Experimental Narratives Week 1

Our Aim; Avoidance of Cliche

The cliché represents an insoluble problem for language and art in modernity. Technology, cities and forms of signification all entail a radical increase in the volume and density of discourse. This produces both a standardisation of discourse and a revulsion from this standardisation. A new type of tension develops between the standard and the rare or the original – a different tension from that between the copy and the original.

What we attempt to achieve in this module is the recognition and an effort to avoid visual cliche in the work that we produce.

What is cliche?

noun: phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought:
that old cliché ‘a woman’s place is in the home’
the usual worn-out clichés about the English


mid 19th century: French, past participle (used as a noun) of clicher ‘to stereotype’

There have been movements in the early 20th Century that make efforts to disrupt the visual and strain to avoid visual cliches.

Many of the experimental pieces that we have seen have been influenced by past movements in many fields such as painting, music, poetry. The cut up techniques of Burroughs were directly influenced by automatic drawing and writing experiments by the surrealists.

The surrealists both as image makers and writers may be informative to look at for your own experimental starting points.

The surrealist manifesto of 1924 by Breton sets out the groups interests:

From Le Manifeste du Surréalisme, 1924

The text includes numerous examples of the applications of Surrealism to poetry and literature, but makes it clear that its basic tenets can be applied to any circumstance of life; not merely restricted to the artistic realm. The importance of the dream as a reservoir of Surrealist inspiration is also highlighted.

Breton also discusses his initial encounter with the surreal in a famous description of a hypnagogic state that he experienced in which a strange phrase inexplicably appeared in his mind: “There is a man cut in two by the window.” This phrase echoes Breton’s apprehension of Surrealism as the juxtaposition of “two distant realities” united to create a new one.


We are still living under the reign of logic, but the logical processes of our time apply only to the solution of problems of secondary interest. The absolute rationalism which remains in fashion allows for the consideration of only those facts narrowly relevant to our experience. Logical conclusions, on the other hand, escape us. Needless to say, boundaries have been assigned even to ex- perience. It revolves in a cage from which release is becoming increasingly difficult. It too depends upon immediate utility and is guarded by common sense. In the guise of civilization, under the pretext of progress, we have suc- ceeded in dismissing from our minds anything that, rightly or wrongly, could be regarded as superstition or myth; and we have proscribed every way of seeking the truth which does not conform to convention. It would appear that it is by sheer chance that an aspect of intellectual life – and by far the most important in my opinion — about which no one was supposed to be concerned any longer has, recently, been brought back to light. Credit for this must go to Freud. On the evidence of his discoveries a current of opinion is at last developing which will enable the explorer of the human mind to extend his investigations, since he will be empowered to deal with more than merely summary realities. Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights. If the depths of our minds conceal strange forces capable of augmenting or conquering those on the surface, it is in our greatest interest to capture them; first to capture them and later to submit them, should the occasion arise, to the control of reason. The analysts themselves can only gain by this. But it is im- portant to note that there is no method fixed a priori for the execution of this enterprise, that until the new order it can be considered the province of poets as well as scholars, and that its success does not depend upon the more or less capricious routes which will be followed.

It was only fitting that Freud should appear with his critique on the dream. In fact, it is incredible that this important part of psychic activity has still attracted so little attention. (For, at least from man’s birth to his death, thought presents no solution of continuity; the sum of dreaming moments – even taking into consideration pure dream alone, that of sleep – is from the point of view of time no less than the sum of moments of reality, which we shall confine to waking moments.)

Bunuel’s Un Chein Andalou

William Kentridge

Kentridge’s Process

Jan Svankmajer

Little Otik Part 3


Kurt Schwitters Assembly, Collage Merz

Derek Jarman Blue

Waltz with Bashir

Techniques for undermining Convention and possible cliche

William Burroughs a writer in the 20th Century was acutely aware of the power of convention to lead one toward cliche. He referred himself to the techniques of painters and how they worked to try and disrupt their own visual cliches that they had become comfortable with.

The Cut up technique is one of those:

In late 1920, the Dadaist writer Tristan Tzara wrote “dada manifesto on feeble love and bitter love,” which included a section called “To Make a Dadaist Poem,” and it gave these instructions:

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility.

Decades later, the Beat writer William S. Burroughs took this basic concept and put his own twist on it. Between 1961 and 1964, Burroughs published The Nova Trilogy, a series of three experimental novels fashioned with his own cut-up method. Often considered his definitive work of cut-up writing, The Soft Machine, the first novel in the trilogy, stitched together pages from a series of manuscripts that Burroughs himself wrote between 1953 and 1958.

Jane & Louise Wilson are contemporary artists that work with moving image to explore places and spaces that have had a particular role in past events. They gave a lecture on their work at the Architectural Association, Bedford Square in London.

They visit things for the second time and construct multi screen installations that re explore these places and spaceS. They focus on atmosphere or the ghost of atmosphere remaining.

The avoidance of visual convention, visual cliche is a hard task.

I want you to write 200-300 words on your blog about the most memorable set of images or moving image that you have seen in the recent past. Why is it the most memorable? What makes it memorable and stand out from other images you have seen?


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