57 texts from 'edits-while-u-wait': the free editing service for artists' writings aimed at exploring the role of the editor in contemporary art. Introduction by Claire Walsh

edits-while-u-wait [1]

Editors practice at the intersection of author, reader and text…Editing is also a service, in which the editor should be ‘constructed by the writer’ and not the reverse. [2]

edits-while-u-wait is a free editing service for artists’ writings provided by a changing panel of guest editors who are themselves artists and art writers. It has taken place at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) as part of Edinburgh Art Festival in 2014, and at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (ESW) in collaboration with Suzanne van der Lingen, as part of her residency there in 2015. [3] Each iteration of the service is comprised of several two-hour-long editing sessions with a changing panel of editors. Texts written and edited by the 23 editors and 20 writers who have participated so far can be viewed in the document above. [4]

edits-while-u-wait focuses on the responsibilities and performative aspects of editing while opening texts up to creative and experimental feedback. This service is aimed at art writers and artists who are interested in writing and publishing as part of their practice.

The edits-while-u-wait project was first staged in 2014 during an exhibition of artists’ publishing projects I curated,entitled the artist writing, room at e.c.a. Having trained as a visual artist, I was looking for a means of understanding the editorial turn my practice had taken and of reconciling visual, textual and editorial elements. [5] The editorial service established a platform for exploring the idea of ‘editing as practice’ and the possibilities of the role of editor in a contemporary art context. By staging the interactions under the rubric of a casual service, I was attempting to set up a context for review and feedback that was comfortable for both parties.

Your text will be copied and printed for the editors, who will each respond in their own style. We will inform you of the time that your text is due to be worked on and invite you to collect the edited versions from the waiting room set up at ___ where you have the option of discussing the outcomes with the editors.

The donated material included artist’s statements, scripts for performances, fictional accounts and a set of limericks. Texts were collected, copied, handed out, edited, and returned. Each author received approximately four edited versions of their original. [6] When looked at side by side, the visual residues of editing on these texts (red biro marks, post-it notes, annotations) highlight the subjectivities of the editors, bringing their voices forward on the page and into dialogue with the authors’.

Editing texts is generally understood to be a background operation. The opening quote here, by Wendy Richards, reminds us that it is a process in which the editor’s role is constructed by the writer and not the other way around. In the same essay, Richards recounts the trials of a particularly challenging editing job, describing her desire to take the wheel and invert this order, “Should I draw on this earlier experience and intervene more in the text?…This would change my role to one of ghost writer, something I did not have permission to undertake and was not contracted for. To intervene more forcefully would also mean that I was constructing the author, an anathema to me as editor.” [7]

This idea, of rogue editor taking up an authorial position in the text, became the focus of session two. The format for the session developed from conversations with the artist and writer Suzanne van der Lingen about ‘other’ possible roles for the editor to enact in the context of contemporary art and her suggestion that we look to the Oulipo group for ideas on how to stage this. [8] We worked out a set of restrictions for the editors based on the experimental work of Oulipo members, such as Georges Perec and Raymond Queneau, who believed that literature could be freed by tightening its rules. This group of experimental writers and mathematicians provided us with a way of inverting the role through a series of textual exercises. The editors were asked to choose one of the following activities for editing each text:

“The technique of erasure, in which words are removed from a source text to reveal poems latent within it” - Editor may use ‘The Deletionist system’ to do this (

Images: Editor illustrates the text using internet image searches.

Editor changes one sentence or replaces one word in the original text which offsets its intended meaning; ridding the text of the author's intentions.

Editor replaces words with their antonyms to turn the perspective of the text around (male to female, past to future, inside to outside etc.)

Editor uses thesaurus to replace words with 'better' words.

Advising/ giving feedback
Audio recording: Editor records their advice to the writer and sends them the audio file.

At close of service the film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, directed by William Greaves, was screened by van der Lingen as a companion piece to edits-while-u-wait

By allowing the editors to exercise a different kind of (prescribed) agency on the texts we tested the creative and critical possibilities at play. The collection of 57 texts gathered from the two edits-while-u-wait services published here (in original and edited states) gives visual and textual insight into the individual editorial process and indicates the potentials and limitations of experimental editing practices.

edits-while-u-wait is a space where editing can be experienced aesthetically, collectively and performatively. This service is designed to test the role of the editor, using activities such as correction, liberation, translation, and feedback, with an emphasis on the part played by the editor in the production of a text. The submitted writing from this open call will act as the material for the service.

Contributors: Alice Bain, James Bell, Sarah Crozier, Marta Dabrowka, Laura Edbrook, Rod Griffiths, Kirsty Hendry, Alex Hetherington, Jamie Hogarth, Craig Jefferson, Holly Keasey, Daisy Lafarge, Mairi Lafferty, James S. Lee, Suzanne van der Lingen, Cameron Macnair, Jamie McMillan, Aaron McCarthy, Mhairi Morrison, Christina Neuwirth, Jess Orr, Jessica Ramm, Collette Rayner, Irineu Rocha da Cruz, Kate Sailer, Richard Taylor, Marie Varley, Adam Vee, Jake Watts, Naomi Baldwin Webb, David Williams, Dave Young, Aleksandra Zawada

[1] The project title was inspired by a sign on a street in Limerick city advertising false teeth repairs.
[2] Richards, Wendy. Trauma, Dispossession and Narrative Truth: ‘Seeds of the Nation’ of South Sudan. Goodall, Jane (editor) and Lee, Christopher (editor). Trauma and Public Memory. Australia: Palgrave Macmillan (2014).
[3] edits-while-u-wait was presented at ESW as part of Suzanne van der Lingen’s residency and her research project, ‘Reading in the Dark’, commissioned by MAP.
[4] This document includes work by 19 editors and 18 writers as not all participants agreed to have their work published
[5] At the time, I was working as co-editor of the online contemporary art journal Occupy Paper and was involved as an editor/collaborator in various writing projects with artist friends.
[6] There were three to four editors present at each two-hour-long session.
[7] Richards, Wendy. Trauma, Dispossession and Narrative Truth: ‘Seeds of the Nation’ of South Sudan. Goodall, Jane (editor) and Lee, Christopher (editor). Trauma and Public Memory. Australia: Palgrave Macmillan (2014)
[8] OULIPO is the acronym for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated as workshop of potential literature. A group of writers, mathematicians and artists who devised formulaic constraints for the production of experimental lietrature.