When does written text become visual art? That’s the question we’ve been asking you at Tate Modern - and here’s what our visitors have said so far. Add your own thoughts underneath

Lawrence Weiner, 'CRUSHED BETWEEN COBBLESTONES' 1988

Lawrence Weiner
CRUSHED BETWEEN COBBLESTONES 1988
Text
Overall display dimensions variable
ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008© Lawrence Weiner

View the main page for this artwork

Waiting for the lift on Level 2, 3 or 4 today, you might have looked up and been surprised to see one of Lawrence Weiner’s works installed on the wall above you. Evocative phrases like ‘CRUSHED BENEATH COBBLESTONES’ are emblazoned on the wall in bold blue capitals. If you read the label accompanying them it will tell you that the material they are made from is ‘text’. Weiner would say that his medium is language itself, and the way that language is physically manifested (in big blue letters, for example) is a secondary consideration.

For other artists –  like Mira Schendel, whose work is on show in an exhibition on Level 3 – the visual qualities of the written word are very important. Her work often blurs the line between writing and drawing.

Both artists present writing as a form of visual art. What is it, do you think, that brings their work out of the literary realm and into the gallery? Do we need to define a boundary between writing and the visual art forms and, if so, how can we make the distinction?

This is one of the questions we’ve been asking you in our new interactive displays at Tate Modern - and here are a few of your thoughts so far. We’d love to hear yours too! Just add them in a comment below.

Tate Debate Bloomberg Connects Matthias

Matthias
When just a few words influence your mind more than a whole book. That is art.

Tate Debate Bloomberg Connects Lewis Bradley Jonny

lewis, bradley, jonny
when the letters are in comic sans!!!!
when the piece influences the imagery in your mind.
Text becomes art, when it uses your imagination and can take you anywhere.

Tate Debate Bloomberg Connects francesca

Francesca
Text in an artwork create another layer that must be observed and understood by the visitor, so they might look more complex and interesting, creating another point of meditation.

Anonymous
When the text is designed to have a visual, aesthetic, appeal then i would say it has become art in the traditional sense – as is the case with caligraphy as well as with laurance weiners thing. The meaning of the words bcomes a componant, along with the size, colour,etc. But since the advent of conceptual art, anything which is concept led can claim to be art regardless of the medium - a book, why not?

Tate Debate Bloomberg Connects Victoria USA

victoria from usa
Are words and text art or simply letters? Text becomes art when it can evoke feelings within the viewer.  Text my give direction to each viewer making a piece more or less interesting.  Text may stir the senses or it may create an uneasy sensation that an individual had not had before. Text is powerful.

Anonymous
When its form becomes beautiful.

Tate Debate Bloomberg Connects Rex

Rex
Text becomes art when you think it is. It’s a very personal question and answer. If you think it is good for you but your neighbour may thinks other way. Nobody’s wrong nobody’s right. It’s depend of your feeling at the moment, the way you see world at this moment.

Oliver from Sydney
The boundary between text and art depends on the context the text appears in, as well as the nature of the text itself (size, marquee, font, static, moving).

Moritz W. from Berlin
Why shouldn’t it? Art depends on the point of view! Words have the power to transmit emotions, art does too. If you put letters together, without any thoughts, they won’t make any sense. It’s the same with colours, with materials. But if those letters are well-placed, they have a meaning. The author created something. And creation is art.

Tate Debate Bloomberg Connects Amalia Karen

Amalia + Karen
We think written text becomes visual art when it is inspirational or especially evocative.

kael from london
All elements of life meaningful to the human psyche can be embued with aesthetics and interpretation, including nature and the abstraction of symbol.