Take a newspaper. Take a pair of scissors. Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem. Cut out the article. Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag. Shake it gently. Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag. Copy conscientiously. The poem will resemble you.
Tristan Tzara, 1920
Artist Tim Fishlock continues to find inspiration in the ‘cut-up’ technique first expounded in Tristan Tzara’s instructions on how to make a Dadaist poem. Following on from his 2018 work The Future Leaks Out; an eye-popping, interactive artwork comprised of rows of text-covered wooden blocks that aimed to make poets of us all; The Poem Will Resemble You is a psychedelic, carnivalesque, hand cranked generator of five word slogans.
The new work will be installed at London’s Hang-Up Gallery in Hoxton and will also be available to view online via the newly launched Hang-Up website from 1 November 2020. The Poem Will Resemble You brings to mind the classic fairground wheel of fortune. 1069mm in diameter, it comprises six concentric rings that spin independently of each other. Five of the rings are divided into eight hand-painted segments containing a single word. A sixth, central ring is decorated with small circles to accentuate the Op art nature of the piece.
Pulling on the leather-bound lever positioned on the side of the artwork engages the internal mechanism and sets all six wheels in motion. Spinning at different speeds, the effect is discombobulating, as if one were on a dizzying ride at the funfair.
Each spin of the wheel results in the random generation of eight five-word slogans or phrases when read from the outer ring to the centre. There are 32,768 different permutations of these slogans.
It was only during the construction and engineering process for The Poem Will Resemble You that Fishlock came across the perpetual poems made by Tristan Tzara and Pablo Picasso in the 1920s. These volvelles comprised textual fragments on three superimposed paper disks with cut out ‘windows’. Two of the text disks rotate to create different combinations of words. The reader can create a seemingly endless number of poems through rotations of the wheels.
On the appeal of this disruptive approach to semantics Fishlock writes: “In an era when attention spans are short and brevity is king, I’ve been working at saying as much as possible with as few words as possible. Aware that this approach can become a potential creative cul-de-sac, I discovered for myself the lyrical power and shift in consciousness that can be achieved by subverting the normal word order and its semantic meaning.
It’s an impersonal method of inspiration and invention. As Burroughs put it, ‘You cannot will spontaneity but you can introduce the spontaneous factor with a pair of scissors.” Careful consideration was given to the selection of words, which, like much of the artist’s work, allude to a fairly misanthropic, dystopian worldview. This establishes a striking contrast between the subject matter and a material form that is synonymous with TV quiz shows and funfairs.
For Fishlock, words and the glyphs that form them are a constant source of joy. The message can often be dark and misanthropic, but the method of delivery is always dazzling and playful.
Tim Fishlock is a London based artist who has shown work in prestigious London institutions including The Design Museum and the Royal Academy, where two of his works were selected by Grayson Perry for the 250th RA Summer Show. Fishlock’s was received with acclaim after his hugely successful inaugural show Repeat After Me at Hang Up Gallery, August 2017. Fishlock makes work that shrewdly comments on the fragile state of society and our place within it.
Tim graduated from Goldsmiths College and began his career by making large-scale artworks for Thomas Heatherwick studio. In 2008 he focused solely on his artistic career, producing three volumes of his art publishing project 50by70, created on IOS app, made and installed a number of his WhatWatt? chandeliers, produced prints for the London Transport Museum and Paul Smith and created a children’s picture book with the former showrunner and executive producer of The Simpsons & Futurama, Josh Weinstein.