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Collage Machine: A Playful Resource for Writing and Healing

Posted on Dec 6, 2006 by


The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has (I just discovered) a rich and informative website, which includes, among other things, an interactive zone—for children actually—but maybe not just for children. One of the activities available is something called a Collage Machine. It offers 105 small graphics that you can combine in different ways—overlapping or not—repeating or not—rotating or not—making some of the graphics more transparent or not—in order to create a collage. It’s kind of fun to play with. (And it even includes a link with instructions of how to take a screen shot of what you’ve created in order to save it.) The site looks like this:


Playing at the site got me thinking more about collages and mosaics and written collages. And it occurs to me that one of the nice things about this little Collage Machine is that there’s a limit to what graphics you can use—105. Not infinite. Just 105. And within this limit of 105 the play happens when you combine and recombine the graphics in different ways. Different juxtapositions. Different patterns. (And because it’s just this fun little site, you don’t have to have any expectations of what you’ll make from it. It really can be play—no expectations—just fooling around.)

When it comes to considering resources for a written collage the potential resources are infinite. The entire web for instance is a potential resource. Libraries. Bookstores. Newspapers. Overheard conversation. And perhaps it would be helpful and meaningful in writing a collage or mosaic if, at the outset, one were to limit oneself to one particular resource. Say a resource with 105 or so parts. Maybe a bit more—or a bit less. Maybe doing this as an experiment.

You could choose one resource. One book of poetry. One small novel. One anthology of stories. Or you could choose one of your own journals. Perhaps an old one—or a newer one. And you could look through any one of these resources for particular passages. You could look for passages that surprise you. Passages that resonate with you. That please you. And you could circle these passages—or highlight them. You could copy them. And somehow separate them into individual pieces. And then you could place the pieces together into new juxtapositions and patterns. You could play with them a little. Maybe with no expectations. Maybe just fooling around a bit.

And it would be like having your very own collage maker. Wouldn’t it?