Reading Making A Laboratory

Emma Cocker reads/reviews/responds to the publication Making A Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video by Ben Spatz (Punctum Books, 2020), for Site-Reading Writing Quarterly, a project by Jane Rendell.


Reading — a reading, the act or process of reading, either silent or aloud. To read (observe and apprehend the meaning of something written), utter aloud (words, letters); to learn through reading; to put in order. Review — from re- 'again' + videre 'to see'; to see again, go to see again. A process of going over again. Response — to respond, answer to, promise in return. From re- 'back' + spondere 'to pledge'.


“How should one read a book?”1 “Reading slowly and rereading, returning time and time again to read anew, we return, similarly to the things in the world anew [...] slow reading would not simply mean always reading slowly, but would, rather, involve a preparedness to return time and time again to what we read”. “I browse. It gets darker. I continue to browse, I will continue to browse. I am being sustained by an activity difficult to describe and even more difficult to justify. The constant shifting of attention from one object to another is like a bird’s way of looking, cocking the neck from side to side to scan the visual field for signs of edible life […] The sentences in the books I have read sequentially are nothing to the sentences come upon by stealth […] Coming upon them obliquely, when they are not expecting me, I catch them at their strangeness, madly swirling fish that have not yet sensed the presence of the fisherman”.3  “The eyes do not read the letters one after the other, nor the words one after the other, nor the lines one after the other, but proceed jerkily and by becoming fixed, exploring the whole reading field instantaneously with a stubborn redundancy. This unceasing perusal is punctuated by imperceptible halts as if, in order to discover what it is seeking, the eye needed to sweep across the page in an intensely agitated manner, not regularly … but in a disorderly, repetitive and aleatory way; or if you prefer, since we are dealing with metaphors here, like a pigeon pecking at the ground in search of breadcrumbs.”4




What different kinds of sense-making are produced through experimental practices of reading? Reading as an aesthetic practice, as a poetic-aesthetic practice. How might the notion of 'transversality' and the operation of 'two cuts' outlined within Ben Spatz’s publication be explored through the act of reading, indeed, through the very act of reviewing Spatz’s book. Transversality — trans 'across' and vertere 'to turn' or 'to bend'. Akin to traversal — 'to pass across, over or through'. How can the act of reading operate as a transversal cut — as a practice of lateral reading? Two cuts — the opening cut (sets up the conditions, 'what was done'); the closing cut (trace of inscription, 'what happened'). This reading / review / response comprises three 'opening cuts' (separate reading 'scores' - see right) for setting up conditions for an experimental encounter with Spatz’s publication, alongside three spoken word texts, traces or inscriptions (the 'closing cuts' perhaps) that emerged through practising these scores. Each of the spoken word extractions might offer a different orientation (traversal) through the publication, whilst the scores also have the capacity to be activated by future readers engaging with the book themselves.



1. Virginia Woolf, ‘How Should One Read a Book’, in The Common Reader (2nd Edition), (London : Vintage Digital, 1925/2015), p. 258.

2. Michelle Boulous Walker, Slow Philosophy: Reading Against the Institution, (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), p. xv.

3. Geoffrey O’Brien, ‘By Stealth’ in The Browser’s Ecstasy: A Meditation on Reading, (Counterpoint; First Edition, 2003), p. 63 and p. 66.

4.  Georges Perec, ‘Reading: A Socio-physiological Outline’, in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, (London: Penguin Books, 1974/1997), p. 176.



Score I: Transversal Slice

Search through the book using a specific keyword e.g. CUT. Identify each time that this keyword appears. Read each line containing the keyword aloud, attending to the quality of sense-making that emerges through the constellation of these textual fragments.

Click4to play the sound files below; explore simultaneity.

Score II: Noticing Attraction

Take the book in your hands, holding it lightly. Allow your attention to roam the pages, moving freely, or gliding line by line. Soft attention, not grasping for meaning, rather, letting it come. Identify phrases or lines that call your attention or that stir your interest. Read each phrase or line aloud, exploring the quality of sense-making that emerges only by attending to these fragments.


III. Split Attention

Allow your eyes to roam the text until they alight on a word that calls your attention. Write this word down in clear capital letters e.g. MAKING. Now, return to reading the text that you are holding, beginning with the first line, using your ‘inner voice’, reading silently ‘in your head’. When you encounter a word beginning the first letter (e.g. M) of your chosen word (e.g. MAKING), say it out loud. Then, carry on reading with your inner voice. Continue to identify words beginning with this letter (e.g. M) saying them out loud as you encounter them, until you spot a word beginning with the next letter of your chosen word (e.g. A). Say this word out loud. Continue this process until you have worked your way through all the letters of your chosen word. If you cannot find a word corresponding to a particular letter, then remain silent. Attend to the emergent poetics produced through the chance encounter of spoken words. Explore this practice in the company of others.