How to Talk About Revision (Graduate Project Statement)

Think of revision as re-envisioning your work. To re-envision is to re-see, re-think, reconsider your writing.

You’ve done a first draft, received feedback from classmates and me, and have taken it further in a second draft. You may find that you began writing in a direction that is not useful to you overall. The important thing at this point is to take a hard eye toward what you have done, mark out what is useful for your purpose (make sure you are able to clearly articulate what that is!), discard what is not useful and identify what you need to fill in the holes.

From here, we will be looking at three levels of revision:

Global Revision. This asks you to reconsider the ideas in your paper. Step back and look at the main ideas. Are they strong and focused? Is your intention clear? Are you communicating what you want to with your reader? A reverse outline or intention outline can help you do this.

Organizational Revision. This level asks you to reconsider the basic structure and organization in your writing. Here, it will be important to consider the structure of your introduction, paragraphs, transitions and your conclusion

Sentence-level Revision. This level is the polishing phase. Read your essay out loud to yourself (and classmates) to catch the flow, rhythm and grammar problems that may have slipped through. Read it and re-read it. Tinker with words until you like the way it sounds.

In class on February 17, we will continue to work on reverse outlines. Homework for February 23 is to write two different introductions.

Artists We Read (for Week 7

“I make seemingly old films in order to enter the lost world of the past from the inside, not to stand outside of it and see it as history. The technology of a film determines a large part of what the audience sees. A Hollywood costume drama holds the subject of the film at the conventional distance of representation. I want my audience to experience this world as if from inside — but at the same time — with a sense of the distance they have travelled to get there.” — Eleanor Antin

(writer/director/producer/Gypsy ballerina). In her book Beyond Modernism Kim Levin writes: “Impersonating the past, Antin personalizes the issues and dilemmas of the present. Her work is, probably more than we yet realize, a portrait of our time.” An artist/filmmaker working for many years in installation, performance and video, Eleanor Antin has built an impressive international reputation based in part on her historical impersonations. Her portrayals have included Eleanor Nightingale (a Crimean War nurse), the Black King (the leader of a Ship of Fools in a medieval passion play), Eleanora Antinova (a black ballerina of the Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe who hopes one day to dance in the classical “white” ballets), and now Yevgeny Antinov (the 1920s Soviet film director now exiled for the pro-Trotsky elements in his film THE LAST NIGHT OF RASPUTIN). The famous and imaginary Yevgeny Antinov is currently working on raising funds and writing the screenplay for a gangster film based on the classic Yiddish play, Sholem Asch’s “Mottka, The Thief.” In a recent interview, Yevgeny promises he will use all the latest technology including sound. Eleanor Antin will once again assist him in his latest work of art. Eleanor Antin is also working on another film, scripted by the real Kathy Acker.

In 1999 on a Dutch beach, Aleksandra Mir constructed a lunar landscape out of sand, erected an American flag on the highest peak, and declared herself ‘The First Woman on the Moon.’ The year before, in Norway, Mir teamed up with a local unemployment agency and showed a series of Hollywood disaster films, running them only during work hours, for the city’s unemployed. In Denmark in 1996, she set up twenty six speakers in a town square and broadcast the sound of men whistling as women walked by. Earlier this year, she proposed the building of an exact-scale replica of Stonehenge, only a few miles from the original site. Unlike the first, ‘Stonehenge II’ offers full access to visitors-down to a ‘Stonehenge’ soccer team that uses the rocks as goalposts.
Mir operates in the school of anthropology. She researches like a social scientist and travels the planet doing fieldwork for a single production. Probably her most famous series of works, ‘Hello,’ has thus far been made seven times, and each of them could be considered ongoing. ‘Hello’ is a photographic daisy chain that links people of all walks of life and times and circumstances together, shot-by-shot. In one photo we get Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner. In the next, John Warner and George W. Bush. Then George W. Bush—Bush Senior, Bush Senior—Björn Borg, until eventually a snowman is linked to the Duke of Windsor to Ursula Andress to an anonymous child vacationing in Switzerland to possibly you yourself. In another work, Mir has made it her role to give names to all the streets in Tokyo, collecting lists from friends and colleagues, and applying them to a Tokyo map. The project will only be considered complete when actual street signs of her Western appellations are put up and you and I are on vacation looking for the Mori Art Museum on a boulevard called ‘Sweet Black Angel.’ There is an old adage that says culture works best when we don’t know it’s working at all. If that is so, Mir drills holes in the world around us and exposes the conventions, hidden rules, and social politics behind everything from Stonehenge to the Concorde to Neil Armstrong’s walk across the Moon. (Christopher Bollen)

Danh Vo investigates the invisible boundaries between the public and the private, and the possibility of their porousness. He undermines the institutional (he curated an exhibition of works by well-known artists in his parents’ house in Copenhagen) as well as the personal (he has married and then divorced several people, augmenting his name with theirs but not sharing a private romantic life). He has collaborated on a project with Tobias Rehberger without declaring his co-authorship, and stolen an idea from his artist boyfriend for his own funding application. Vo adopts appropriation more rigorously than is often the case, to discover how much a person can actually appropriate. Another person’s idea? An art work? An identity? There is a constant back and forth that questions authorial status, ownership and the role of personal relationships that prevents the ‘appropriator’ from keeping the upper hand. (Frieze #109)

Matt Mullican’s art takes form as drawing, sculpture, video, painting, electronic media, and installation, but his contribution to the 2008 Whitney Biennial might be best approached under the loose rubric of performance art. Since the late 1970s he has used hypnosis in his work, and the process both informs and helps elucidate his practice, which explores the different ways we experience the subjective through media. In Mullican’s performances, which have recently taken place in settings arranged to resemble a studio and a home, his trance state can last several hours and encompass a range of behavior from the banal to the startling. Treating his psyche as a found object, he might pour himself coffee, pace the floor, grunt, sing, chant phrases (from curses to declarations about how he’s feeling), and—most tellingly—draw or paint in black acrylic ink on supports including large pieces of paper, bedsheets, and the wall itself. (Whitney 2008 Biennial)

The form that most interests Seth Price is ephemeral: the moving image and its migration from film to videotape to that mecca of dispersion, cyberspace. Along the way, he topples aesthetic hierarchies. Digital Video Effects: “Editions.” has been transferred to 16mm for Untitled Film: Left. at Spaulings, converting an unlimited edition into an “original” source. The ocean, which appears briefly at EAI and Spaulings, rolls for 15 minutes in another 16mm work, Untitled Film: Right., at Petzel. Not a drop of saltwater was involved—the dark sea is constructed completely from code. It’s a five-second, computer-generated clip, which Price purchased online and repeated 150 times for the film. Real or not, the ominous ocean, which shifts colors like a chameleon, is totally captivating—a black-light Caspar David Friedrich, with the viewer standing in for the lone figure. (Time Out New York)

Mark Manders: Traducing Ruddle

Co-published by Fillip Editions and Roma Publications, Amsterdam, Traducing Ruddle is the fifth in a series of “fake” newspapers by Dutch artist Mark Manders. Using a nonsensical combination of English words, Traducing Ruddle creates a pretense of legibility that dissolves upon closer inspection. The newspaper is supplemented by Two Connected Houses, a 48 page insert developed in conjunction with the exhibition Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum.

Manders’ newspaper will be distributed for free through a half dozen newspaper boxes in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside during the months of February and March. Outside of Vancouver, Traducing Ruddle is available for purchase directly from Fillip, as well as from Roma Publications, Amsterdam, and Motto Distribution, Berlin. Subscribers to Fillip magazine will receive Manders’ publication free of charge.

Sheets from Manders’ Traducing Ruddle form the central element of the artist’s Window with Fake Newspapers project, a site-specific public work on view through March 28th. Commissioned by Fillip in collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Window with Fake Newspapers occupies the façade of 20 East Hastings Street, Vancouver—the former location of The Only Sea Foods, which operated as a restaurant since 1916 until it was closed this past summer due to health and drug infractions. In stark contrast to the generally turgid public art that dominates Vancouver’s current Olympic landscape, Window with Fake Newspapers utilizes a subtle fictive language to recast The Only Sea Foods as a site of both opacity and exchange. The work is part of Manders’ ongoing Self Portrait as a Building, a project the artist began in 1986.

Manders’ publication and installation provides an entry point for an in depth investigation into the complex relationship between art and public space explored in a special issue of Fillip magazine, forthcoming this summer. Set against the context of the 2010 Olympics, Fillip #12 will investigate the multiple relationships between contemporary art and its publics—extending beyond discussions of a narrowly defined space of public art toward what critic Sven Lütticken calls art’s essential role in producing “critical forms of publicness.” (from Fillip site)

Questions from Paul Ramirez-Jonas

I was very excited by my 36 hours in Portland. Could you do me a favor. Could you forward this email to everyone, expressing my thanks, and also to communicate these questions I wrote on the plane. They come from our discussion last night. I also included a PDF of the text by Michael Warner.


1.      How many viewers are enough?
2.      Is one viewer enough?
3.      Are ten viewers enough?
4.      Are a hundred viewers enough?
5.      Are a thousand viewers enough?
6.      Are a hundred thousand viewers enough?
7.      Are a million viewers too many?
8.      Can art change the world?
9.      Can art change one viewer?
10.     What is success?
11.     Am I an author?
12.     Am I a reader?
13.     If I am a reader, don’t i have more in common with the public than with the artists?
14.     If I am only a reader of pre-existing texts, who are the authors?
15.     Can there be an author-public?
16.     Conversely, can there be a public-author?
17.     Can a work make itself?
18.     Can a text write itself?
19.     Who gets to inscribe public space permanently?
20.     Whose voice is it in a monument?
21.     Whose words?
22.     How long does an artwork have to last to be permanent?
23.     How long can an artwork last and still be ephemeral?
24.     Is there a temporal dimension to the world wide web?
25.     Is there a temporal dimension to ideas?
26.     Where do ideas go when they die?
Where do actions go when they are over?
27.     Who am I?
28.     Am I you?
29.     How much of me is in you?
30.     How different am I from you?
31.     If we are 99% alike, is my artwork your artwork?
32.     Whose words?
33.     Whose voice?
34.     Can we make things with words?
35.     Can apathy be emancipatory?
36.     Can participation be meaningless?
37.     Can there be passive engagement?
38.     Why didn’t Gandhi change the whole world?
39.     Can I believe in democracy if I don’t believe in equality?
40.     How can we reconcile equality with individuality? Aren’t they in opposition?
41.     Can I make publics?
42.     Is making publics enough?
43.     Are these desperate times?
44.     If reading is more creative than writing, what is voice?
45.     Is reading out loud enough engagement?
46.     Where is the line between interaction and emancipation?
47.     How can making art be part of democracy?
48.     Can democracy exist only in discussion but not in action?
49.     Where the post-modernists wrong?
50.     Is it better to have faith even while we know we are doomed?
51.     How can one advocate for faith when one has none?
52.     In other words, what is the difference between hope and faith?
53.     What is the difference between publishing and broadcasting?
54.     Are pedestals methods of publishing or of broadcasting?
55.     How about frames?
56.     How about screens?
57.     This or that?
58.     This and that?
59.     If the state speaks through stone and bronze, what is our material?
60.     How can I become we?
61.     What is a public?
62.     What is its shape?
63.     Can our stories ever enter history?
64.     If our stories enter history, en masse, is that the end of history?
65.     Why can’t I accept death?
66.     Why will my work outlive me?
67.     What do I do with that resentment?
68.     Are we a life form? Or is our culture the life form, while we are mere organs that sustain it?
69.     Can organs be authors?
70.     Are we autonomous?
71.     Are we individuals?
72.     Are we a community?
73.     Is a community alive or dead?
74.     How about sourdough?
75.     what is a public?
76.     Why are humans such horrible creatures?
77.     Can you be a democrat and a misanthrope as well?
78.     Why be funny?
79.     How can I stop being funny?
80.     Is it true that God makes one out of every 10 jews funny?
81.     Is that to make it more bearable for the other 9?
82.     Am I sincere?
83.     Can I grow?
84.     Can I erase myself?
85.     Can the artwork make itself?
86.     How long is forever?
87.     What materials are eveready for new impressions?
88.     Can words be mirrors?
89.     Can we really make things with words?
90.     Can we make mirrors?
91.     Is making coercive?
92.     Always?
93.     Without modernism, what is rigor in the arts?
94.     What is public?
95.     What is to make public?
96.     Why is it that we never speak of democracy in relation to making art?
97.     Do we believe that all viewers equal in front of the work?
98.     Do all viewers have the same rights in relation to the work?
99.     Are we equal in front of an artwork?
100.    Are we brothers in front of an artwork?
101.    Are we free in front of an artwork?
102.    Do we have rights in front of an artwork?
103.    What are these rights? Are they inalienable?
104.    Can we breathe together in front of an artwork?
105.    Can we only be bound through culture, texts, objects, i.e. by what we make?

One thing is for sure… a text may have no author, but it cannot read itself.

Week 6 (gasp!)

Essay Assignment for First-Years

Write a 1-2 page essay on a subject of your choice that develops a single theme or idea. Analyzing a particular work of an artist (yourself or another), writer, filmmaker, etc. may be a good lens through which to work. Alternatively, you may choose to write about a recent event, a personal experience, a memory… Though it is not a requirement, it may be useful to think about your choice in terms of your program work and current research.

In choosing what you will write about and how to structure your piece, consider the difference, in formal art analysis, between subject and content. The subject of a Dutch vanitas painting may be a still life with flowers or a bowl of fruit. The content, however, would be the brevity of life, the futility of all earthly striving, etc. In two of the essays we are reading, Paul Chan and Thomas Hirschhorn ostensibly write about the philosophy of Jacques Rancière. But their point is not so much to explicate Rancière’s thought; rather they examine their own relationships to Rancière’s work to express personal statements about art (focusing on one or two ideas).

To help you decide on an approach, think about the essays we have read in class (including the readings at the beginning of the term):

  • What were the main points?
  • Can you identify subject and content as separate elements?
  • What kinds of examples, anecdotes, images or metaphors were used to illustrate and/or tie things together?
  • What was the point of entry and how did the writer take you through? Can you trace the pattern of movement of ideas, images, etc. from the beginning to the end?
  • What kind of language was used (active, passive, first-person, etc.)?
  • Was the work engaging? Why or why not?

Feel free to experiment with forms of organization, style and voice—but remember that you want to write something that is clear and compelling.

When you have chosen a subject, spend some time focusing your ideas. A good way to start is through a free-write. Begin with what you already know about your subject and go from there. Do necessary research and expand. Then take a look at your first draft with an eye toward structure. Don’t try to say too much. Clearly state the point you are trying to make, and organize your writing around that.

Develop examples, metaphors, observations and feelings. Use this as an occasion for personal reflection. What is interesting about your subject? Why do you care? Why should your reader care?

Divide your paper into paragraphs. Though you may want to do something that messes with a classic essay form, your piece should not be a random free-flow of ideas. It needs to grab the interest of the reader and present ideas in a clear, concise, and cogent manner.

Review your work at the sentence level. Use good sentence structure. Do not pack your sentences full of ideas; keep them focused. Fragments can work in a conversational tone, but be aware of and ready to justify the stylistic choices that you make. Varied sentence length and structure keeps readers engaged.

Choose language that expresses your meaning. Simplicity brings clarity (read the George Orwell post below). Use language that fits your subject.

Read your draft out loud several times to consider the rhythm and sound of words. Listen to yourself as you read to see if you are making sense, if your sequence and transitions are working.

Take your draft through at least two revisions. Bring 2 copies + one question for your readers to class on 2/10.

Week Five

On February 3, we will meet as usual for the 3-5 pm class. Readings for first-years are on the course homepage, with the exception of “Her Kindling Voice: The Artist Interview According to Louise Lawler,” by Rhea Anastas in TEXTE ZUR KUNST. The accompanying assignment is to draft the first version of the interview for the (so-called) Monograph Project (maybe now more like the “Polygraph Project”?).

THERE WILL BE NO 6-8PM CLASS MEETING ON FEBRUARY 3 due to the preview reception at Elizabeth Leach Gallery for Re-Present: Pat Boas, Adam Chapman, Isaac Layman, Joe Park and Xiaoze Xie.

Second-year students turn in your Project Statement outlines to my mailbox by Monday, February 1 (if you haven’t already given them to me). Your assignment for February 10 is to complete a full rough draft of your statement (see the handout from last class, available on the course homepage) and to read Seth Price’s “Dispersion” (pdf in the readings folder on course home page, also available widely on the web).