WRITING | Text as material

Posted on 30/09/2011


This morning I received an email notice about an upcoming workshop at Sarai, a culture and research facility in Delhi. The workshop, titled Text as Material, prompting some attention to whether my writing in this space is showing for regard for text as material. This idea has been part of my writing practice for a long time yet, the more I talk about cities, the more I find myself treating text and writing in a funtional or utilitarian way. It’s important to recognise that slippage in a writing practice, which drifts from writing as practice. So this post is a reminder of other values of writing and text and perhaps a prompt to further address what that means for place writing (or art writing): i.e., “investigating, in a variety of ways, through different genres and disciplines, how writing comes to be made”.

The Sarai workshop notice further says:

In the non-pedagogical workshop, participants will think and work together with a wide range of possible practices, depending on individual and collective interest – including found text, erasure, collaborative composition, creative translation, invented verse forms, performance, visual text etc – and culminating in one or more small publications or events at the end of the series. Participants will be encouraged to look at text – and language – as material to work with, which is to say not just as singular, “authentic” self-expression, but as something that could be multiplied – i.e., discussed, argued, cut, spliced, mirrored, reworked, edited, rewritten, translated etc – by others, without cancelling the initial manifestation. The workshop will also include “reading together” for ideas and potentials. As for genre, prose and any genre is acceptable, as long as participants have an open mind.

In the Writing Architecture masterclass I participated in last year, writing as material was a principle that Linda Marie Walker put into practice, challenging all the participants to move beyond an authoritative critical mode of (dis)engagement. I tend to think about it as, JL Austin expounded, ‘doing things with words’, or as Barthes wrote in The Pleasure of the Text. There is an imperative, as Placing continues, for writerliness …

Posted in: writing