Aleatory Experiment #3 – Parsemage with Words


For Aleatory Experiment #3, I tried a combination of the cut-up technique and parsemage. The cut-up technique is, just as it sounds, a process where you take a text and cut it up into words, phrases, or even individual letters and then rearrange them to form a new text/poem/work. Since I’ve been wanting to use random chance (aleatory) to inspire new combinations of words, phrases, and topics for poetry and art, I’ve started with the cut-up technique and then employed various means to do the rearranging for me.  You can see the results of randomly drawing words from a hat and spraying a text with ink. For this one, I used parsemage, which is skimming the material (often charcoal or colored dust) from the surface of a liquid.


I used two texts this time – an article about farm sanctuaries and the text of “On the Reception of Guests” from the writings of Saint Benedict. I cut them up into phrases this time, rather than individual words. I submerged them in water and skimmed or picked them up using cardboard, paper, or a metal strainer.


I did five “pulls” – four on paper or cardboard and one with the strainer. I let them dry a bit and then transcribed the phrases I could read as they lay. I tried to be consistent about reading left to right and up to down, but sometimes it was tough not to cheat a little and joint together the most sensical ones! As the first image in the post shows, sometimes the arrangement of the phrases itself was beautiful and poignant. Another example of how the words lay on the cardboard (from pull II) is below along with the text of pull III. If you want to see the transcribed phrases from the other four pulls click on the read more or on the post. Leaving the cut-ups as longer phrases definitely had some interesting results!

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