2019

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE / HANDWRITING THE CONSTITUTION

Handwriting the Constitution is a social art project begun in 2017 by artist Morgan O’Hara. It invites people from all walks of life to meet in public spaces to handwrite the US Constitution or other documents written to protect human rights and freedoms. This art practice was created so that people will know their rights, deepen their understanding of laws created to protect these rights, and helps resist negative thinking. To date approximately 2000 people have participated, both nationally and internationally.

The goal of this art practice is to encourage people to hold their own Handwriting sessions on a recurring basis; to create a physical and psychological space that explores the practice of concentrated writing as an art form, and a process designed to bring people together in a quiet and calming way, all by focusing on human rights. It has been identified as a powerful and transformative form of "activism for introverts."

Morgan O’Hara has been a conceptual artist for over 60 years. Her works are in the permanent collections of many institutions including: the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC among others. O’Hara has committed her life to making art which observes and renders visible aspects of the human experience of living in both 20th and 21st centuries. - www.MorganOHara.com - Handwriting the Constitution is a natural evolution from O’Hara's drawing practice into a realm that explores the meaning of concentrated writing as an art form and a way to bring people together regardless of their political leanings.

To date, 87 sessions have been held. Over 1500 people from various fields have participated: education, art, construction, music, geology, gardening, design, history, medicine, education, architecture, politics, to name a few. Sessions have been led by individuals in public spaces: libraries and universities in New York, California, Washington, Kansas, Texas, New Hampshire, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong. Since its inception, this social art project has worked with the US Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and various international Constitutions, each in its own language. Documents are selected because of their focus on human rights and freedoms. The people who attend the sessions choose whichever documents they wish to copy. Handwriters keep their handwritten pages to share with others and for future reference.

This social art project does not exist as a political tool nor is it meant to create a political group. There is no requirement for any individual to state a political affiliation. In fact, little extended dialogue occurs between O’Hara and participants other than a welcome and help in getting started. The fact that the art project is not overtly political has attracted many as it transcends political affiliation. Anyone can set up a session to handwrite documents created to protect human rights, in any language, anywhere in the world.

Email handwritingtheconstitution@gmail.com for help starting your own session.

 

Morgan O'Hara

Documentary by Bill Antonucci (2019) Duke Street Films

 
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As long as people are people, democracy, in the full sense of the word, will always be no more than an ideal. One may approach it as one would the horizon in ways that may be better or worse, but it can never be fully attained. In this sense, you, too, are merely approaching democracy. You have thousands of problems of all kinds, as other countries do. But you have one great advantage: You have been approaching democracy uninterruptedly for more than 200 years, and your journey toward the horizon has never been disrupted by a totalitarian system.

VÁCLAV HAVEL's speech to the UNITED STATES CONGRESS
February 1990
 

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The power of a country road when one is walking along it is different from the power it has when one is flying over it by airplane. In the same way, the power of a text when it is read is different from the power it has when it is copied out. The airplane passenger sees only how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it. Only he who walks the road on foot learns the power it commands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings, prospects at each of its turns like a commander deploying soldiers at a front. Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of daydreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command. 

WALTER BENJAMIN The Power of a Text from ONE-WAY STREET

 

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HANDWRITING THE CONSTITUTION is a fiscally sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts. DONATE TO THE PROJECT HERE