Books and texts, Visual Art
Ira Livingston

This archive of essays on PROMPTS AND PLAY in theory and creative practice - especially in trans-disciplinary contexts - is intended as a resource for teachers, artists, designers, and writers.  Teachers and practitioners: we invite you to steal - and to contribute (contact info below) - if you are so inspired.

Ira Livingston:

Ren Ellis Neyra:


Ira Livingston:  Doors, Keys, and Paths to Maximalism. 

This long essay is a manifesto-- and a short course including 30 prompts-- for thinking maximally and making maximalist art and design-- that is, for thought, art, and design that is alive in the maximal way that complex open systems are alive.   It includes lessons and prompts on how to invent realistic dreams, transforming piles of things into art, how to practice deconstruction on everyday objects, visual complexity, danced conversations-- and, as you would expect, much much more.


Laura U. Marks: Ṭābiṭ ibn Qurrā on Talismans

This short essay offers-- as an example for object-makers in particular-- an account of translator, mathematician, astronomist, and astrologer Ṭābiṭ ibn Qurrā, his practice of making and using talismans, and the principles of their effectivity, such as the understanding of talisman-makers as antennas, drawing celestial rays to themselves and into the device they are fashioning, and by working on themselves, refining their spirit as a metallurgist refines a metal, increasing their conductive powers.


Ira Livingston: Why Play Pedagogy

This long essay touches on the evolutionary and neurological importance of play (it starts with rats and ends with tree-dwelling primates), the urgency of teaching play in the present moment, the opposition of play to knowledge, and the notion of "open process."


Ira Livingston: Wittgenstein's Doorknob, or The Promptness of Prompts

This long essay explores the theory and practice of prompt-based pedagogy and includes many prompts, most of which are designed to be adapted for use in a range of disciplines.  As understood here, prompts follow Wittgenstein's doorknob, which-- like his philosophy-- performs circuitous opening. The outcome may be either philosophy or a doorknob, but having produced one of these, you might still use it as a means to get to the other.  This open process-- the art of making it up as you go-- is not just a slacker's creed but a practice that can be cultivated and by which you can come to understand that, as in biological evolution, every wobble in your forward progress is the bud of an alternate future.


Ira Livingston: Thoughts and Prompts on Transobjects: Sculpture and Jewelry as Speculative Non-Fiction

This long essay is a theoretically informed, prompt-based approach to making jewelry and small objects as a practice of speculation, but is also intended for "voyeurs" from the humanities who don't intend to make any objects. Along the way, the essay explores the relationship between objects in the narrow sense (especially small objects from jewelry to statues) and in the broad (mostly psychological) sense, offers thumbnail accounts of psychoanalytic theorizing about transitional objects (Winnicot) and transformational objects (Bollas) as well as (in two appendices), theories of transference (Freud), transversality (Guattari), and transgender; and a longer account of the relationship between objects and stories, via a consideration of two science fiction stories by Samuel Delany that turn on pieces of jewelry.


Ren Ellis Neyra: Redux, Reanimation: An Exercise in Caring Textual Truncation

In communion with the living and the dead (redux: Latin, that returns, brought back, revived), this writing prompt asks you to revive a text on a smaller scale.


Ren Ellis Neyra: Writing With/Against a Legal Document

With M. NourbeSe Philip’s “breaking and entering” the “Zong” case in mind, this writing prompt asks you to locate a metaphor in a legal text with or against which you want to write.


Ren Ellis Neyra: Ruttier Writing Assignment: Traces

In the spirits of marronage, Dionne Brand’s “Ruttier for the Marooned in Diaspora,” and Sylvia Wyner’s “1492: A New World View,” this prompt asks you to make a language-based map that traces, or conceals the traces of, the way to a beloved place.


Alexandra Chasin: Promptwise

This short essay on the theory and practice of prompts (focusing on writing) offers a taxonomy of prompts-- first as they apply to content or to form, and secondly, as formal prompts are arbitrary or non-arbitrary (organic)-- and shows how prompts become process: while the prompt to write something without pronouns is arbitrary, the prompt to write a love story without pronouns is organic. 


Basem Aly: VR and the Battle for Truth: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Reflective Creative Development

This short essay-- an expanded excerpt from a syllabus-- describes how the author uses creative visualization to split the difference between virtual reality, dreams and life, and to promote a growth mindset as students realize that their current state of being is one among many possible states and are encouraged to reimagine their preconceived ideas of what is most meaningful for “the good life."