Posts Tagged ‘reading for readings sake’


In Uncategorized on December 1, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Rachel Lois Clapham and Emma Cocker, Re- (Unfixed), 2010.

This week I have been working on MY READING DID THIS TO ME, a performance lecture that I will give as part of UNFIXED on December 2nd 2010 at the Flat Time House in London. There will also be a workshop (in collaboration with Hyun Jin Cho) on December 3rd. See the full programme here.

The project is part of Reading for Reading’s Sake, organised by Helen Kaplinsky and Maurice Carlin. In June I took part in  a previous RfRs event at Islington Mill in Salford.

At that event, I presented a session on READING AS PUBLISHING. This began from an interest in how private moments of reading could be “published” as performances, readings, further texts, conversations, and other art works. I was interested in what might be learned from such an act, and the gains, losses and transformations involved with practicing reading in this way.

Patrick Coyle, Spellcheck Stamp, 2010

The present project explores unfolding that notion further. The project has also been informed by the context of the Flat Time House, and by thinking about John Latham’s work. A good introduction to both of these is a video of John Latham talking about his work and giving a tour of the flat time house here.

Stefan Sulzer, The Reading Room (still), 2010.

Inparticular, this led me to think about what a practice of reading produces, and whether that XXXX can be understood, literally or metaphorically, as system, network, sculpture, poem, or something else entirely.  I wanted to make conscious and deliberate the accumulative effects of different reading moments.

All this will take a (momentarily) final shape during the talk tomorrow. Thinking about the talk has also led me to engage with a particular group of texts and writers that I might not have read right now were it not for this project. Inparticular I have been reflecting on this quote from Anais Nin:

But Jean Carteret was alive and his apartment which I had described minutely… was absolutely unchanged. Only it seemed darker and dustier. I could not tell whether it was time which had layered dust on the objects from Lapland, from Africa, from South America, from all the places he had visited, or whether my own vision of them had lost the sparkle of poetry I then saw in them, and which had worn off. He still seemed like an astrologer, a fortune teller, a mysterious character whose constant activity did not manifest itself into a body of work. He had found writing difficult, laborious. Now he was enthusiastic about the notion that writing was disappearing, and that he could talk into a tape recorder. He wanted a tape recorder. Then all this profuse, imagistic talk he spent so lavishly in cafés, would become a work, there would be a record of his endless dissertations on esoteric subjects.

At the café he talked abstractions. He made drawings. He seemed more than ever removed from the present, from humanity. He was dealing in abstractions so esoteric and obscure that I could only listen. When you know someone well, and have once followed the traceries of his fantasies, been familiar with them, you do not recognize as easily the signs of schizophrenia, but this time I felt it. He had gone too far into space. He spoke a language which could not be shared. It was far beyond astrology. It was like a vast web in which he entangled himself. His eyes were unseeing. I once described them as all-seeing because he was then a visionary, and he guided his course by psychology and astrology. But now he was spinning words, concepts, so far removed from our reach that I wanted to grasp him physically and rescue him. It was an evening which dissolved in a long monologue, unanswerable, unreachable.

I felt chilled, desolate. What had kept him bound to earth and human beings, and what permitted him to lose gravity, and be pulled into a void?

And this quote from Bertolt Brecht:

I’ve been revising the second scene. It’s a hell of a job in the open air. But the relationships are becoming simpler and more human all the same. Though the struggle may be becoming over-intellectual. I must stir in some more ingredients, more haggling over coffee, forenoon, belches, primitive life… At the same time I’m beginning to feel an urge to write plays about stupid people. ‘Mankind in Pursuit of Money’, that kind of things, fleeting, colourful, malicious plays, a wild life with Kaffirs and caryatids, a fast-moving plot.



In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 6:41 am


Reading as Publishing: Samuel Beckett on Holiday


In the week after READING FOR READING’S SAKE I came across a number of quotations that developed and nuanced the space of “reading as activity” opened up by that event. 

(1) “the artist, the work of art, and its viewers are connected through an intricate web of correspondences, and if one if really inside of that relation, everything corresponds. And one cannot really deal with a work of art without dealing with its correspondences, including one’s own life and its relation to others. It is a simple truth, but one that is so regularly obscured in practice that it has become a kind of mystery to us. ”  

David Levi Strauss, From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual (Oxford University Press, 2010), 165.  Read in Gordon Square WC1London, 12 April, 2010, instantaneously applying quotation to a networked “everything corresponds” model of reading. 

(2)”There is something about the way you put together – compose – your sentences, a deliberate effort to create moments of silence, of stillness, full stops, as though there would be rest marks in a musical score, or an end of bar that forces the reader to go back and start from the beginning.”

Joan Richardson, question to Stanley Cavell, “The Transcendental Strain: Stanley Cavell Talks with Bookforum”, Bookforum, April-May 2010, 5-6. Read on 15.55 train from Leeds to London, 11 April, 2010. 

Thinking here about the musical spaces between books, also how books could resist a linear read-through and consumption, shifting attention into a broader engagement with all levels of their material architecture. 

(3) “Surrealism is an honest, beautiful resilient tonic fermented into a delicately volatile mixture of liberty, sensuous play, psychic automatism, chance, humor and a biting critique of corrupt power in all its manifestations, from bourgeois miserablism to fascism.”

Jesse Gentes, quote from “Impossible Emancipation” (2009), cited in Patricide: Issue One: Documentary Surrealism , purchased and read at Cornerhouse, Manchester, 9th May 2010. 

Patricide posits continued presence of surrealism as grass roots, non-institutional praxis. Issue Two will be on “seaside surrealism.”

I made some notes for a possible contribution, but they lacked the sense of project I remembered from Paul Nash’s writings on the subject (first published in the 1938 issue of Architectural Review).   PROJECT: read widely in surrealist literature, but without concept of unconscious. 

 (4)”Reading is a favorite activity, and I often ponder its phenomenology. As I write this essay, the reading I do for it is a mitigated pleasure. Sometimes it feels like a literal ingestion, a bulimic gobbling up of words as thought they were fast food. At other times I read and take notes in a desultory, halting, profoundly unsatisfying way. And my eyes hurt.” 

Moyra Davey, Long Life Cool White: Photographs and Essays by Moyra Davey, (Yale University Press, 2008), 85. At home, evening, Whitechapel, London 12 April 2010. 

Photo: Moyra Davey


Davey talks of the flanerie of reading – a concept which captures the entwining intention between reading as WORK and as indulgence, and what circumstances determine the readers self-positioning on this spectrum of value.

For Davey herself the (w)readerly result is an associative, diaristic, unfolding essaying, and a photograph practice where a formal materiality of reading (and other activities – see image below) acquires its own (irr-)resonant psychology. 

Photo: Moyra Davey


SAMUEL BECKETT ON HOLIDAY: Walking into the Cornerhouse bookshop on 9th May 2010 I immediately noticed the photo of Samuel Beckett. It’s from Beckett: Photographs by François-Marie Baniera , including several, like those here,  of SB on holiday in Tangiers. I liked how this liberated Beckett’s texts from the moody black and white images that often appear on his books. 

In the context of “reading as publishing” I also liked how this photo appeared to published the emotion of my own experience of reading Beckett, finding a certain reassuring joy in the certain ontological ground (or non-ontological non-ground ground) that Beckett seemed to write. 

The photo also loosens up the relationship between Beckett’s life and work, suggesting a possibly more paradoxical and tangential relationship than the black and white icons which attempt to map Beckett’s physical image onto his writings and vice versa, like some primitive neo-Victorian science of physiognomy.

Thinking of the materiality of a book and its reading, that’s what I don’t want “reading as publishing” to be.


In Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 at 7:13 am

On May 1st I will be presenting a reading as part of PREAMBLES AND PERAMBULATIONS, an exhibition at the Dickens House Museum curated by Island Projects. More about the event can be seen here

 On 13th April 2010, thinking about what I will read, I went to the Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury. On the top floor there was a small display dedicated to Dicken’s own practice of reading aloud. I noted Dickens specially built reading table that accompanied him on tour, particularly the small box placed on top and on which the hand holding the book would rest. 

 I wrote: This suggests that book reading is like a cumbersome prosthetic, how the act of reading in public is a complex act requiring a cumbersome architecture of body appendages and extensions. Rather than standing at the reading table, one crawls inside it to get more familiar with one’s own texts. 

I also examined a display case of the reading copies, from which Dickens read. These were subject to various methods of annotation, including pencil underlining and the highlighting of sections of text in red and blue. Inparticular I noted that Dickens sometimes crossed out paragraphs in the printed text, and replaced them with a handwritten alternative. I thought these might be slight rearrangements of grammar, possibly to bring out rhythms more striking for reading aloud. 

In the printed text of MR. CHOPS THE DWARF Dickens had crossed out a text which read:

There was the canvas representin the picter [sic] of a child of a British Planter, siezed by the two boa constricters…

and replaced it with the following: 

Then there was the canvas representing the fat lady from Norfolk, in a plaid frock and sash…

Whilst there may be some obvious reason for this shift apparent to Dickens scholars, I appropriated the shift between paragraphs as evidencing the demands of reading aloud, shifting from private absorption to public performance, and the transformations of matter, style, and story that necessitates. 

Coming downstairs into the library, I noticed in one corner a reproduction of Dickens reading table (the original upstairs had been in a glass case, which suggested a Dickens still reading, muffled, behind glass). But it lacked the small square – covered in the same dark red velvet – that Dickens rested hand and book upon (see image above). My response to the reading table had focussed upon that red square block. I wondered where it was, if the reproduction had ever included such a thing. 

I note some reasons for this fascination: its nature as building block, minimalist cube (fringed with a dark red tassle), mobility, wrist podium, something to be found hanging from every book like furry dice from a car window.

It is the block that fits the reading stand into the scale of Dicken’s body, giving form to a void space between human and object, reader and book, but such form is temporary/provisional/”blocked”. Hopefully, the block can levitate on its own if carrying around the reading stand proves difficult. 

In fact, I noted, the reconstruction [of the reading stand] is noticeable for its lack of animating props, its denial of the prosthetic nature of reading aloud. No ivory paper knife that functioned as a prop, never to cut paper; no jug of water; no cloth or towel. 

My image of how to use this reading table was becoming ever more physical. I IMAGINED DICKENS wiping his brow and the back of his neck with the towel like a boxer, sweat pouring onto the altered paragraphs of his page. I imagine a script of Dickens reading aloud that involves no books, just a choreography of sweat, box, jug, water, ivory paper knife.  From Boa Constrictor to Norfolk Fat Lady.

A few days after my visit to the Dickens House Museum I read the following quotation by Gertrude Stein:

She always said that that first visit had made London just like Dickens and Dickens had always frightened her. As she says anything can frighten her and London when it was like Dickens certainly did. 

SOURCE TEXT: Gertrude Stein, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B TOKLAS, (Penguin Books, London, 2001 [1933]), 92-3


Preambles and Perambulations: Past, Present and Future: Creative minds at 48 Doughty Street. Saturday 24th April 2010 – Saturday 8th May 2010.

ARTISTS: Larry Achiampong, Bram Thomas Arnold, David Berridge, Marco Cali, Maurice Carlin, Jeremy Evans, Anna Chapman, Pippa Koszerek, Yaron Lapid, Sophie Loss, Jane Madell, Penny Matheson, Aidan McNeill, Duane Moyle, Dermot O’Brien, Gary O’Connor, Claudia Passeri, Steve Perfect, Veronica Perez Karleson, Jonathan Trayner, Mary Yacoob.

Private View (entry free): Friday 23rd April 2010, 18.00 – 21.00. A conversation with the artists: Saturday 24th April 2010, 14.00 – 16.00. Performers and Readers: Saturday 1st May 2010, 14.00 – 16.00. Exhibition open: Monday – Sunday, 10.00 – 17.00. Normal museum admission charges apply. 


In Uncategorized on April 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm

This Saturday April 10th 10.30- 12.30pm I will be presenting READING AS PUBLISHING, a workshop and presentation as part of READING FOR READING’S SAKE at the Islington Mill Academy. The full programme of the four day event can be seen here

The following is the description of the project I wrote for the website: 

Reading as Publishing explores how acts and moments of individual reading can be published, and what shifts occur as private moments of textual absorption are translated into public performances, conversations, stories, silences, and images.

READING AS PUBLISHING begins from the following assumptions: (1) texts are mobile and easily distributed, so site specificity belongs to the moment of writing, the act of reading and commentary; (2)writing and reading are private acts, which must be made be public in order to have political efficacy.

READING AS PUBLISHING will begin with a presentation of a range of printed, visual and oral materials that unfold how reading can be published and made public, proposing a preliminary set of techniques and possibilities. The rest of the session will be for participants to read privately, then consider how to publish that experience to the group.

The session will conclude with a sharing of our “publications.”

The READING AS PUBLISHING  project is being developed on this website. The script from the weekend will be posted next week. Already online are:

WOUND ROSES ROSES BLEED: A KURT SCRIPT FOR READING KURT SCHWITTERS, exploring the development of scripts and scores for reading particular texts. 

A COMPENDIUM OF STRATEGIES: RODNEY GRAHAM AND READING AS PUBLISHING, a reading of the catalogue for his recent MACBA show, highlighting engagements with reading, writing and the book. 

The presentation will explore “reading as publishing” through texts by, amongst others, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Joubert, Hélène Cixous and St. Augustine.


READING FOR READING’S SAKE is curated by Maurice Carlin, Helen Kaplinksy and Megan Wakefield. It will also feature contributions from Aesthetics and Politics Reading Group, Ruth Beale, Rachel Lois ClaphamDavid BerridgeKatie Brandon, Patrick Coyle, Lowri Evans, Ella Finer, Royston Futter, Stephen Kingston, Fraser MuggeridgeTamarin Norwood, Sam Playford, Lucy May Schofield, and Sebastian Willan.


In Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 at 4:52 pm


Rodney Graham, catalogue for Through the Forest, MACBA, 2010


What follows is a compendium of “reading as publishing” strategies derived from the work of Rodney Graham, based on my reading of two texts in the catalogue for  Graham’s recent Through the Forest MACBA show: Grant Arnold’s “It Always Makes Me Nervous When Nature Has No Purpose: An Annotated Chronology of the Life and Work of Rodney Graham” and Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes “Rodney Graham: Literature and What an Artist Does with It.”

Lerm Hayes essay is structured around the following taxonomy, which serves as a useful taxonomy of Graham’s “reading as publishing” concerns: The Study; Writing (or Not); The Book; The Typewriter, Paper; The Bookshop; Slipcases, Architectures for Reading. “Reading as Publishing” is a term I have been exploring for my presentation and workshop as part of Reading for Reading’s Sake at Islington Mills, Salford, 9-11 April 2010. As Hayes proposes:

[Graham] approaches literature… not as an opposed pole, but with ambivalence, similar to how he engages with cinema: quoting, appropriating literature’s methods, motifs, and forms, critiquing, at times lampooning, as well as revering and even reviving its traditions. What emerges is a way of working with literature that (re)presents it in innovative ways to new (and old) audiences… It provides a current and coherent (albeit idiosyncratic) way of harking back to the times of the universal artist/ scholar, while in all its idiosyncrasies and ambivalence showing how even today a critically reflected unity of all the arts may be possible. 

Rodney Graham problematizes what it is to produce and receive literature today, to read, to interpret it visually and textually, to write, design, print and sell books, to exhibit them as well as the outcomes of his complex, visual investigation into literature. (65-6)  

Rodney Graham, Reading Machine for Lenz, 1993



Lenz (1983) is an appropriation of a short unfinished work of fiction by Georg Buchner. As Lenz journeys through a mountain landscape to find a pastor, experiencing psychological breakdown, Graham takes the first 1,434 words of C.R. Mueller’s translation, typesets them so they fall on five justified pages, and creates a narrative loop so the reader, like Lenz, continually retraces their steps. The resultant work is produced in two forms: a 16 page prospectus (in edition of 210) and cloth bound book of 336 pages (in slipcase).

Also working with the loop is Dr.No (1991), a bookmark with text by Graham ( derived in part from Alain Robbe-Grillet) that can be inserted between pages 56 and 57 of the original first edition to extend and loop a scene in which a poisonous centipede transverses Bond’s naked body.

As Hayes summarises this method:

In using selection and the loop as strategies, Graham also conveniently caters to the art context’s comparatively shorter attention span or expected reception time. Like Joyce, Graham strategically rearranges literary history, showing the disturbing, evocative, fresh and colourful nature of earlier writing, “recycling” sources, placing himself within both a nineteenth-century and a Viconian context, that of a cyclical world order, for which the book, an object that one can turn around on its spine, is certainly a good image. (70)

Graham considers inserting his own text into existing books. Finds Lacan unsuitable, but turns to Freud. Freud Citation is a photograph of the cover of The Species Cyclamen L by Friedrich Hildebrand with a text referring to the books role in Freud’s anaysis of his “Dream of the Botanical Monograph.” Freud glimpsed the book in a Viennese bookshop and then dreamed about it.  

This project develops into Installation for Münster, a 1987 installation for Skulptur Projekte Münster in which 24 dummy books – their cover a replica of Hildebrand’s texts, their pages blank, if you could open them to see – are installed in windows of Münster’s bookshops. As Max Wechsler observes the book:

has become an object,  a symbol of its content rather than an actual container for them, and the starting point for an autonomous chain of associations… this is an art that wants to retreat under the hood of the everyday, to withdraw, if not into invisibility, at least into a discreet reserve. (100)


The System of Landor’s Cottage: A Pendant to Poe’s Last Story (1984) is a book based on and encompassing Edgar Allan Poe’s Landor’s Cottage: A Pendant to “The Domain of Arnheim.” Poe describes a small cottage set in an idyllic valley. Graham makes  the story into a novel by adding an extensive description of an annex to the cottage. The project becomes an architectural model, drawings, a dummy book, and a 312 page novel (in edition of 250).  A leather bound deluxe edition of 4 is also produced. 

Rodney Graham, Standard Edition, 1988


Graham also produces book sculptures. Die Traumdeutung, (1986) inserts books into replicas of minimalist sculptures by Donald Judd. Sculptures are also produced including works by Raymond Roussell(Nouvelles impressions d’Afrique), as well as La Séminaire (Lacan), Cours de Linquistique générale (Ferdinand de Saussure) and Jokes/Case Studies and Standard Editions (Freud). 

Casino Royale (Sculpture de Voyage) (1990), another project derived from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, is installed in a hotel room so you could lie in bed and read above you a section where Bond, tied to a chair  from which the seat caning has been removed, is thrashed on buttocks and genitals. As Hayes observes of Graham’s focus on slip-cases and “mini-architectures” for books, they make reading impossible but, through echoing the books subject matter, provide “associative and interpretive companionship.” (80-82)

Rodney Graham, White Shirt (for Mallarmé), Spring 1993


In White Shirt (for Mallarmé), Spring 1993. A black cardboard box contains a white men’s dress shirt folded as if on display in a clothing shop. Inside the shirt is a sheet of white paper with with the text of Stéphane Mallarmés poem “The Demon of Analogy.” Through the fabric of the shirt can be seen a sheet of tissue paper with the poem title, the phrase “La Pénultième est morte” and Mallarme’s signaure. The shirt fits Graham. It is intended to be exhibited simultaneously in gallery and shop front.

Irradiation (1993) is a boxed set of 8x 10 inch glass negatives of the first forty-four pages of section four of Bibliographie analytique des principaux phénomènes subjectifs de la vision by Joseph Plateau, which describes optical effects caused by the observation of stars at night. 

Graham’s confinement of the book to the luxury edition enables a foregrounding of the book as both impossible and ideal. Illustrating the former, a project on Czerny’s piano exercises links them to Galileo’s fomulation of the law of free fall, to produce a text variously exhibited as a 1,443 page wall text, and 24 volumes (one hour of music).

Projects (1988) begins from a glimpse – like that which leads Freud to his dream of the botanical monograph – that mistakes a cardboard box for a book “such as I myself should someday like to write” Graham observes:

This later idea set off a new speculation – a daydream in which I found myself mentally assembling a whole series or recent thoughts about books into a more or less coherent form, into a prescription for my ideal, future book. I should most certainly (I recall telling myself) have the work’s title and my name composed in the romantic-style topography I love (in black, red, green and gold ink – I had recently seen an example of this, the engraved title page of an old architectural pattern book, at the home of my brussels friend) the paper of the book should be soft and supple ( I like a book that yields to the hands and drapes when opened) its pages of a creamy white etc. etc. 

In Five Interior Design Proposals for the Grimm Brothers’ Studies in Berlin (1992), CAD drawings of the brothers matching studies were manipulated and moved around creating a series of varying doubles, then rendered as nineteenth century interior design illustrations. 

Rodney Graham, Rheinmetall / Victoria 8, 2003


In the film Rheinmetall/ Victoria 8, the typewriter becomes covered in filmic snow/ flour, which Hayes interprets as an end to optimistic views of technological progress. It offers an image of “reading as publishing” that both reveals and conceals. In Hayes useful phrase Graham practices “a conceptualism that overdoes it” (78)

Graham’s more recent work has moved away from a focus on the book and reading, although Allegory of Folly: Study for an Equestrian Monument in the Form of a Wind Vane (2005), a pair of black and white light boxes, features Graham as Erasmus, reading a phone book whilst seated backwards on a model horse used to train jockeys.