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Writing (MA)

Nina Hanz

I’m a German-American writer, poet and art critic. I did my BA at the University College of Maastricht in the Netherlands where I focused on philosophy, art theory and literature. While I was there, I began working at the Jan van Eyck Academie. As part of their publishing team, I organised book fairs, catalogued their archives and assisted with printing. This was my introduction to art writing and where I felt my creative practice was encouraged for the first time. I soon began writing for various magazines, and came straight to the RCA after I finished my Bachelor’s. Most recently, my work has been published in Vogue CS, The Double Negative, Art Connect Magazine, ARC and Ache Magazine, amongst others. 

Throughout the course, I was given the opportunity to help with the editing of two class publications, 'Noit' and 'Attention'. These experiences and the encouragement of my peers, pushed me to seek out more editorial opportunities outside the RCA, such as at JAWS art journal and Grazia UK. Now, I am looking forward to working on a publication called My Daughter Terra (more information below!) with Betty Brunfaut and Bakhtawer Haider from the Visual Communications MA.




Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Writing (MA)

Over the course of my MA, I have written a lot about the human body; its movements and illness; the paradoxes of stillness; and the rapid acceleration of time (and people) passing. But for me, these subjects were always incomplete without a context, the spaces within which we find them, and the places which ground them. To gain a deeper understanding, I began to look downwards— under. I began by looking at the land, what it has gone through and how its slow movements and tectonic shifts seemed, initially, to teach us about recovery. And by looking down, I found all these little things: the gunk that gets stuck under our fingernails, the grit that gets trapped in a clamshell, the tiny particles that make up the enamel of our teeth. Wherever in time or space I found them, they seemed fleeting. My writing was meant as their landing, as their return, as a hardening in time on paper. 

I have always had a close relationship to conservation and ecology, but until I began writing 'Underdays' I did not know what embodied my art writing, my poetry and my other experiments with language. What I wanted to do was to map our own experiences, memories and pains with that of the Earth’s, what I call geological trauma. I wanted to find a home for all the small things, the lost things— so now I put them in writing as to never forget them. I want to layer every word, fraction and snapshot into one body, and for that to become our foundation. 

Oma Änni, by Nina Hanz, 2020 — Layers. Of words and histories, rocks and minerals. 'Underdays' is an experimental recitation of Western Germany’s coal-fired industrialisation and my family’s connection to fate’s geology. Through the six existing chapters, cultural artefacts, poetry, art and various other forms of memorialisation are positioned throughout history to explore in new contexts, often forming unnoticed patterns within our own tacks.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Family Archive 1, by Nina Hanz, 2020

Excerpt from Chapter 1 — During my research I kept reaching dead ends— the spaces where memories used to be were empty, forgotten by time, or maybe losses. It seems we tend too easily to forget, to move on, trying not to show the signs of our suffering, the grief. Maybe that’s why I wanted so badly to uncover these histories, to unearth our story like sunken coal. To use these trebles, these memories, to fill the gaps, the spaces where people used to be.

My recommended reading list

The title, 'Underdays', has been attached to the project since its early foundation. In the text, it references the influence of the mining trade on language in North-Rhine Westphalia as well as being an alternative way to deal with (and to conflate) time and location. Translated from the ‘Bergmannssprache’, one of the oldest known trade-based dialects, ‘unter Tage’ combines a unit to measure time (the day) with a location (under). Fixed states time, location and language thus begin to collapse within the text. This attention to language also brings forth an intense focus on metaphors, particularly in terms of spaces, emptiness, systems and structures.

The act of writing is then considered in relationship to labour, behaving and acting similar to the mining profession, the work of extraction. Fragments of sentences, histories and memories rise to the surface, creating a methodology echoing the work’s subterranean focus. Archaeological in spirit, the documentation presented is equally hypothetical and historical, layering and overlapping to produce a narrow sample of geological traumas as if extracted and transplanted by a twin spade.

This approach manipulates the conventional uses of time, tense and altitude to embody the psychological re-experiencing of the past, trauma flashbacks. As a result, the focus shifts away from the accuracy of academia and instead offers a version of the landscape and its heavy history that produces an acute and aggressive density not unlike the earth’s stratum, the pressures which form coal.


15,080 words
ArchiveArt and ScienceArt WritinggeologyLandscapeLanguageMemoryMiningplaceSpace and TimeTimeWriting

Pages 22-23

The self / the other. The daughter / the mother.

This poem was originally featured in the Pluralist's the double issue exploring the self and the other, edited by Harri Welch and Lucy Holt.

Polypores, Nina Hanz, 2020

Recorded by Nina Hanz and Fiona Glen, but by Fiona Glen.

Pages 1-2

Seven-Flowers, Nina Hanz, 2020

Pages 3-4

Together, Fiona Glen, 2020

Pages 5-6

Spores of tiny reproductive cells kick back against eco-collapse. Blind, soft-hard little peaks pop up as mushrooms, mycophilia. Some fan with a bittersweet aroma. Some breathe a breath of rot. All appetise their own hunters with drug relapses and poisons known formerly as witchcraft. Part of a resilient kingdom closer to animals than plants, these micro/myco-beings are experts in adaptation, in surviving and thriving in the margins, in clearing up other people’s shit. 

Humans have designated them decomposers. But they are building worlds from the dead and discarded, stewing new life in their own saliva. For possible futures, both psychedelic and dismal, we see fungi sprouting in potential of inheriting the Earth.

This sporing text – a collaborative poetry project written between myself and Fiona Glen – is a contribution to the latest revival of the Royal College of Art’s historic publication ARC.

In Collaboration with:


Photo by Ludovica Colacino

Design by Alec McWilliam

Design by Alec McWilliam

Design by Alec McWilliam

Photo by Ludovica Colacino — This small collection of poems is part of the 'Attention' anthology developed from one of the writing workshops delivered by Brian Dillon. Like the other texts in the publication, these poems explore attention, scale, duration and endurance. Inspired by an eight-by-eight square print hanging in my bedroom, these poems capture what is in the image, but also what I have imagined to be there.

Design by Alec McWilliam

Design by Alec McWilliam

The Risograph printer is a digital duplicator–essentially, a high-volume photocopier. It works by spot-colour printing, pressing one colour at a time, spot by spot, layer by layer. Each of these tiny dots are perfectly placed, aligned and measured until their tiers come together as one print. It does this with neither toner nor inkjet but a cylindrical drum in the centre of the machine. Spinning, a special film around the drum allows the ink to make an impression on the paper where the image was burnt through. This process creates these round specks of colour on the paper. As these dots come together in more densely populated spaces and spread out in more sparse areas, an image begins to be replicated. These constellations create new shades when the coloured dots are close to each other, adding depth to the piece.

George Wietor’s print, Joshua Tree, only uses two colours. Fluorescent Orange and Riso-Federal Blue. Yet it appears to be more than just these two. Ink gradients overlapping on the page sometimes make desert tones and cactus greens, but when the colours are not layered the spots make sunset strips of blue and orange in the background sky. This optical illusion becomes even more complex under black light, where the desert image transforms into an underwater-alter-ego of blue, purple, and hot pink. The vision and planning involved in the spot-colouring process reminds me of writing: each Riso-dot a word in a poem.

Call Out!

Call Out!

This is a call for pitches!

We are looking for visual artists and writers to contribute to our forthcoming publication, 'My Daughter Terra'. Conceived and edited by me, this zine seeks to a re-introducing and re-positioning ourselves to and with the ground, our planet Terra. I am so pleased to be working on this project with the designers Betty Brunfaut and Bakhtawer Haider because of their active commitment to sustainable publishing and designing with the environment at the centre of their practice.

Please send your short bios (less than 300 words) and a pitch (about 500 words) to by August 31, 2020. Any relevant resources and links are also welcome.

In Collaboration with:

29 July 2020
18:30 (GMT + 0)

MA Writing: Sick

Breaking down the language of illness
Read More
24 July 2020
18:30 (GMT + 0)

Writing the Body: a conversation with Tai Shani

Student panel discussion

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