For a lot of artists writing is a central practice to generate and process ideas or to create text-based work itself. Yet it is less discussed, taught, and highlighted as an artistic practice as such. Also, writing is often limited to being an intellectual practice. This course is about unlearning what writing is and exploring its multilingual, material and embodied dimensions as well as transgressing the visual and performative boundaries that shape our understanding of text, type, books etc. The course offers to explore techniques of ‘writing beyond writing’ as well as perspectives on their political potential, and into the Berlin scene of artist writing.
Is it necessary to speak and understand a language in order to write in that language? Regarding an increasing number of machine-assisted translation, this question may be a marginal one in the near future. However, the lack of understanding and translatability plays a crucial and productive role in artistic practices, e. g. translation, transposition and transformation of one language into another, or of image into text, text into movement, movement into sound etc.
In order to access the space in-between (spoken, written, visual, acoustic) languages, we first need to leave behind the dogma of “mastering” a language in order to use it. Through a number of methods, games, (easy) body and performance exercises and experimental writing prompts we will access a cognitive space untethered from inhibition and pretension. We approach the conscious and unconscious parts of both, reading and writing on an individual and collaborative level in our multilingual group.
Parallel to that, we will look into the long history of imposing and re-appropriating certain languages as a means of power, and of linguistic resistance. We discover writing as a creative and political cultural technique and the poetics that lie in so-called untranslatables. Our research process will take us to a historical collection concerned with writing and comprise the discussion of works from the field of artists books, of artistic approaches to natural language processing, and of works that critically investigate the political instrumentalization of language.
The second part of the course is a one-and-half-day “writing ashram”. Participants will elaborate ideas from the course and experience a guided day dedicated to writing. The instructors will be available for one-on-one consultation in order to reflect together on questions regarding the participants’ artistic writing practice and their course projects.
Before the grand finale, we will take half a day to explore specialized bookshops, galleries and other places of writing in Berlin together. We will also meet some special guests and attend a reading event in order to reflect upon the manifold ways of presenting works of artist writing in performative, visual, acoustic ways, to name but a few.
The course will close with an internal presentation of the participants’ works and a reflection on what we have (un)learned about writing.
Annika Haas is a researcher based in Berlin, where she also serves on the faculty of the Department of Design at the University of the Arts Berlin. She has a background in media theory (B. A.) and media art (MFA). She completed a PhD about Hélène Cixous’s philosophy and writing through the body. Annika is also a writer of art criticism, e.g., for Texte zur Kunst, and a co-editor of interdisciplinary publications such as “How to Relate: Knowledge, Arts, Practices” (2021). In her essays and teaching she connects postmodern philosophy and cultural and media studies with practical approaches to writing within and beyond the implicit boundaries of academic writing. Her innovative teaching (e. g. via letters) has been covered in the German national radio broadcast, and involves cooperations, such as with the Klosterruine gallery Berlin, and combines theoretical, embodied and writing practices.
Anna M. Szaflarski is a Polish-Canadian visual artist, performer, publisher and writer based in Berlin. Her work intertwines autobiographical and historical narratives, exploring such topics as the social anxieties of sharing space, the feminist politics of bodily boundaries, domestic violence, and the dynamics of hierarchical power structures. In 2019 and 2016 respectively she published the artist books and collection of essays, “Very Normal People” and “Letters to the Editors”, both co-published by AKV Berlin and Bom Dia Boa Tarde Boa Noite Verlag. She has led several experimental writing workshops including at the Museo de Arte Zapopan in Mexico and at Elgarafi Bom Dia in Berlin and was the creator of the Letters to the Editors Podcast. Her recent projects have included exhibitions at the Klosterruine, Berlin; Kunstverein Göttingen; Reutligen Kunstverein, Vernacular Institute (Mexico City), and Ashley Berlin.