Recipe for Conceptual Art

  1. Choose a few writers using the following criteria:
    1. They must be professional writers (journalists, essayists, fiction writers, scientists, etc.);
    2. They must use a word processor in their ordinary creative writing;
  2. Ask each writer to write a piece on their usual word processor, following those instructions:
    1. They should use a large-size computer screen (up to 32”). They can choose whether to orient the screen in portrait or landscape mode;
    2. They should write a short piece, of any genre (essay, short story, chronicle, review), provided that it fits on a single computer screen when using an easily readable type;
    3. The entire writing from blank page to finished piece must take place in less than 12 hours;
    4. After they finish, the piece will be unredeemably finished. Errors and omissions (including grammar ones) will be considered features;
  3. Capture the entire process in video, following those instructions:
    1. Capture the entire contents of the screen, in at least 30 fps and full resolution (equal to the screen);
    2. Capture the of the ambient noise synchronously (with special attention to keystrokes and writer utterances);
  4. Display the resulting videos, following those instructions:
    • Use a screen of the exact same proportions as the screen used in the writing. The size can be scaled up. The screen “feel” should be the same as the one used in the writing (in particular, both should be either emissive or reflexive). Keep frames neutral and unadorned. Be especially wary of strong LEDS and large buttons;
    • Have the soundtrack played synchronously. Avoid disruptive interference between the pieces (use headphones, “bubbles” of sound, etc.). Make the sound devices the less noticeable as technology allows;
    • Keep room decoration to a minimum and be careful with illumination to avoid parasite reflexes.

The concept is illustrated on thie video clip below. I had to make several compromises to make the video possible on the available media, so it is accelerated (twice the speed), has a lower resolution than the original (making legibility poor), does not capture the entire screen and (worse of all) was somewhat horizontally squeezed. But it gives a taste of what the artwork intends to convey — how contemporary text is wrought by using contemporary text processing tools. It also wants to capture the very particular way which an individual writer employs to arrive to the final result.

By the way, the text shown in the video is ipsis litteris the text on the first part of this post (which has, as I now discover, several typos, mistakes and stylistic blunders — which I am lefting untouched to honour the proposed contract).


6 thoughts on “Recipe for Conceptual Art

    1. drseyes

      I am not well acquainted with her work. My sister (who has formal education on Visual Arts) is a huge fan, and I can remember having enjoyed something of hers (but I can’t even remember what it was right now). I’ll look around more carefully for her work.

  1. Joe Haldeman

    What a cool idea! If I had a big screen I’d be tempted to contribute, but all I have is a 14″ MacBook Air.

    I did once write a story (“If I Had the Wings of an Angel”) by hand, with the constraint that it had to fit on a piece of 36″ X 24″ poster board. A curious thing is that it exactly fit the space, without my having to squeeze the handwriting at all. I guess the brain calculates the amount of space left and alters the story to fit.


    1. drseyes

      I don’t know if this calculation comes for free for every writer. Hability to be concise at the first round of writing is definetely something to be praised. As I tried my own exercise I had a very hard time to keep the instructions into a single screen.

      (And thank you for posting ! It took me a while to realize you’d answered my mail directly on the blog.)



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