Artist Sheryl Oring invites community to speak to the next U.S. President

I Wish to Say Logo

I Wish to Say performance uses vintage typewriters for social change 
Voters’ Broadcast, a new musical work composed
by Lisa Bielawa, 
will set text taken from I Wish to Say

Artist and Wayne State art department chair Sheryl Oring is slated to return to the University of Michigan for a performance of “I Wish to Say” from September 29 - November 1, 2020 as part of the U of M's Democracy & Debate Theme Semester. In this project, Oring invites the communities from both universities to dictate a message to the next president, typing the notes on vintage typewriters. These interactions will be staged as virtual performances via Zoom every Tuesday from 4:30 pm-6:30 pm and Sunday from 1 pm-3 pm during the project’s run.

To share your message for the next president sign up here!    

Oring was last on the Ann Arbor campus in 2017 as part of the Stamps Gallery exhibition Vital Signs for a New America, curated by Srimoyee Mitra. This forthcoming iteration of the project is part of the University of Michigan’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester in Fall 2020. Oring will collaborate with students on the project, training them on how to take dictation on mid-century manual typewriters to execute the project via Zoom. The typed postcards will be mailed directly to the White House on the participant’s behalf as part of the performance. 

“This is an opportunity for our communities to speak out as we face a critical presidential election,” said Oring. “I want to give people in Michigan a chance to record their views at this extraordinary point in history when the state has faced such tremendous challenges stemming from the pandemic while also grappling with the impact of systemic racism.”

“Stamps Gallery is honored to continue working with Oring to deepen our commitment towards presenting programs that amplify the voices of our students and the general public. ‘I Wish to Say’ aims to build solidarity by creating a common platform for listening and understanding the dreams, ambitions, hopes, and fears of Michigan students,” said project curator and Stamps Gallery Director, Srimoyee Mitra. “Collaborating with the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester has been an ideal forum for us to re-stage I Wish to Say in a larger scale to ensure that we can reach a larger cross-section of students at U-M and Wayne State and amplify the voices of the next generations.”

The typing sessions will take place virtually on Zoom for 5 consecutive weeks every Tuesday from 4:30 pm-6:30 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 3 pm, respectively, kicking off on September 29 - November 1, 2020.  

Oring, who is also Professor and Chair of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University, has been presenting “I Wish to Say” performances around the country since 2004. From a park on Skid Row in Los Angeles to a laundromat on the Navajo Nation in Arizona and university campuses across the country, Oring has been tirelessly acting as secretary to the people for more than a decade. She said her goals are to encourage freedom of expression and voter participation.

Since 2004, Oring has mailed nearly 4,000 postcards to President Bush, President Obama, and President Trump. Similarly, the messages obtained this fall will be mailed to the next president, following their inauguration. Additionally, selected messages will be set in Voters’ Broadcast, a new musical work conceived and composed by Lisa Bielawa, which will bring together choirs from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. The 15-minute musical work will be released in three parts over the course of the fall semester as part of the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester programming, and is designed to stimulate voter registration, political awareness, and community participation in challenging lockdown conditions, through the act of giving voice to the concerns of fellow citizens during the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential election.

​Carbon copies of each person’s typed message will be added to the growing “I Wish to Say” archive, housed in Oring’s Detroit studio. “I Wish to Say” is a project of Creative Capital.

Sheryl Oring is Professor and Chair of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University. Her second book, Activating Democracy: The I Wish to Say Project, was published in 2016 by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press. Other recent projects include “Travel Desk,” a public art commission at the San Diego International Airport and “Maueramt,” a performance and exhibition done in Berlin on the occasion of the 25 th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her most recent project at Bryant Park was a commissioned work called “Collective Memory” done on the 10 th anniversary of 9/11. Oring is based in Detroit.

Lisa Bielawa is a Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition; recipient of the Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters; a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society; and Composer-in-Residence and Chief Curator of the Philip Glass Institute. She received a 2018 Los Angeles Area Emmy nomination for her made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser. Her work consistently incorporates community-making, including Vireo; Broadcast from Home, a large-scale interactive work in response to the coronavirus pandemic crisis; and music for public spaces in New York City, San Francisco, Berlin, Rome, and more. 

Stamps Gallery is part of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan. Building on the school’s strong tradition of excellence, thought leadership and community engagement, our goal is to develop innovative and scholarly exhibitions, publications and public programs that foster vibrant and inclusive platforms for presentation, discussion and inquiry into the urgent questions and concerns of our time. Stamps Gallery is an incubator and lab for contemporary artists and designers to explore ideas and projects that catalyze positive social change. We play a leadership role at the University of Michigan and the global art community through exhibitions, publications and public programs that are lively, experimental and inclusive. A commitment to social justice shapes our work, developing exhibitions, programs, and publications that inspire new ways of looking, making, and thinking.

The Democracy & Debate Theme Semester As the exercise of free speech and the free exchange of ideas is fundamental to participation in democratic societies, the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester offers a rich array of events on topical issues and several Signature Initiatives that provide opportunities to engage with in activities outside of the traditional lecture/panel format. The programming offers deep dives into the politics and policies debates that will shape the 2020 elections, and it celebrates the ways in which the arts can provide us with creative avenues for active citizenship and meaningful engagement.