Sheryl Oring

United States
New York, NY
born 1965 United States
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The typewriter is my medium. The machine itself stands for the power of the written word, for self-expression, and for that which ties us together as human beings: communication. The mystery of language, power of speech, intricacies of public opinion, history and memory are all topics I explore in various ways with my typewriters.

“Writer’s Block” was my first large-scale work involving typewriters. I created this sculptural installation in Berlin, Germany, as a tribute to the writers whose books were burned in public bonfires across Germany shortly after Hitler came to power in 1939. Over the course of one year, I collected nearly 800 typewriters from the 1930s and 40s and “caged” them in sculptures made out of construction rebar. These sculptures created a visceral statement about the power of free speech and censorship.

“Writer’s Block” was shown on the site of the Nazi book burning in Berlin in May 1999, and has since been shown at the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary; the Boston Public Library and at Bryant Park in New York City.

After returning to the U.S. in 2003 after six years in Berlin, I felt alienated from my own country. I had lived through the crisis of Sept. 11 at a distance. And by the time I returned home, the gulf between European and American views of this period in history had widened to such an extent that I felt compelled to explore and document American public opinion.

“I wish to say” began in February 2004 as a public performance project commissioned by the Oakland-based First Amendment Project. I dressed up as a 1950s secretary and set up a portable office -- complete with a manual typewriter -- in various public spaces. As people stopped by, I asked them: “If I were the President, what would you wish to say to me?” I typed up their answers verbatim on blank postcards, gave the original away to be sent to the White House and kept a carbon copy, as well as a Polaroid photo of each participant, for my archive.

A grant from the Creative Capital Foundation allowed me to revisit public opinion on the President half-way through his second term. In summer 2006, I traveled to eight cities and invited passers-by to dictate cards to the President for his 60th birthday.

2006 “The Birthday Project,” public sites across the U.S. Performance.

2006 “Writing Home,” International Center, New York. Performance.

2005 “I wish to say,” South Street Seaport/Lower Manhattan Cultural Council,
New York. Performance.

2005 “Writing Home,” Eldridge Street Project, New York. Performance, installation.

2005 “Chain Letter,” Eldridge Street Project. Site-specific sculpture.

2005 “If I were Chancellor,” public sites across Germany. Performance.

2005 “I wish to say,” University of Memphis. Performance.

2004 “I wish to say,” Georgia State Univ. Performance, installation.

2004 “I wish to say,” Foley Square, New York, with Creative Time. Performance.

2004 “I wish to say,” public sites across the United States. Performance.

2003 “Writer’s Block,” Bryant Park, New York. Installation.

2003 “Writer’s Block,” Boston Public Library. Installation.

2002 “On the Impossibilities of Language,” Free University Berlin. Works on paper.

2002 “Writer’s Block,” Buda Castle, Budapest. Installation.

1999 “Writer’s Block,” Bebelplatz, Berlin. Installation.

2006 “Looking Back From Ground Zero,” Brooklyn Museum. Artist book.

2006 “eBayADay,” curated by Rebekah Mondrak, University of Michigan.

2005 “Wander,” Makor Art Gallery. New York.

2005 “Project Diversity,” Rotunda Gallery. Brooklyn.

2005 Frankfurt Book Fair. Germany.

2003 San Francisco International Art Exposition.

2003 New York Print Fair. Landfall Press limited edition lithograph series.

2003 Art Chicago. Landfall Press limited edition lithograph series.

2003 “extra, 2003,” Gallery in Parliament. Berlin.

1999 Jewish Museum Berlin.

1998 Center for Art and Nature. Farrera, Spain.

Artworks available from this artist:
Writer's Block
Sculpture 36 x 36 x 36 inches & 600 lbs.