Activity Group 2: The Sea: Connection, Communication, Transformation

This series of activities provides an opportunity for us to think about the role of the sea in Weiner's work. We ask you to consider: How do words call attention and transform our relationship to a place? How does a place transform our interaction with words? Activities focus on two Weiner artworks, “PLACED ON THE TIP OF A WAVE” and “AN OBJECT TOSSED FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER”.

As a former sailor and someone who lives part-time on a houseboat, Weiner’s work with language often recalls the sea in some fashion. We invite you to think through what this theme puts into question or calls to mind. Is the sea a space of connection, bringing countries and people together? Is the sea a vulnerable or dangerous space, one that puts people in harm’s way? Or is it neither, being a space of transition, flux, and change?

We would also love to hear how you have used Reading Resources. Please share feedback and student work here.

Three (Teen & Adult)

You are organizing an art show and looking for a location on which to install "AN OBJECT TOSSED FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER".

  1. Take a moment to unpack the phrase. Write it down on a piece of paper or type it up and give yourself some space to annotate or mark it up.

What associations come to mind around the noun "object" in this context? What could the object be? Develop as many possibilities as you can.

Next, move onto the verb "tossed." What associations come to mind around “tossed”? Why this particular verb and not "thrown," "shipped," or "shot"?

Given what you developed for the first two prompts, what comes to mind when you think of your various associations for "an object tossed" in relation to the rest of the phrase "from one country to another"? What could be tossed between countries and what particular countries do you envision here? What could happen in the movement of the object between countries?

  1. Your next step is to figure out which location would work best for this artwork. This can be inside or outside; you just have to decide where it would be best to install this artwork. Brainstorm some possible exact locations thinking of country, state, town, and street location.

After giving yourself time to develop some possible installation locations, choose one and draw it out on a piece of paper.

  1. Now write up your curator proposal. In this proposal, justify where you would like to install this Lawrence Weiner work and why you have chosen this particular location. What will installing this artwork in this particular location help anyone who encounters it to think about? Your proposal should be between 300–600 words.
Four (Adults)

Haitian writer, Edwidge Danticat, wrote Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. In the book's first chapter, Danticat quotes Albert Camus: “Art cannot be a monologue. We are on the high seas. The artist, like everyone else, must bend to his oar, without dying, if possible.”

— Close Reading Prompt

“‘Art cannot be a monologue. We are on the high seas. The artist, like everyone else, must bend to his oar, without dying, if possible.’”

Write this statement out on a piece of paper.

Circle any words you do not know and box words which look important. Look up each word and write the definitions directly next to it on the piece of paper.

What kinds of experiences come with the sea? Describe at least three or four.

What kind of relationship between the artist and “everyone else” does Camus create here? What might the “we are on the high seas” expression mean following Camus’s statement that “[a]rt cannot be a monologue”? Who is the “we”? What does the “we are on the high seas” mean figuratively (as a metaphor, and not literally)?

Next paraphrase, or put this statement into your own words, directly beneath it on the piece of paper.

What is Camus trying to communicate about art and the role of the artist? Explore your response to these questions in writing. (There are no wrong answers! Just use this as a space to think).

— Reflective writing prompt

As Danticat quotes Camus above, “Art cannot be a monologue,” Weiner’s artwork also seeks to create a dialog which can be carried home with the viewer.

With the idea of art as a dialog in mind, describe the impact of one book, artwork, film, or song that is particularly important to you. What happened when you encountered it? How did it change or impact you? Why and how? Describe the kind of dialog you have had with this piece of art? What did you after your experience with it? Did you share it with others? If so, who?


Reading Resources: Lawrence Weiner was produced by Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.) in collaboration with Wendy Tronrud (A.R.T. Education Consultant) in summer/fall 2017.

A.R.T. acknowledges the invaluable generosity, assistance, and enthusiasm of all who contributed to Reading Resources production:

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

We also thank:
María Sprowls Cervantes and MaryJo Marks at Lawrence Weiner Studio
A.R.T. Board of Directors
National Endowment for the Arts
H.W. Wilson Foundation
and most specially, Lawrence Weiner.

Web programming by Jeff Khonsary.
Copyright © Art Resources Transfer, Inc 2017.

All images are protected under copyright by the original rights holders.

A.R.T. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

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