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Saturday, June 10 • 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Deconstructing Legalese

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“Deconstructing Legalese” is a found poetry workshop that examines contracts and codes imposed upon us by bureaucratic systems and reconstructs the language to reclaim our personal histories. The nuances of our health, relationships, advocacy, creativity and identities are often dismantled through the use of legalese. For example: the heartbreak of divorce becomes a capitalistic grievance. The journey undertaken to declare our gender identity is reduced to medical records. A workplace violation, of body and power, gets locked away in a non-disclosure agreement. As Sara Ahmed has written in her work on institutional violence in her recent book “Complaint!,” a deluge of bureaucratic language can purposely ignore abuse and perpetuate power. This workshop works backward to unravel these abuses at the textual level and to reclaim participants’ affective and embodied relationships to legal documents.

During this workshop, attendees take documents that have undermined significant events in their lives, and through collage, reconstruct the jargon into empowering and personalized pieces of writing. They are invited to do so through a physical process of cutting, gluing, and rearranging texts. While scanning documents to find poetic phrasing, participants also start deepening their understanding of legalese, demystify legalese, and relive the emotional experiences of the events connected to these documents.

At HASTAC, participants should show up with a print out of a contract that has a meaningful connection to them, whether that meaning is positive or negative.* I specify that these printouts should be *copies* of the documents, not the original ones. Participants will create poems during this workshop, which will be collected and digitized into a special edition zine we print at the end of the workshop and let people take home with them. In addition to the poetry, people can physically collage with photographs and drawings to make the zine pop visually. I will provide some digitally collaged compositions in advance to also fill the pages, which have been a crucial part of my artistic research.

These workshops thus far have only taken place outside of academic settings, with participants who come from marginalized communities. During the collage process, people learn the definitions for legal language they may have not known before, and how to close read contracts to catch manipulative terms. They carry this knowledge outside of the workshop and into their personal life. Deconstructing Legalese is a social justice project because it gives people the ability to confront power within the legal system on an equal level.

More information about Deconstructing Legalese can be found at https://reneereizman.com/Deconstructing-Legalese

avatar for Renée Reizman

Renée Reizman

Adjunct Professor - Graphic Design & Digital Art, Pepperdine University
I am a relational artist, writer, curator, and activist who studies th relationship between infrastructure, public policy, and culture.

Saturday June 10, 2023 3:30pm - 5:00pm EDT
PS 405 (Design Center)