Conversations as Collage

My work for the beyond fiction project has quickly started bleeding into my dissertation ideas, which has been inspired by my constellation lectures; Understanding Humour in the Context of Art and Design. There’s some humour arising from the collaging of low brow and high brow.  Recently i’ve been looking at some TV/internet creations that mix Highbrow background writing with a light topping of mundane or crass everyday occurrences and language and humour. Specifically, Louie on FX, the loosely realistic, surreal drama-comedy written by comedian Louis CK. The first episode of the first series introduces an intimate setting where a group of friends playing poker use childishly coarse language, light-heartedly gay-bashing their friend who is present at the table. The light-hearted and childish feel of the shows opening means that you are caught off guard when the man who is the butt of their jokes, explains to his friends the history and meaning of the word ‘Faggot’. He also explains to them the emotional baggage that comes with that word, when it is heard by a gay person. The scene ends with a light-hearted joke after an awkward pause, but the subject matter is handled respectively by the show. This is an example of a light serving of lowbrow on a very well written, emotionally charged sketch.

Another use of this kind of collaging of ingredients, but done exactly the opposite way round, is a comical sketch posted on Youtube called ‘YouTube Comment Reconstruction #1 on What makes you beautiful – One Direction’

It’s a fantastically funny sketch written, unknowingly by a pair of Youtube commenters, arguing over who truly loves their favourite band the most. Predictably, as with most of these anonymous bloggers which we can only assume are children; it descends into a slanging match.  The argument has been lifted from a Youtube video comments page and handed to a pair of aged, professionally trained actors who play it out as if it were a high-tention drama set in a country estate. The acting and production is of a very high standard. The intellectual vacuum of youtube-trolling mixes with the highbrow production to create a brilliant piece of comedy.

Bearing only some of these things in mind (I hadn’t seen the Comments Reconstruction when i started work on this project), I set out with my notebook to acquire overheard dialogue on the streets, in the pubs and on public transport with the intention of using them in collage. These overheard conversations were then cut and pasted (almost directly as heard) to images that I thought would be appropriate for the intentions that i have been exploring in the work above.

Here are my first drafts for the final directions of this project


The above collage is a mixture of a conversation I annotated listening in on some Bristolian schoolgirls conversing on a train headed towards Cardiff. The effect of placing the conversation in the context of a dramatic ship ride, struggling through dangerous waves is one that belittles modern light hearted chit-chat. It also enhances the cultural ignorance apparent within this conversation; the dramatic painting evokes an adventurous expedition, whereas the conversation conveys modern lazy thinking.


The above combination of text and image seems to exaggerate how liberal we are in conversation now compared to when this painting would have been created.


From a recent tutorial with my tutor Anna Bhushan, I was reminded of the dangers of using a painting containing obvious religious content is that it risks being seen as commentary on religion rather than on culture.  What I originally thought was apparent in this collage was the change in a sense of purpose between the text and image. The group gathered at this table were supposed to be instigating a moral change for the better in their culture, but the text I’ve added displays a more modern norm of prioritising personal leisure.


The above conversation looked strange in writing because of the unnecessary repetition. It seems to have the effect of showing that the speaker thinks there is something interesting about their story, which isn’t quite apparent in the words given.  Again here I’ve been reminded that maybe religious paintings aren’t the best to use if i want to convey a commentary that isn’t essentially about religion or religious characters.


Coffee shop: a very modern convenience. Maybe coffee would have been too strong a stimulant for the people in this image.


The above snippet of dialogue I collected from a group of nerdy looking students. But putting it in this context makes the angelic painting of playing children realistic, without being cynical. These sentences read like  authentic soundbites of children. This one I think has a a light charm to it that is quite specific handling children’s dialogue well.


Difference of opinion or maybe an old exhausted discussion being brought up again. Violence in our society is treated with disgust as it has negative side-effecte and isn’t conducive to problem-solving. But violence as an outburst of emotion, in reaction to differences of opinion can merely show how loaded words and theories can be, and how emotionally charged the people who raise them can be also. This dramatic painting of an assassination is transformed into eye-rolling drunken idiot behaviour.


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