Writing Space

David J. Staley

I am curious to know:  Is this an installation to look at or a text to be read?

Is this art or scholarship?

I imagined the Video Wall at George Mason as a large writing space, and wanted to explore its compositional properties.  What does it mean to write on a surface divided into a grid of 16 squares?  What does it mean to “publish” in this fashion: a site-specific digital installation intended to be viewed at a public event, and then dismantled? Can scholarship be so evanescent and ephemeral?

This piece is composed of 40 quotes, and explores attribution as a compositional form. In this sense, the form of “Writing Space” echoes the commonplace book of the early modern period: it is a collection of attributions and aphorisms, an act of textual curation.    

“Writing Space” is a text collage, fragments of text that, when juxtaposed in new ways, creates new meaning.  It is an example of my work with “mashup logic:” the mixing and juxtaposition of found objects recombined in novel ways. 

Randomness is a key compositional element.  The text fragments—and the white space between them—appear in ever changing patterns and configurations.  Thus, the meaning of the text is constantly shifting as new juxtapositions form.  This installation/text will be different each time a  viewer/reader encounters it. 

Writing Space contains an argument—about the nature of writing on a screen, about the remediation of print—but this argument unfolds as “art” rather than an article or a book.  Can “art” be a form of scholarship?