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Shery Oring, Market Square, Typewriter, Postcard , Vintage, Retro

Artwork Type

Interactive, Social Practice, Temporary

I Wish to Say, 2017

Sheryl Oring


Commissioning Entity Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
Owner Sheryl Oring

In 2004, artist Sheryl Oring began her project I Wish to Say during the George W. Bush administration as a public art performance piece in Oakland, California. For 13 years, Oring has toured I Wish to Say in over 80 cities across the United States, and on April 28 and 29, 2017, she brought the project to Pittsburgh. 

I Wish to Say gives ordinary American citizens the opportunity to share their thoughts on the current administration and state-of-affairs. A constant in each performance is the use of vintage manual typewriters and a pool of typists dressed as 1960s secretaries. The public is able to approach a typist and dictate a message to the president. The typist transcribes the message on postcards, and makes two copies of the message by using carbon paper; one copy is kept by Oring for her archives, while the other is given to the individual to send to the president. 

The Pittsburgh performance of I Wish to Say took place in Market Square during the 99th and 100th days of Donald Trump's presidency. Nine, local typists, led by Oring, marched to Market Square from 810 Penn Avenue, to take their seats in the project's public office. Over the two-day period, several hundred people came to I Wish to Say to dictate messages to Trump and his administration. After each dictation, participants signed their message and then took the copies of their postcards to the center of Market Square to be time-stamped by Oring, and to have a polaroid picture taken for her archives. 

In several interviews with Oring, the most asked question is, "Why use typewriters for this project?" For Oring, the use and sound of a typewriter engages all of the senses for both the typists and the public. The process requires that the typist listen, and the participant to directly communicate their sentiments to another person, without the help of modern technology, nor the ability to hide or alter their identity using social media. 

Oring's desire to continue this work is inspired by the messages dicated by the public. Messages contain a range of content from simple, direct statements to deeply personal stories. In all, I Wish to Say serves as a contemporary archive of America's commentary, and a reminder that free speech is an exercise that requires constant participation. 

By Rachel Klipa, Office of Public Art 


Sheryl Oring examines critical social issues through projects that incorporate old and new media to tell stories, examine public opinion and foster open exchange. Using tools typically employed by journalists (the camera, the typewriter, the pen, the interview and the archive) she builds on experience in her former profession to create installations, performances, artist books and internet-based works.

Oring has shown her work at the O1SJ Biennial; Bryant Park in Manhattan; the Jewish Museum Berlin; and the McCormick Freedom Museum in Chicago. She has also presented work at Art in Odd Places in New York; the Art Prospect festival in St. Petersburg, Russia; Encuentro in Sao Paolo, Brazil; and the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Dubai. Oring received her MFA from the University of California at San Diego and works as an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She recently completed a public art commission at the San Diego International Airport, and is currently at work on a public art commission at the Tampa International Airport.

Collecting institutions include the Library of Congress; Museum of Modern Art; Tate Britain; Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; La Jolla Athenaeum; Yale University; University of California, Irvine; and many other university libraries across the United States.

Biography taken from sheryloring.org


Assistants: Julia Caston and Robert Rose

Hair and Makeup
: Brett James Salon. 

Reader: George Scheer

Typists: Zach Cole, Lynne Glover, Pat Good, Catherine Greninger, Madalyn Hochendoner, Rachel Klipa, Christiane Leach, Molly MacLagan, and Leigh White.