Nolan Park welcomes back Writing On It All for another season on Governors Island. A unique program where writers write directly on the walls of a house, this one-of-a-kind public session is free and open to all. It is in Building 8, officers’ quarters built in 1878. Sessions are held each Saturday and Sunday in June. All open sessions begin at 1pm. The house will remain open for an hour after each session, 3-4 PM. We asked the organizations project manager, Zina Goodall, a few questions about the 2015 season.
What is the history of Writing On It All and how did it start?
Writing On It All was started in 2013 by writer Alexandra Chasin. Writing On It All is a series of public, collaborative writing experiments. Under the direction of Alexandra, the project unfolds through a series of discrete sessions in which artists, writers, and interested members of the public write on the interior of an out-of-use house. By using the house as a surface for writing, Writing On It All foregrounds the material nature of writing; working in a group underscores its social character.
What is your mission?
Writing On It All is process-oriented rather than product-oriented, meaning that it takes place in the acts of thinking, dialogue, collaborating, moving, and writing, rather than in display and exhibition. We conceive of writing quite broadly, to include math, music, digital code, etc., in addition to “natural language” and seek radical diversity among participants from various disciplines and media. We choose facilitators whose previous work demonstrates a commitment to engaging people who are not already favored in the mainstream literary community, and we favor queer artists, female artists, artists of color, disabled artists – those who most often face overt or tacit discrimination in the literary industry.
Writing On It All has hosted digital artists, dancers, organizations working with trauma survivors, activists processing the immigration experience, and writers working towards expanding their field.
What are the activities on Governors Island?
We will be in #8A in Nolan Park, using the house as a notebook, a chalkboard, a diary, a signpost. We hope the public will come out to Governors Island and find news ways to write with us!
Tell me what is new for 2015?
This year we will be doing back-to-back Saturdays and Sundays of exciting workshops, throughout the month of June.
Our opening weekend includes Queer Indeterminacy, Black Impermanence, Dispossession, Survival by Wesleyan University professor Rachel Ellis Neyra (June 6) and The Art of Gentrification by the Kristiania Collective, a network of writers working to counter dominant publishing trends (June 7).
The 2015 season of Writing On It All also features musician and theater practitioner, José Joaquín García, in a session rooted in social justice performance practices; Paul Ramirez Jonas will bring his work with text-based public art into the context of Writing On It All; artist and human rights advocate, Shani Jamila, will expand on her past work in creating spaces that discuss the culture of confinement; returning Writing On It All facilitators, Chloë Bass, Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li; and the Bellevue/NYU Program for the Survivors of Torture.
Why do you like being on Governors Island? What is special?
Writing On It All has been located on Governors Island since its inception. The houses on the island are perfect for curating work with artists who are looking to do site-specific experiments in an unusual atmosphere. Working in the New York Harbor has given us great opportunity to explore themes of (Im)migration and travel. The Nolan Park neighborhood has framed remarkable conversations about home, belonging, and domestic work. Our visiting facilitators do not often work in historic houses as big, empty, and beautiful as the ones found in Nolan Park. The house’s history leaves a palimpsest that begets exciting language.
What can visitors expect to see at Writing On It All?
We will be writing! On the walls! Our facilitators have designed work intended for anyone to come and write. We’ll have pencils, pens, paint, and walls, ready for Governors Island visitors. We hope to see you out there.
Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.