SOCIAL ART PRACTICE
Documentary video by Bill Antonucci
from the website www.handwritingtheconstitution.com
Handwriting the Constitution is a social art project begun in 2017 by artist Morgan O’Hara. It invites people from all walks of life to meet in public spaces to handwrite documents written to protect human rights and freedoms. This art practice was created so that people will know their rights, deepen their understanding of laws created to protect these rights, and to help resist negative thinking. To date approximately 2200 people have participated, both nationally and internationally.
The goal of this social art practice is to encourage people to hold their own Handwriting sessions on a recurring basis; to create a physical and psychological space that explores the practice of concentrated writing as an art form, and a process designed to bring people together in a quiet and calming way, all by focusing on human rights. It has been identified as a powerful and transformative form of activism for introverts.
Morgan O’Hara has been a conceptual artist for over 60 years. She has committed her life to making art which observes and renders visible aspects of the human experience of living in both 20th and 21st centuries. Handwriting the Constitution is a natural evolution from O’Hara's drawing practice into a realm that explores the meaning of concentrated writing as an art form and a way to bring people together regardless of political leanings.
To date, 146 sessions have been held. Over 2200 people from many fields have participated: education, art, construction, music, geology, gardening, design, history, medicine, education, architecture, politics, to name a few. Sessions have been led by individuals in public spaces: libraries and universities in New York, California, Washington, Kansas, Texas, New Hampshire, Germany, Italy, Sicily, France, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Japan, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong. Since its inception, this social art project has worked with the US Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 13 languages, and the German, Portuguese and Italian national Constitutions, each in its own language. Documents are selected because of their focus on human rights and freedoms. The people who attend the sessions choose whichever documents they wish to copy. They keep what they produce.
This social art project does not exist as a political tool nor is it meant to create a political group. There is no requirement for any individual to state a political affiliation. In fact, little extended dialogue occurs between participants other than a welcome. This is not a discussion group. It is a very quiet practice. The fact that the art project is not overtly political has attracted many as it transcends political affiliation. Anyone can set up a session to handwrite documents created to protect human rights, in any language, anywhere in the world. www.handwritingtheconstitution.com for instructions and help starting your own session.
In 2020 and 2021 during the COVID_19 lockdown / crisis, sessions have been held on ZOOM. An interesting positive aspect of the confinement is that through ZOOM anyone anywhere in the world can participate in any session.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for help starting your own session.
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TELL US A STORY
In 2007 I founded THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OF PEACE IN EVERYDAY LIFE (ISPPEL) as my Nippon International Communication Arts Festival action. It is relatively easy to talk about war and peace but conversations about personal moments of peace in daily life are rare. My idea was that if we told each other these stories, we might increase the occurrence of peace. Whatever we pay attention to becomes stronger. So if we tell a story about a calm or beautiful moment, that moment would be valued and might be reinforced. We and the world need every form of peace we can invent. Just knowing that 59 people have given these stories to the world changes the balance for the better, even in a small way.
So I collected written stories from people retelling their experiences of peace in everyday life. It seems there are as many ways of experiencing peacefulness as there are people! As soon as a story was written, I gave the storytelling person a membership card in the ISPPEL with an official gold seal and the signature of a witness. During the project in Japan, I collected stories in Japanese, Chinese, Mongolian, Swedish and English. Some were drawings without words. The total number of stories collected was 59. Copies of the stories were hung up in public places in Nagano and passers-by stopped to read them, sometimes coming forward to write their own stories to add to the collection.
The second permutation of the project took place in 2017 in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile. Over 80 people participated and we installed the stories in English, Japanese and Spanish in a large room in the museum. At the end of the exhibition we did a performance of reading the stories aloud with a portable microphone passed from one person to another. The final performance lasted 2 1/2 hours.
New York 2007, 2017