Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The day of wreckening.

I would say I'm sorry for the terrible pun up there in the post title, only I'm not. Bad puns make the world a better place. So, too, do bad art projects.

I say 'bad' not because there is some inherent morality attached to the Wreck This Journal project I've been doing with my students, but because discussions of art are so often about good art versus bad art, about achievement versus failure. The 'good' or 'bad' of art is generally a question of quality or aesthetic value, and it finds its meaning in the finished work of the piece. Of course, in reality, the meaning is also ascribed to (or taken away from) the art mostly by its observers and critics. It has meaning and value to the artist who lovingly (or angrily or frustratedly or carelessly) laboured over it, but it gains its social and artistic value primarily from others.

For nearly two years, my students and I have been working on wrecking our own journals. It's not something we do every week or have a fixed timeframe for working on; we pull them out if the more typical school business of English and history are done, or if we need an injection of randomness in our day. Using Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal as a guide, we'll flip to a page and then follow its (sometimes bizarre or vaguely uncomfortable) instructions in our own tacky exercise books. Sometimes we come across a page we've already done, and we challenge each other to complete the same exercise again, but differently.

I think I've mentioned before that the kids were wary of the journal-wrecking approach when we first started. I heard a lot of "Am I really allowed to do this?" followed by, "But what if it looks lame?" These days, they are wrecking pros. They will smear glue all over a page without a second thought. They will substitute an "ugly" piece of paper when the "pretty" ones are all gone. They will scribble madly over something already completed. And each time we add another half-dozen pages to our books, we look at the fat, awkward, warped shape of the volume with satisfaction.

The coolest part of the Wreck This Journal project is that the emphasis falls more heavily on process than on results. There are very few realms of life in which this happens. Results are what we find important, and we tailor our processes in order to achieve optimal results. It doesn't work like that with Wreck This Journal -- the creative play is the end goal; perfection is off-limits -- and if the result is something that makes us wrinkle our nose, we shrug and move along. Working to achieve something is healthy and good. But sometimes it is just as healthy to play and make for the joy of playing and making, entirely divorcing the process from the results.

Which could be kind of a metaphor for childhood or something, if only I wasn't too hungry to really sit down and think it through.


  • Asea -- yes! That's the copy of Winter Book that you sent me! I figured that this cold season was the perfect time to pull it out again. I love revisiting books seasonally :)
  • Emily Dempster -- your life sounds so full and happy right now! I'm delighting with you in all the cool stuff that's going on!


  1. I love the Wreck this Journal books because they help me remember to engage in the process, not just try to get to the end goal. It's the same reason I eat many of my meals with chopsticks!

  2. You may just be on the verge of overshadowing the post itself with such an amazing title!!

  3. It's unfortunate that I seem to find your Ugly drawing attractive.

  4. Also. I love that you do this. I love it. And am very challenged by it. Again.

  5. Ooh ... I'm really inspired by these pictures. I like journaling / scrapbooking but it's sometimes hard to know where to start and how to continue when it's not perfect. Thank you for ideas! :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...