Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Woman's World

You might think nothing could be more boring than a video of the pages of a novel, and you'd be right, except in the case of Woman's World, by collage artist Graham Rawle, a book written by cutting out words, images, and sentence fragments from vintage women's magazines and pasting them on paper. The result is not only wonderful to look at, it's also an astonishingly good novel with a peculiarly appealing style that could only come as a result of being being written in this way.

The making of the Book

Woman's World, has been collaged from individual frgaments of text (around 40,000 in all) found in women's magazines published in the early 1960s. It has taken five years to produce.

In my previous book, Diary of an Amateur Photographer, I used scraps of found text from photography manuals and cheap pulp thrillers to tell parts of the story. I began to wonder if it would be possible to create a whole novel using nothing but words cut out of magazines...

I started writing this book in the usual way. When I had completed a rough draft, I then searched through hundreds of women's magazines, cutting out anything that seemed relevant to the scenes I'd written — sentences and phrases that, when joined together, could be rearranged to approximate what I wanted to say. These cuttings were then filed and from them I began to reassemble to story. Little by little, my original words were discarded and replaced by those I'd found. Once the transition was complete, I could start pasting up the pages as artwork.

The method was primitive: scissors and glue. Apart from a little tweaking here and there to enlarge very small type to a readable size, everything was done by hand. The artwork alone took two years.

Working from the library of collected materials meant surrendering my writing to the element of chance and forced me to be inventive with the words that were available. The language of women's magazines from that time is distinctive and although I have taken their words out of context to tell an entirely new story, the voice of the original 1960s woman's world remains.

Graham Rawle
London, 2005.