Zweig's project was a generative sentence applied to a blank wall behind the Key Bank building. The sentence was developed through collaboration between the artist and the people of Columbus. Generative text can tap into unconscious or subconscious thoughts that can reveal hidden, insightful, poetic, and sometimes humorous truths. The first words of this sentence were written by the artist—“Columbus never came here, but...”—and were revealed over the course of six weeks. Additions to the sentence were installed phrase by phrase at approximately two-week intervals. Eventually, the wall was covered with text written by the public.
The new words were chosen by Zweig and the Finding Time curators from online submissions from people who live, work, or visit Columbus. Many of the selected phrases involved words that could create the possibility of shifting meanings as more words were added. The goal was to change the meaning of the sentence (or sentences) each time a new section was added, in an attempt to ultimately capture the soul of Columbus as described by its residents.
The city’s statement about itself was writ large, literally and figuratively, over the course of the year. Since the sentence was generated gradually, the final version was not revealed until April 2013. And even then, the statement didn’t draw to a definite conclusion but remained open ended, so that readers could continue it in their own minds. (The final version of “Columbus never…” remained on view for the duration of the project.)
WE WANT YOUR VOICE A COLLABORATION WITH TRANSIT ARTS
Transit Arts is a citywide youth arts program based at Central Community House. The program works in partnership with the Columbus Federation of Settlements and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education to engage young people, ages 12–21, in intensive, free, interdisciplinary programs of coaching/mentoring by outstanding professionals from the creative industries.
Transit Arts participated in the Finding Time program by extending the reach and impact of Janet Zweig’s “Columbus never…” project. As the generative sentence developed on the wall behind Key Bank, program participants from Transit Arts came to the site twice a month to record live responses to the existing text. On each occasion, they set up a small stand directly in line with the center of the wall and positioned a video camera to capture speakers from the same vantage point. Outfitted in custom Transit Arts/Finding Time T-shirts, the youth coaxed passersby into “participating in a public art project on YouTube.” Although many passersby declined, others engaged with the young people. Those who accepted the invitation to participate were asked to speak the words written on the wall at that time and then continue the sentence with whatever came to their minds. Comments ranged from one-word additions to paragraph-long musings on the state of the city. When business was slow, the youth offered their own conclusions to the generative sentence and, on occasion, gave the dynamic dance performances for which they are known.
The multiple sessions of We Want Your Voice have been edited into a time-lapse recording of how Columbus saw itself in 2012. In the process, mundane aspects of life—changes in the seasons, vernacular speech, typical clothing and hairstyles, the shapes and colors of cars in the parking lot—have been captured for posterity. You can view the recording in the LINKS section below.