Rapid Ideation Session Day 1: Cutting up headlines

There are two components of this theme, one is a surreal image from a randomly selected card and the other is a headline of my choice. As it happens, I have got onto selecting brainstorming the headline first. This is just because I started thinking of ideas for this component first. As you will read on, you will see that I made several deviations from the original brief but these were done so that I could expand the ideation process further.

Cut-up technique

I decided that in order to make this part more interesting and open up doors for even more ideas, I would use a technique for idea generation called the Cut-up technique. The Cut-up technique originates at least as far back as the radical avant-garde Dadaism movement of the late 1910s-1920s that originated in Switzerland, but may be even older (Trachtman, P., 2006).

The Cut-up technique (or découpé as its known in French), involves taking written words that already exist, cutting them up and rearranging them in a different form. The Dadaists did this to create abstract poems and as a backlash against the institutions and societal norms of the time; many of which were coming into question in the wake of World War I.

David Bowie used the cut-up technique to create lyrics for his songs throughout his career. I was inspired to try this technique after watching an interview with him, where he discusses how he uses the technique. Bowie spoke about how he extracted ideas from the cut up words, as well as how it it ignited his imagination and allowed a stream of consciousness to open up, which allowed new ideas and concepts to generate (BBC News. 2016).

When searching for headlines, I decided that one set of headlines would probably produce enough words to play around with, so I decided to pick a few headlines instead. I looked across several news websites, which included mainstream newspapers, alternative media and also local news sites, for headlines and in each site I came across, I picked several headlines that grabbed me.

Once I decided I had enough headlines to work with, I pasted all of the words into a word document and printed them off on one sheet of paper.

Just loads of words

The next stage was to cut up all of these words and start arranging them into different combinations. While studying David Bowie’s approach to cutting up, I notice that he does not cut up each and every tiny word, but he instead cuts them into combinations of words and phrases. I decided to apply this same approach, because I felt that if I was to just cut them down to individual words, a lot of the meaning and essence of the words would be lost and would take away from the exercise.

While I was combining and documenting the sentences that I came up with using my words and phrases, I decided to make them into an stop motion animation in order to reflect how each combination of words relates to each other.

While this video does move very fast, some of the combinations of words are quite harrowing. A lot of these combinations seem to evoke deep and serious themes such as death, survival, natural disaster, space exploration, the environment, uprisings, challenging authority, endurance and overcoming obstacles. These perhaps say a lot about my subconscience.

While I was somewhat constrained by the selection of words and phrases that I had at my disposal, the types headlines I gravitated towards and selected in the first part of this exercise definitely reflect my current mindset, preoccupations and subconscience.

I came up with just under 200 surreal sentences during this task. Several sentences in this which really stood out for me include:

  • Deaths mouth again in Mars mission
  • Almost two million people washed away from 1941 shipwreck
  • Almost two million people sweating out seven minutes in the Texas weather
  • Look after yourself
  • Mars mission salvaged as winter storm challenge
  • Police without power cannon
  • Poignant letters from my darling
  • Texas washed away from Mars. Millions face thick ash clouds
  • Why I’ll be in danger in town in 30 years
  • Deaths mount in town in 30 years
  • Protestors out for failing to challenge presidential figures in capital
  • Why I’ll be salvaged from 1941 shipwreck
  • Woke up again in Sussex
  • Almost two million people have not worked again in Mars mission
  • Town washed away without power
  • Why I’ll be washed away
  • Presidential figures leave Mars mission for failing to challenge
  • Mars mission leaves in 30 years

I will likely take these sentences forward and work into them to see what ideas I can come up with from them.

If I was to do this task again, I would perhaps not source all my words from news headlines but would perhaps derive from a more diverse range of literature to open up even more remote areas of my imagination.

For the next stage, I will brainstorm around the Libra demon image (I will just call it that from now on, it’s easier) and I will begin generating ideas and concepts around it. Once I have done this, I will analyse the results of brainstorming for both components of the theme to see if there is any fusion between the two.


BBC News. 2016. How Bowie used ‘cut ups’ to create lyrics. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts-35281247> [Accessed 18 February 2021].

Trachtman, P., 2006. A Brief History of Dada. [online] Available at: <https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/dada-115169154/> [Accessed 18 February 2021].

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