Tate Modern courses

Building Worlds: Creative Writing with Installation Art

Sarah Sze Seamless 1999

Sarah Sze Seamless 1999 © Sarah Sze

How might creative writing be inspired by an art installation?

This five-week course takes Sarah Sze’s fantastical installation Seamless (1999) as a catalyst for an experimental, playful approach to writing. It will include creative exercises, group discussions and collaborations in the galleries at Tate Modern.

Just as Sze’s work turns everyday materials into a dizzying assemblage of connected forms, you will be encouraged to explore how fragments of your writing can be built into a larger whole.

Drawing on after-hours gallery viewings of Seamless as well as installations by artists Jenny Holzer, Haegue Yang and Hélio Oiticica, you will discuss and experiment with ideas of form, juxtaposition, complexity and function in your writing.

The course is led by poet and writer James Wilkes. No specialist knowledge required, although some prior experience of creative writing would be valuable.

This event has been provided by Tate Foundation on behalf of Tate Enterprises LTD.

Course Structure

Week 1: Restricted Palettes

You will be introduced to Sze’s installation and, inspired by the 51 materials that the work is constructed from, explore writing with a restricted palette of words.

Week 2: Juxtaposition

What new possibilities emerge when objects or words are brought into unexpected proximity? Participants will visit works by Jenny Holzer and carry out their own creative writing exercises.

Week 3: Translation

Through viewing work by Sze and Haegue Yang, and discussing contemporary approaches to translation, you will explore how creative writing can release language from the straitjacket of functionality.

Week 4: Improvisation and Complexity

How can you balance creating spaces for improvisation and complexity in your writing? Following a viewing of work by Hélio Oiticica, you will be encouraged to return to elements you have previously drafted – to seek out and deepen thematic and linguistic connections.

Week 5: Building Worlds

In the final session, you will explore the idea of the installation or literary text as a model of the world, before sharing work you have generated over the duration of the course through an optional performance in a supportive setting.


James Wilkes writes poetry and short fiction, makes work for installation and performance, and carries out archival and scholarly research. He works across disciplines, making creative work that draws on the cognitive sciences, sound studies and cultural geography. He has a PhD from the London Consortium, University of London, on the cultural history of landscape, and has taught courses and workshops at the University of East Anglia, Birkbeck College, Southbank Centre, Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

Tate Modern

London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit


3 June – 1 July 2019

Every Monday