An exercise in live-writing


I met with a group of textile students at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Sitting around a small table, I read from a selection of finished and unfinished online pieces. After the talk, we did a live-writing exercise. I dumped several bags of printed words on the floor and placed two sets of alphabet stamps on the table. There were two guidelines:

  • write yourself (playing with Clarice Lispector’s idea of writing yourself into existence).
  • write two versions, one in first person and the other in third (I was curious about what kind of shift would take place when moving from “I” to “she”.)

Just as expected the exercise did not go as expected. The results were actually much better as everyone found their own pathway despite the limits. Given the brevity of time, the writing was sloganistic and Fluxus-like. There was a beauty to the way they responded to the materiality of the text, whether it be printed or roughly stamped out.


And because almost all of the students were not writing in their native language, there was very playful approach. Non-native speakers have the ability to SEE words and not just READ them. One person juxtaposed the word AM with PM, transforming a state of being into a property of time.


At the end of the exercise, one person read all of the texts together. It was amazing to hear how the fragments came together through the unity of one voice. Thanks to everyone’s contribution, it was a fascinating learning experience in performing writing both individually and collectively.