Writing in the World – New Ways of Imagining Literacy and Language
Bronwyn T. Williams, Director
People sometimes think that, on a university campus, you spend all your days with print books and paper – even more so when you work in the University Writing Center. Yet, it doesn’t take long to look around and see that the university is filled with communication happening in so many different modes and media, from words to images to video to sound. This week we had an exciting reminder of how art works as composition and communication with the opening at the Writing Center of the student art show titled “Writing in the World.” We had a dozen works from UofL students, all on the theme of “Writing in the World” The theme asked students to represent, through their artwork, how they encountered writing and how writing worked in their daily lives, both on and off campus. The show opened Wednesday to complement the UofL Composition Program’s Symposium of Student Writing and will remain in the Writing Center through the end of the semester.
Some artists, like Peri Crush, worked with the material artifacts of literacy, as seen in her sculpture “Break Through”
created from the pages of a book. Other artists drew on the visual representation of words, whether in graffiti as in Irene Tran’s untitled photograph or Gwen Snow’s dress titled “Egwengwen Ritual Costume.” Some artists made connections to works of literature, such as Katlyn Brumfield’s still life “Poe” and still others played with the slippery nature of language itself, as in the video “Have You Seen the Dog?” a collaboration by ten students.
All the works reminded me that literacy is simultaneously material and immaterial.
Without the material artifacts of books and pens and paper and computers, we have no reading and writing. Literacy isn’t possible until we create a work that can be interpreted though the sign systems of writing or images. At the same time, literacy is an immaterial concept that requires interpretation and connection, to other life experiences and other texts. Perhaps what the artwork demonstrated most vividly is that literacy is visual. We can not only read written words, but we can also to step back from them to understand how they work aesthetically as form and design.
It was exciting to have so many visitors drawn to the Writing Center to see the artwork, and to vote for their favorite choices. Throughout the day people were talking about the art, and talking about the themes of the show. We presented three awards. The Directors’ Award went to Alexa Helton’s untitled drawing. The Writing Center Staff Award went to Peri Crush’s “Break Out.” And the People’s Choice award – voted by the people visiting the show — went to “Have You Seen the Dog?”
Our thanks go to Gabrielle Mayer, associate professor of Fine Arts, who organized the show and collaborated with us on the theme, and to all the student artists who contributed work, and whose names are listed at the end of the post.
At the University Writing Center we are committed to engaging writing and composing in all modes and media and we hope this kind of art and writing show will become an annual event.
If you haven’t seen the art already, do come to the Writing Center, on the third floor of Ekstrom Library, and take a look.
Artists participating in “Writing in the World.”