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Dear Father - Writing as Performance

Can the act of writing be watchable art?

A few months ago, after watching Sunday in the Park with George (a musical about a painter creating his art), I wondered if you could pull off a performance about the process of writing. Seems to me that writing's an art more focused on the end product than the artist's creative process.

This is especially true when compared to films. DVDs often have"making of" footage, deleted scenes, alternative endings and perhaps some bloopers/out takes. Television shows run blooper reels and behind-the-scenes specials. Art exhibitions often inlcude preliminary sketches and/or studies of final works. In theater, the process (writing, discovering characters, rehearsal) is often more interesting than the actual performance. Some works (eg those of Mike Leigh and Woody Allen) are built primarily, if not solely, based on process.

But you don't see this in writing very often. There aren't many special edition reprints with deleted scenes, uncorrected POV shifts, and alternate endings. We don't see the "shitty first drafts" that turn into Pulitzer-winning fiction. Would the public pay to read anything less than the final draft? David Sedaris' bloopers? Jane Austen's early character sketches on Mr. Darcy? John Updike's chapters that ended up in the shredder? Famous Author Rob Byrnes' scribblings after a night out in Hell's Kitchen?

Would anyone want to watch a writer create?

Turns out writing can be a perfomance. Or at least performance art.

I popped into Compton's on Wednesday, and there was a screen hanging from the ceiling, with a projection of man writing in longhand. The hand belonged to an artist named George Chakravarthi, who was upstairs composing the final epistle in a collaborative letter writing project, "Dear Father/To the Man of my Dreams", sponsored by Artangel.

The project has been going on for a couple of years now. George worked with members of SW5, a group of male and transgender sex workers, creating a series of letters between a fictional "Father" and "George".

I was speaking with Sarah (I think that's her name) of Artangel. She's not sure where the project is going next, or if the letters are going to end up being published. There was a discussion the previous night led by Neil Bartlett. I can easily imagine this turned into a theatre piece.