Thor
Even if people didn’t want to participate, it was interesting to have conversations which encouraged the observer to move backwards from the final artwork and examine the processes behind the content in order to gain more of an appreciation of the complexity involved in a seemingly simple image. One young woman admitted to being “blown away” by the way in which she felt that John Cage gave the viewer an opportunity to view space as a catalyst for playful and non judgmental creativity. Cordelia, a writer was keen to experiment with writing using the canes and enjoyed the surprise of words emerging on an unforeseen larger scale and differently to how she might have imagined.
Through exploring text, my activity encouraged a seemingly simple and direct connection to the nature of the random and the disordering nature of Cage’s own processes of work. It was interesting to witness the range of interest at the idea of creative writing, varying from extreme mistrust, to willing and amused participation, where partners and friends were kept waiting whilst a carefree path of creativity was mapped out.
Above and below are examples by Shannon and Peter, a lovely couple who were inspired by the way in which the works within the exhibition denote a sense of space and patterning, to really play with the potential for text to take on a choreographic presence.
“Seven Day Diary” inspired Shannon’s text to move in a variety of directions.
The last piece of the day created by sisters Diyanni and Nikilla drew the afternoon’s activities to a wonderful circular close. Thank you to all who helped to map the afternoon’s journey through the visual lines of John Cage.
“Circles” by Dyianni and Nikilla
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