First Prize. Vera List Writing Awards 2014 - 2015 is a Python script, inspired by For Comrades and Lovers, Glenn Ligon’s installation at The New School University Center. When run, the program identifies all the nouns and adjectives in The Project Gutenberg EBook of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and randomly pairs them with the phrase “America is”. Below each sentence, an automated sentiment analysis module is implemented to measure the level of polarity and subjectivity of the statement, as an invitation for the viewer to compare the computer’s reaction with her or his own.

As great part of Ligon’s explorations, America for Comrades and Lovers is a text-based piece that reframes well known literary work in order to trigger specific questions and to provoke critical reflection around issues usually related to race, gender, or social (in)justice.

As Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, this exercise seeks to speak about America in a very experimental, provocative, and sometimes polarizing way. The apparently absolute character of the “America is…” statement, followed by a sentiment analysis that at times seems accurate and at times feels nonsensical, will hopefully ignite emotional reactions that will lead to meaningful discussions and reflections among the audience.

Despite of being inspired by their work, America for Comrades and Loversis faithful neither to Ligon nor to Whitman. On the contrary, it takes some licenses to generate a reflection on the essence of America today. This reflection does not aim to be a conclusive analysis of For Comrades and Lovers; it is instead an exploration of the key concepts of Whitman’s famous text and Ligon’s pursuits present in the piece, as well as an invitation to question our own ideas about America.


How to run the program on your computer (you need to have Python previously installed):

1)   Save and log.txt on your desktop

2)   Open and change the directory in the last line for yours (ie: '/Users/nelesirodriguez/Desktop/log.txt')

3)   Open your computer Terminal (Type “Terminal” on the spotlight and open the application)

4)   Type on the Terminal window “cd desktop” and hit enter

5)   Type on the Terminal window “python” and hit enter again

6)   Wait a few seconds, and the program will start running on the Terminal window


The program can be downloaded through the following link: