Be a Word Performer

Make your very own text performance, inspired by text found around you

The idea

Sarah letting her letters go in the wind © Tate

Sarah letting her letters go in the wind © Tate

Sarah Sanders, a performance artist from Manchester, has made this activity for you. She wants you to think about text, textures and performance.

Have you noticed how text is...EVERYWHERE? You're reading text right now, of course! It's also on your packet of breakfast cereal, you can find it on posters you pass in the street and you can even find it flying above your heads, yes I'm talking about text on planes!

Artists love to use it too in their work. Check out these two artworks for example.

Pablo Picasso, ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper’ 1913
Pablo Picasso
Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper 1913
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2021
Bob and Roberta Smith, ‘Make Art Not War’ 1997
Bob and Roberta Smith
Make Art Not War 1997
© Bob and Roberta Smith

Some artists enjoy finding things that are already made in the world such as newspaper or text found on a signpost for example, and use them as materials for their own work. Have you seen Richard Tuttle’s Letters (The Twenty-Six Series)?

Richard Tuttle, 1966, Letters

Richard Tuttle, 1966, Letters (The Twenty-Six Series), Nina and Gordon Bunshaft Bequest (by exchange) © 2014 Richard Tuttle. Source: MOMA, The Collection

Sarah uses newspaper in her performances because she wants to question how stories are told in the media. Do stories in newspapers show the full picture? What do you think?

The plan

You are going to make your own text performance about something you care about from text you can find in magazines and newspapers.

  • Old magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, leaflets
  • Scissors
  • An old pot with a lid
  • A camera
  • Choose a word or message you would like to release into the world. It could be your name, a poem, a song or your favourite person.
  • Get your papers and find the letters for your word or sentence. Cut them out and put them in the pot. Only choose medium or large letters.
  • Go outside. Think of someone special when you blow them into the wind.
  • Make sure someone captures your performance on camera!

See it!

Sarah cutting out letters

Sarah cutting out letters © Tate

Cut out letters © Tate

Cut out letters © Tate

Sarah letting her letters go in the wind © Tate

Sarah letting her letters go in the wind © Tate

Letters in the grass © Tate

Letters in the grass © Tate

More to explore