Within this page, we provide a wider frame for the project Reading on Reading. The page comprises an expanded list of questions extracted directly from the transcripts of our recorded conversations during the Research Pavilion (see right). Scroll further to the right of the page to read a text that draws out some of the questions, areas of exploration and conceptual issues arising within our collaborative enquiry. 







How is reading?

What is reading?

What did you try?

How do you start?

What do you miss?

What was the task?

What do we find out?

What am I busy with?

What does this mean?

How is the textorium?

What does it produce?

How do you follow up?

How can I read a text?

Are we just gesturing?

Could reading be this?

What is it showing up?

What would this enable? 

Could we read anything?

What does this show up?

What am I investigating?

What is it interested in?

When am I really reading?

How have I been practising? 

What is our enquiry in this?

How is the gesture of reading?

How would you ordinarily read?

What were the ways you tested?

What is the aesthetic quality?

What is my aesthetic approach?

What are the times for reading?

What does it do with the meaning?

What do we do when we are reading?

What does it tell us about reading?

Is it possible to read to somebody?

How can I make the exercise clearer?

What is the right-ness of this doing?

How I am going to look at the material?

Are there variables that can be tested?

Did you have a system that you developed?

Does that show something up about reading?

Can we get to a kind of aesthetic attitude?

What if we read a completely different text?

Can we dissociate reading from understanding?

If you learn a text by heart, is this reading?

What are the practices that you use in reading?

How can I develop an attitude towards the text?

What does it mean to say now I am really reading?

When does the gesture of research become research?

How much does the actual text have a meaning here?

What does it feel like to fall out of synchronicity?

What is the gesture, what is the gesture of reading?

How can I allow myself to be transformed by the text?

How much are you aware of what is said on the last page?

How does it enable us to understand the text differently?

How do aesthetic forms of reading shape our understanding?

How does this reading on reading relate to our own writing?

What would it be to read one of the phenomenological texts?

What would happen if the text was more complicated or complex?

What is that showing up from a phenomenological point of view?

What kind of aesthetic forms of reading would be relevant to us?

What are the questions that are generated through these practices?

What kind of reading does reading in a specific body position enable?

What would happen is the external conditions are more noisy or amplified?

Does fidelity to the task prevent you from actually feeling the thresholds?

How can we creatively try out new scores in order to get to new experiences?

How can aesthetic forms of reading enable a different understanding of a text?

How does the aesthetic form of the reading shape our understanding of the text?

Is page-turning a byproduct of reading or is it part of the gesture of reading?

How does an aesthetic reading of a text shape our subject-hood in different ways?

What is the difference if I am mouthing the words to if I am saying them out loud?

What do we need to do to give us enough structure or a frame to allow things to unfold?

What are the gestures that are somehow intrinsic to reading but are not reading itself?

How can I do it in a different way, to use this as a way to, as a way to get even deeper?

How far can one be the architect of an exercise in relation to what one wants to find out?

What is the mode of sense making that emerges from approaching reading in these different ways?

How is the difference between the stylistic how of how you read and how the reading affects you?

When does the practice explore the phenomenology of reading, and when does it become a different experiment?

What would it be like if I walked when I was concentrated and stood still and read out loud when I was distracted?

What is the difference if we are all reading the same text, as in this instance, or if we had different texts?

By changing the parameters, how does this change the outcome and what kind of reflection does it enable?

What is the different aesthetic experience that emerges between the conceptual and the phenomenological?

How is the textorium changing through these various aesthetic exercises that we are performing?

What happens if the reading is not self-referential - if we read a completely different text?

Is language structured in groupings, which naturally create points of emphasis within them?

What is it that enables me to go from a state of lapsed concentration into concentration?

How does the way in which you read change the sense of what it is that you are reading?

Are we also doing this with a difference purpose rather than to do with better reading?

Is it possible to be transformed by reading even if you do not understand its content?

How did this exercise enable us to see all of a sudden about the very act of reading?

How do we stop a shared reading exercise becoming like a march or a military drill?

Can we allow this activity to hold in relation our different ways of doing things?

If I do not understand the reading on a cognitive level, can it still transform me?

Are we able to understand better when we are focused than when we are not focused?

Does focusing on spatial thresholds invite a different phenomenological question?

What would be the type of reading that enables us to really read it in that way?

How can you inspire yourself to read in ways that the understanding would alter?

What are the variables that change when I modulate my experiments with reading?

How can I reverberate something in a space and see if it has an effect or not?

Do these words all mean the same thing or do they refer to different things?

Where are the spaces in the room that feel most conducive to concentration?

What is the difference between emphasis or intonation and force and volume?

What would it mean to add tone to best communicate the affect of the text?

How is the reading of text allowing you to change you understanding of it?

What do we need to do to establish a ground to be able to do the exercise?

If I am concentrated and I am moving through the words - is that reading?

What happens when we do this within the frame of an artistic environment?

In language, is there a rhythm when we are trying to create emphasis?

What happens when you read the same text again, with the same method?

How can we focus on one exercise but slightly change the parameters?

How can one tell when something is read and where does this shift?

What would happen if the text becomes more complicated or complex?

What would it be to put the tonal emphasis on the non-important?

Are there different forms of reading related to the text itself?

Can I be transformed by the quality of attention in lettering?

What does the situation afford and what does it not allow for?

Is it to do with getting back into the interest of the text?

Is the re-sensing happening in the voicing or the listening?

How would this attitude then inform the tone of my reading?

What would be a phenomenological approach to this exercise?

Is breathing a way of managing the sentences that we think?

Does the text come with a specific aesthetics of reading?

What kind of gestures and movements enable concentration?

How is the emphasis structure of a phenomenological text?

Is it the same movement that you do with your inner eyes?

How can we be so attuned, how can we be so synchronized?

Can it be possible to think of the intonation of silence?

How can make it look the way that it feels from inside?

What is the precision, or the parameters of precision?

Could we think of an experiment that makes sense here?

What would it be like for me to access a German text?

What is the difference between speaking and reading?

Do you already have words that you want to trouble?

How is the relation between thinking and breathing?

How can you know what my sentence was going to be?

What are the gestures of reading and what are not?

Did we get the point of connecting with the space?

Does it activate more as a performative exercise?

Is it something to do with the rhythm of walking?

What happens when you masticate these two things?

What is the textorium of this multiple reading?

What kinds of preparatory practices can you do?

Can you introduce another intonation and tempo?

Is reading to do with understanding the words?

What do we recognize when someone just reads?

What can I change to reinstate concentration?

Can this be described as the tone of silence?

Could there be an exercise where we do this?

Does reading mean that I have to understand?

Does this belong to the gesture of reading?

How do you understand the term answerable?

What would be my tone, my tonal attitude?

What is the reading that I am doing here?

Is that a different kind of distraction?

How far did walking influence the focus?

Am I now pushing too much understanding?

Can we also read when not understanding?

Would you do this when you are reading?

Where are you when you are in the text?

What is it that makes silence awkward?

What happens when you try out things?

Do tone and intonation mean the same?

How far can I get with my own breath?

Is that intonation or is that rhythm?

Where does it happen then - the tone?

Are you not listening in that moment?

What does it frame or enable, or not?

Which things can we really practise?

What kind of reading do I now apply?

Do we group words in a certain way?

Is the lag the same thing as a gap? 

W Did I move it to something else?

How is it that we inflect silence?

What is tone in a melodical sense?

How can you think with sentences?

How did that affect your reading?

What kind of impulse could I use?

What makes you break the rules?

How does it change graphically?

Did I actually do the exercise?

What was the tone of the voice? 

Is tone the same as intonation?

How is the text able to invoke?

hat would it mean to add tone?

How do we speak to each other?

What does repetition show up?

What things need preparation?

Is tone the same as emphasis?

What variables can be tested?

Do you work with repetition?

Could we come back to this?

How can I be so disturbed?

Is this to do with affect?

Or are we really doing it?

Can we just try something?

What would this enable? 

How can you best focus?

What do I mean by this?

What is it showing up?

Shall we do this now?

How do you underline?

How long do you stay?

Does repetition help?

What are the limits?

How can you be sure?

Is this re-sensing?

Or do we redefine?

What is going on?

Can I enjoy this?

What touches us?

What is reading?

Is this reading?

What is timing?

What do you do?

Why? Why?








Curve of questions: conversation-as-material. Questions organised by their size, as much as by their sense. How do we identify and engage with questions arising in and through artistic research? How might an aesthetic engagement with questions give rise to new connections, to unexpected relations between



Reading on Reading: Ecologies of Reading



This exposition shares and reflects on the collaborative artistic research project Reading on Reading developed by three artistic researchers — Emma Cocker, Cordula Daus and Lena Séraphin — working together within the frame of the Research Pavilion #3, Venice. Drawing on our different research interests around expanded language-based practices, we — the three of us — developed and tested a series of experimental reading practices at various locations in and around the Research Pavilion in Venice during the Summer 2019, in order to explore what alternative modes of sense-making are produced when reading is undertaken artistically, that is, as an aesthetic activity.1


Whilst the ABOUT section [right] provides a practical account of the background for this research collaboration, and the different PRACTICES 2 show and share material from the explorations themselves, in this section we elaborate on some of the questions and concerns emerging in-and-through our shared enquiry. However, before doing so, we want acknowledge three significant conditions within which our research collaboration has unfolded.


Firstly, Reading on Reading is a specifically time-bound research project that was conceived as way of gathering or bringing together three different research practices within the frame of a shared rubric — reading on reading. Its duration mirrors that of the Research Pavilion #3 — our shared enquiry was tentatively initiated in the preparatory stages of the Pavilion (February 2019), unfolded in Venice (during May and June 2019), and culminated (like the Pavilion itself) within the frame of RP #3 InfoLab, (at Exhibition Laboratory, Helsinki, October 2019). As such, whilst drawing on our own extant research interests, this collaborative enquiry has been undertaken in less than one year. This relatively short timeframe can be conceived in terms of strength or quality rather than limitation. Reflecting on the experience of researching together within the frame of the Pavilion, we ask — What timeframes are needed for collaborative research activity? How does the timeframe influence and shape the nature and texture of collaboration, and the research enquiry operating therein? How does the arc of research unfold and how can we take care of its various stages — of the pre-, during and post-phases within the research process? When does a limited timeframe create an affirmative form of energy, acceleration and intensity, and when does its urgency slip towards unnecessary stress and pressure?


Secondly, the research questions and concerns that we now elaborate were not conceived at the outset, in advance of researching together. We began with an intuition, a hunch, only a sense of the possibilities for mutual enquiry — more than anything, we felt the desire to work together. We did not begin to collaborate out of need or necessity, not from a strategic vision based on pooling our respective skills and expertise. Sometimes collaboration — as well as practice-based research itself — emerges non-teleologically without a determined goal or outcome as such, but rather in answer or response to an unspoken pull or call to work-with. Here then, how might this approach towards collaboration be conceived in resistant terms, as an alternative to the instrumentalised demands of institutional rhetoric? How does one begin collaboration when the goal or aim has not been determined in advance? To a certain extent, we did not know what form our shared research enquiry would take before doing it; moreover, before doing it in the very live and public context of the Research Pavilion. Our questions [see left for a list of questions voiced within our shared conversations during Summer 2019] have emerged and accumulated from ‘being in the midst’, in-and-through the doing, in the practising of the practice, rather than being known and nameable at the start.3 It is only during the research itself and in retrospect — in the development of this exposition — that we have been able to really ‘make-sense’ of the process of ‘sense-making’ that we had together engaged in. As such, it feels more accurate to say that we have arrived at our questions in-and-through the doing of shared research — through the experiential testing of different practices of reading — and this exposition has provided a space to look back at them, make our questions public, rather than reaching definitive conclusions or ‘answers’.4


Thirdly, a significant feature of our collaboration relates to language, where as Michael Schwab states, “Insofar as artistic research takes place within rich fabrics of practice, it is always also embedded in a multiplicity of languages both verbal and non-verbal ones”.5 We three researchers Cocker, Daus and Séraphin — each have a different first language or ‘mother tongue’ (English, German and Swedish respectively). Within our collaboration there are different degrees of linguistic agility and capability — ranging from the monolingual to multilingual; moreover, where the multilingual encompasses a range from a beginner’s grasp of another language to advanced level fluency. However, English was largely the communicational language of our collaboration: indeed, English was also the communicational language of the Research Pavilion as a whole. We acknowledge that the pragmatic use of one privileged language as the lingua franca of artistic research maintains the uneasy imperialism of English within the international artistic research ecology.6 However, our own enquiry focused more towards considering how we are each conditioned by language in different ways and by our cultural backgrounds of using language. Different languages create different habits and patterns within reading, writing and speaking; ranging from how the sense of a sentence is grammatically structured to the way in which the mouth physically grapples with a particular letter or a word. Depending on how one’s mouth has been trained and disciplined through cultural language practices, certain letters can be more or less difficult to pronounce. We observed how the alphabet itself was sounded differently through the vocalisation of our linguistic and pedagogical conditioning, through different phonetic and phonic habits and conventions. Since our collaboration explores reading as an aesthetic practice, this variation within pronunciation and accent was approached as a further material with which to play. Though the typographical and physical materiality of the text are explored within our individual research practices, for the research collaboration Reading on Reading our emphasis was on the materiality of words as they are chewed over in the mouth and mind— on the sonic and phonic aspects of language.7



Titling: a two-phase approach

Our title, Reading on Reading: Ecologies of Reading, reflects two phases within our shared enquiry. Reading on Reading was used as the title for our research together within the actual frame of the Research Pavilion #3. Within this enquiry, reading is approached as a reflexive activity for considering its own becoming, where reading is undertaken as a practice for engaging with its own process, with the very act of reading itself. Our practices attend to the performative event of reading — likewise, the texts that we chose to read together refer to the practice of reading themselves.8 A central text which both inspired and influenced our enquiry and practice has been Georges Perec’s ‘Reading: A Socio-Physiological Outline’ from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. In this text, Perec proposes that, “Reading is an act”, stating “I wish to speak of this act and this act alone: of what constitutes it and what surrounds it; not of what is produced (the text, what we read), nor what precedes it (writing and its choices …) in short, something like an economy of reading seen from an ergological (physiology, muscular effort) and socio-ecological perspective (its spatio-temporal setting).”9


Whilst Perec’s text is about reading, our reading of his text was not undertaken in order to know more about, where reading supports the accumulation of information or knowledge gathered or grasped from the text. Rather, we conceived the content of the text and our activity as somehow acting in solidarity. We selected this text (and others) for their capacity to engage in dialogue with — perhaps even amplify — the endeavour of our experimental practices, texts that affectively spoke to us almost as fellow collaborators within the research process. Here, the text functions as an artistic or aesthetic material to be worked with, as much as a contextual reference from which to theoretically or conceptually draw. More specifically, our own focus ‘on reading’ is undertaken in-and-through artistic research. We understand reading as an aesthetic act and differentiate it from the reading of aesthetic texts, and also from theories of aesthetic response in relation to reading.10 How can we approach the doing of reading in aesthetic terms, as a sensitive and sentient act pertaining to sense perception? How do aesthetic forms of reading shape our understanding? How does an aesthetic reading of a text shape our subject-hood in different ways? What happens when we read within the frame of an artistic environment? How can reading be inhabited as an artistic research practice, rather than as its theoretical support or for contextual provocation?


The second part of our title, Ecologies of Reading, expands our enquiry to consider how the act of reading can be explored as a practice for not only organising the relation of the reader to a text read, but also as a micro-political or ethico-aesthetic practice through which to re-consider, even re-organise, the relations between self and other(s), self and world. We reflect on the etymology of the word ecology — drawing from the Greek oikos meaning ‘house, dwelling place, habitation’, to refer to the relationship, interaction and interdependence between living organisms and their environments. Whilst respecting the environmental associations that the term ecology has since acquired (its specific relation to environmental destruction and anti-pollution activities emerges in the 1960s), we ask: How can the read text be inhabited as a place of living and for dwelling; reading conceived as a meeting place for shared experience, the basis for ‘common orientation’, for being-with? 11 Moreover, how can the act of reading — especially undertaken as a social or collective activity of a live sharing of text — be approached as an ecosophical practice, embodying and reflecting Félix Guattari’s notion of ecosophy (with its three ecological registers of environment [environmental ecology], social relations [social ecology] and human subjectivity [mental ecology]).12 Lamenting the deterioration of individual and collective modes of human life, of “human relations within the socius”13 alongside a crisis in the relationship between “subjectivity and its exteriority — be it social, animal, vegetal or Cosmic”, Guattari calls for the reinvention and “enrichment of modes of life and sensibility”14 through the forging of “new paradigms that are … ethico-aesthetic in inspiration”.15 He argues that, “We need new social and aesthetic practices, new practices of the Self in relation to the other, to the foreign, the strange […].”16 We wonder, could the modest practice of reading together contribute to this wider ethico-aesthetic project?

1. The Research Pavilion space was the Sala del Camino which is inside the ex Convento dei SS. Cosma e Damiano in Campo San Cosmo. Our research took place inside the Sala del Camino, as well as the surrounding courtyards, and in various locations on the islands of both Giudecca and Sacca Fisola.

2. Our practices are: Walking Reading, Lapse Louding, Circuiting, Re-sensing, Weight-lifting, Lettering, Space Sounding, Synchronic Looping, Shoaling (see also menu to the left of each page).

3. ‘Being in the Midst’ is the title of a new collection of writing by Emma Cocker in which she considers the ‘thinking-in-action’ within different artistic practices, through emphasis on an immanent and embodied species of thinking that arises only in-and-through the doing of practice.

4. Henk Borgdorff argues that, “research (and not only artistic research) often resembles an uncertain quest in which the questions or topics only materialize during the journey, and may often change as well”, ‘The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research’, in Michael Biggs and Henrik Karlsson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, London: Routledge, 2011, p. 57.

5. Michael Schwab, Editorial introduction for JAR (Journal of Artistic Research) Issue 18,

6. As Schwab states, it is important to challenge the hierarchies that come with such limitations insofar as they inscribe particular preferences, which often claim universal status as either the only possible or a necessary order of things. When such an order predominates, however, it skews the image of artistic research that emerges, creating many misunderstandings”. Editorial introduction for JAR Issue 18, As of Issue 19, JAR is accepting submissions in Spanish, Portuguese and German.

7. For example, Cordula Daus explores the sign and ‘its physiognomy’ within her own research practice. In her narrative fiction Jens, the use of type, font style and size are used playfully to reflect on the bodily presence of a proper name/person. Her interest in the corporeality of signs is also reflected in the presentation of materials within the practice of ‘re-sensing’ where the type of fonts, kerning, line spacing and size have the capacity to influence the reader’s reading and intonation e.g. G  A  P. Cocker focuses on the visual materiality of text within her own research project Close Reading (see Poetics of Attention).

8. Our attending to the ‘performative’ nature of reading is not to be mistaken with the ‘performance’ of reading. The term performativity is often conceived through the prism of ‘speech act theory’, derived originally from J. L. Austin’s much-referenced lecture How to Do things with Words (1955). In contrast to ‘constative language’ (descriptive language that can only be verified as true or false), Austin argued that a performative utterance (provided it is uttered in a ‘felicitous context’) does what it says. In these terms, beyond simply enacting what it says, performative language is understood to actively create: it is ‘operative’ in the sense that it brings something into existence. It not only makes a statement, but also performs an action. However, the idea of performativity is an expanded and indeed expanding — concept, where the original Austinian conceptualisation (with its various Anglo-American derivations, extensions and critiques) has been deviated within a performance studies context to refer morebroadly to the mattering of a performance’s performance. Within a Germanic context, the notion of performativity is untethered from the Austinian emphasis on speech, communication and linguistic sense-making and from the overtly pragmatic — even utilitarian — idea of enunciative execution that seeks to achieve a subject’s (pre)intended effect, and is approached instead through ideas of embodiment, event-hood and co-creation. For example, see Erika Fischer-Lichte’s chapter ‘Explaining Concepts’ in The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics,(London and New York: Routledge, 2008). Alternatively for Karen Barad, “Performativity, properly construed, is not an invitation to turn everything (including material bodies) into words; on the contrary, performativity is precisely a contestation of the excessive power granted to language to determine what is real. Hence, in ironic contrast to the misconception that would equate performativity with a form of linguistic monism that takes language to be the stuff of reality, performativity is actually a contestation of the unexamined habits of mind that grant language and other forms of representation more power in determining our ontologies than they deserve”, Barad, ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2003, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 802. 

9. Georges Perec, ‘Reading: A Socio-physiological Outline’, in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, (London: Penguin Books, 1974/1997), p. 174.

10. For example, see Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response, (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1978), especially Chapter III, ‘Phenomenology of Reading: The Processing of the Literary Text’, pp. 107 163We specifically draw on the etymology of the adjective aesthetic as derived from the Greek αἰσθητικός (aisthetikos), meaning ‘esthetic, sensitive, sentient, pertaining to sense perception’. See Harper, Douglas. "aesthetic". Online Etymology Dictionary,, viewed 11.3.2020.

11. Our use of the term being-with invokes Jean-Luc Nancy’s, Being Singular Plural, (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2000). Luce Irigaray elaborates a model of ‘being with the other’ where “human becoming is considered as a relation-with: with oneself, with the world, with the other” in The Way of Love, (London and New York: Continuum, 2002), p. 87. We also consider Martin Buber’s formulation of an I-Thou relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds (Cf. I and Thou, New York: Scribner, 1958); Erin Manning and Brian Massumi’s “withness of worlding” (Cf. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and Jacques Derrida’s ‘being-with beyond fraternalism’ (Cf. Politics of Friendship, London and New York: Verso, [1994] 2005).

12. Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014).

13. Guattari, 2014, p. 27.

14. Guattari, 2014, p. 18.

15. Guattari, 2014, p. 24.

16. Guattari, 2014, p. 46.




WHAT: Reading on Reading is a collaborative artistic research enquiry developed by three artistic researchers: Emma Cocker, Cordula Daus and Lena Séraphin. Reading on Reading was conceived as a specifically time-bound collaborative ‘project’ that emerged and unfolded over one year within the frame of the Research Pavilion #3 (2019).


The Research Pavilion is an ongoing initiative created and hosted by Uniarts, University of the Arts Helsinki at the Sala Del Camino, Giudecca (from 9 May  28 August 2019). For its third iteration in 2019, the Pavilion was conceived as a “meeting place, a catalyst of emerging co-operations in the area of artistic research and a generator of new thinking: a battery of research cells capable of recharging artistic research with new energy”. The starting point for the Pavilion was an open call for ‘research cells’, with six different research ‘cells’ selected to develop, expose, discuss, exhibit their research process within the frame of the Pavilion in Venice: Cemetery Archipelago; Disruptive Processes + Artistic Intelligence Research Alternator AIRA; Territories :: Dialects; Through Phenomena Themselves; Traces from the Anthropocene (Working with Soil and Insects among Us).1 Subsequently conceptualised under the title Research Ecologies, the Pavilion was presented as a platform within which research could be exposed in its unfolding, including process-oriented elements that might transform over time, as well as a frame within which new extra-cellular collaborations might emerge.


Those ‘research cells’ selected to be part of the Pavilion participated in a series of preparatory Assemblies or gatherings in Helsinki between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, to discuss and collectively evolve ideas for the Pavilion in Venice, alongside exploring scope for nascent collaboration. We  Emma Cocker, Cordula Daus and Lena Séraphin  connected with each other during the 3rd Assembly in Helsinki. Whilst we had never worked together previously, there was shared interest in language-based practices that we wanted to develop further through dialogue and collaboration, creating connections between our respective research cells.


Cocker and Daus were part of the research cell Through Phenomena Themselves, and Séraphin was part of Disruptive Processes. Through Phenomena Themselves was a project for exploring new possibilities of mutual transformation between artistic and phenomenological research practices; a network of practice-based research processes on phenomena-based and/or phenomena-oriented research practices.2 Disruptive Processes [DP] (in partnership with the group AIRA -Artistic Intelligence Research Alternator) aimed to initiate processes that make societal, communal and artistic collaboration possible, which DP constituted through non-hierarchical open workshops in which knowledge is reciprocated and embodied, collective un/learning processes set free.3 In this sense, Reading on Reading unfolded not only through the encounter of our own individual research interests brought into dialogue, but also through the prism of these two research cells’ and their wider research foci, as well as in relation to the Research Pavilion framing, 'Ecologies of Research'. 


WHEN/HOW: Our research project Reading on Reading has unfolded through five main phases: (1) Initiation: our tentative collaboration was initiated at the 3rd Assembly in Helsinki where the shared enquiry around Reading on Reading was first mooted; (2) Testing and Exploration: we activated a series of practise-based explorations ‘on reading’ within the Sala del Camino, Giudecca, during the Research Pavilion in May 2019; (3) Sharing/Contextualisation: we tested some of our evolving ‘practices’ within the frame of Convocation, a 3-day event that we collaboratively co-organised for exploring expanded language-based practices, taking place during the Research Pavilion in June 2019; (4) Reflection: during Summer/Autumn we gathered and reflected on materials and findings generated through our shared explorations, organising them as part of  this exposition; (5) Wider Dissemination: we presented the reading practices (as scores) within the frame of the RP#3 Info Lab, at Exhibition Laboratory, Helsinki, alongside testing these practices with a wider group of participants.4




1. The research cells were selected by the convenors Mika Elo and Henk Slager and the project was further supported by a 'Switchboard' team including Professor Esa Kirkkopelto, Uniarts Helsinki, Professor Ellen J Røed, Uniarts Stockholm, Professor Giaco Schiesser University of the Arts, Zürich and Professor Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Uniarts Helsinki.


2. Through Phenomena Themselves included Emmanuel Alloa, Alex Arteaga, Emma Cocker, Alexander Damianisch, Cordula Daus, Nikolaus Gansterer, Saara Hannula, Juha Himanka, Ralo Mayer, Charlotta Ruth, Esa Kirkkopelto, Tuomas Laitinen, Jaakko Ruuska, Tülay Schakir and Katarina Šoškić. This research cell was conceived and coordinated by Alex Arteaga in cooperation with Emma Cocker and Alexander Damianisch and produced as a collaboration of the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the University of the Arts Helsinki. See


3. Disruptive Processes comprised Ajauksia group, akcg (anna kindgren and carina gunnars), Jaana Kokko, Anni Laakso and Lena Séraphin. See


4. RP#3 Info Lab (25.10–17.11.2019) was conceived as a platform for presenting a selection of the outcomes of the Research Pavilion project, realised during 2018-2019 in Helsinki and in context of the Venice Biennale. We presented/tested our reading practices as a live event as part of the opening on 24 October and during the concluding seminar on 26 October 2019. See












Drawing on this sense of reading’s dual potential as both an aesthetic and ecosophical practice, Reading on Reading: Ecologies of Reading explores three further interrelated foci: We ask: How can aesthetic practices of reading: (I) Shed new light on the phenomenology (or how-ness) of reading? (II) Transform the often-solitary activity of reading into a shared or communal act — and explore what modes of sociality, solidarity and emergent ‘we’ open therein? (III) Operate as a disruptive process, unsettling normative conventions of reading through focus on the poetic, affective and material dimensions of readerly experience? This three-fold enquiry has been informed not only by our individual research interests in language-based practices, but also by the wider frame of the Research Pavilion itself, and the research cells within which we were each operating.17  Our enquiry draws on the ethos and principles of both research cells Disruptive Processes and Through Phenomena Themselves, in order to explore ‘how is reading?’ in parallel to the question, ‘how else can we read?’


I. Our interest in the phenomenological how-ness of reading takes place within a wider frame of cellular activity comprising the research project Through Phenomena Themselves.18 Conceived by Alex Arteaga, this “research cell proposes an inquiry into research practices developed in two fields — artistic research and phenomenology — that operate with and through phenomena as their object of research or as the primary medium of exposure to and/or of their object of research”.19 As the project outline states, “The main focus of this research cell is to explore new possibilities of mutual enhancement, refinement and hybridization between specific artistic and phenomenological research practices. Although the research goals might be divergent, both evolving fields of practice share a common base: an interest in the generative nature of our existence, alongside the mobilization of embodied subjectivity in first-person perspective processes of inquiry whose primary objects are emergent, co-constituted, intuitive, evident presences — that is, phenomena”.20


Prior to the high season of RP #3 in Venice, Arteaga circulated various phenomenological texts, which cell members collectively explored within the frame of a series of Reading Circles. Through this process, we encountered the work of phenomenologist Max van Manen and in particular his reflections on the practice of ‘phenomenological writing’ and the question of “what does it mean to write phenomenologically?"21 Van Manen reflects on the phenomenology of writing, asking at what point in the writing process is he — the writer — ‘actually writing’, if there is “an actual moment that he can say ‘Now. Now I am writing’”.22 Van Manen argues that during the process of writing he seems, “to be seeking a certain space. A writerly space” stating that, “In this space I am no longer quite myself”.23 Whilst he reflects on those physical spaces conducive to writing, he further poses the question, “Where am I then” during the process of writing itself. For van Manen, the term textorium refers to a “virtual space that the words open up […] The physical space of reading or writing allows me to pass through it into the world opened up by the words, the space of the text”.24 

Struck by his account of the textorium and the ‘virtual space’ that opens for the writer-reader, we wondered if our own experimental practices could generate insights into the experiential textorium encountered through reading? How is the textorium of reading? What would be a phenomenological approach to the practice of reading? [There is a section within this exposition called TEXTORIUM, where we integrate some of our own reflections and material findings into the very fabric of Perec’s text, as a way of further exploring the texture of the textorium, the virtual spaces that open up in the text for the writer or the reader.] In parallel, through reflection on Vilém Flusser’s work on ‘gesture’ — and in particular on the ‘gesture of writing’ and the ‘gesture of speaking’ — we wondered what or rather how is the ‘gesture of reading’?25 For example: Is page-turning a byproduct of reading or is it part of the gesture of reading? What of posture? We recognised that the practice of reading actually comprises a field of interconnected gestures and activities — we asked: How is reading? How is the how of reading? When are we really reading? What does is it really mean to read? What gestures are part of reading and which not? What gestures are somehow intrinsic to reading but are not reading as such? Furthermore, how does the manner in which you read change the sense or understanding of what it is that you are reading? How does the reading of a text allow you to change your understanding of it?


II. Our interest in the we-ness of reading is situated between the wider research concerns of Through Phenomena Themselves and the cellular activity of Disruptive Processes, in an attempt to reach beyond an investigation of the how-ness of reading, towards the possibilities of ‘how else’. Reading is an embodied practice, a bodily practice; its sense-making processes are activated through the limbs and the wider senses as much as through the mind. Research is necessary not always to produce new knowledge, but rather to explore and also sustain conditions of engagement, such as the corporeal aspects of reading that engage the body of both the reader and the text, inviting reflection on (in Karen Barad's terms) “how matter comes to matter”.26 Reading is also a liminal practice — existing somewhere between the voice of the writer on the page and the inner voice of the reader reading, complicated further once a text is read out loud, implicating other listener-subjectivities in this meshwork of relations. How do we attend to our bodies and those of others as we read, and how might this increased attention open new ways for experiencing a text, our selves, the wider environment of our practices? We are interested in how different relations are organised in and through the practice of reading? How do we bring into relation, how do we share? How are the ethics of reading and of being-with — how do you prepare for an encounter with the other, including the other of the text? Initiated by Anni Laakso, Minna Heikinaho and Lena Séraphin, the manifesto for the Disruptive Processes project states, “We do not separate artistic goals from the lives we are leading. Therefore the borders between intimacy, privacy and collective become active and influential. It is this liminal state that enables a study of alliances and the impact of collaboration […] Our attitude is to do research in order to form a genuine meeting place that enables sharing. In other words we address collaborative creation of knowledge that can alter and change — be disruptive in the world. We act in favour of emancipatory artistic processes”.27


For Perec, “There is something a little surprising about the idea of several people reading the same thing at the same time.”28 Whilst reading is often undertaken as a solitary or private activity, we wanted to explore how the practice of reading might foster new forms of sociality, communality and togetherness. Indeed, for Guattari, “Social ecosophy will consist in developing specific practices that will modify and reinvent the way in which we live […] a question of literally reconstructing the modalities of ‘group-being’ [l’être-en-groupe]”.29 How can we shift from the private to the communal, from the individual to the collective — what are the implications of reading together? Reading in proximity to others. Reading with. What happens when we start reading collectively, when different voices make up a sonic ‘we’ — whatever this might be? Co-incidents within reading; co-incidence — from com ‘with, together’ and incidere ‘to fall upon’. How can the first-person subjective perspective within reading become plural, become inter-subjective, how can reading expand the individual I of the reader? Com-read: to read together. Towards com-readership, common-sensing. Reading acts as a catalyst for generating spaces of shared reflection within a given social space or situation. Reading as a prism through which to reflect on both the ethics and politics of gathering. What manifestations of temporary community emerge through the act of reading together? 30 How are different social assemblages produced in-and-through the shared experience of a read text? Reading can enable us to explore the wider conditions for ‘living together’, drawing on Roland Barthes study of idiorrhythmic life forms, where social connections emerge that are capable of protecting the individual’s need for both solitude and solidarity, for being together and being apart? 31


III. Our exploration of the disruptive potential (‘how else’) of reading is aligned to the wider research imperative of the cell Disruptive Processes, though also very present and extant within our own individual research interests. We ask: How do you read, or rather what conventions and habits structure our experience of reading and consequently the sense-making and understanding facilitated in-and-through that experience? How might the experience of learning to read shape our wider ways of being in the world? Perec observes that we learn to read by speaking the words out loud but are later taught to unlearn this practice — to relocate the event of reading away from the lips, the mouth, the tongue, to be taken up instead by one’s ‘inner voice’. How does this shift within the act of reading from the bodily to the cerebral influence and inform our relation to embodied knowledge? Once one has learned to read there seems to be no way backone cannot look at a letter, at a word anymore without having that inner voice in one’s head. Our own practice has involved a process of willful unlearning. We asked: what happens when we reverse reading’s conventions — returning to the act of lettering, of mouthing the single components of a word like a child that is learning to read, as a means of disrupting or unsettling the semantic sense of a word/text. 

Could we disturb the privileged meaning of reading (as one of understanding the meaning of something read), drawing on a secondary definition where reading means to utter aloud or render into speech? What emerges when one focuses on the latter definition to the willful detriment of the first? Is it possible to be transformed by reading even if you do not understand its content? What chance poetics erupt as we read wrongly, mis-read or willfully misunderstand? For Guattari, “Ecological praxes […] generally seek something that runs counter to the ‘normal’ order of things, a counter-repetition, an intensive given which invokes other intensities to form new existential configurations”.32 We wondered if we could dissociate reading from understanding, in the sense that one typically reads in order to better understand what one has read. Is reading to do with understanding the words? How can reading produce an “a-signifying rupture” to use Guattari’s term, shifting attention towards the material, affective and relational aspects of reading — reading beyond the informational, beyond the assumed rational meaning of the words.


What forms of reading have become normative and unquestioned, especially within the context of academia? 33 What do aesthetic practices of reading ‘show up’ about our habits and conventions? Indeed, for philosopher Alva Noë, art is a ‘strange tool’ that can help to reveal the ways in which various everyday practices organise us at the level of living and of embodiment: practices of organisation such as walking, eating, moving, conversation and perhaps we might add, reading. However, he argues that art not only has the capacity to reveal how we are organised but also can be conceived as a means of re-organisation. Here then, how can aesthetic practices of reading not only show how we are ordinarily organised in-and-through the activity of reading, but also how we might re-organise our selves and our relations to the world through reading in other ways.34 As Perec states, “How could we teach our extra-ocular muscles to ‘read differently’?”35 How can I read a text? Could reading happen like this or like this or like this? Reading practices are always changing, reflecting wider societal shifts and technological advances. In one sense, our reading practices at the Research Pavilion might appear stubbornly analogue considered against the increasingly digital context of contemporary reading experiences, our use of paper-based ‘photocopies’ somewhat anachronistic given the increasingly dematerialised ways in which text is now often digitally read.36 While the very cultural technique of reading might already include methods, which we would call ‘skimming‘, ‘parsing‘, or ‘swiping‘ today — digital technologies, the Internet and mobile devices have undeniably changed our habits of ‘reading‘. However, our investigation focuses on an embodied encounter between the physical body of the reader, the physical space and the physical (as much as virtual) body of the text.37


17. Emma Cocker and Cordula Daus were both members of the research cell Through Phenomena Themselves, and Lena Séraphin was part of the research cell Disruptive Processes + AIRA. See

18. See

19. See framing statement for the Through Phenomena Themselves cell at

21. See Max van Manen, ‘Phenomenologcal writing’ in Phenomenology of Practice: Meaning-Giving Methods in Phenomenological Research and Writing, (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), pp.357 374. See also Van Manen, ‘Writing Phenomenology’ in Writing in the Dark: Phenomenological Studies in Interpretative Inquiry, (The Althouse Press/University of Western Ontario, 2002), pp. 1 8.

22. Van Manen, 2002, p. 1.

23. Van Manen, 2014, p. 358.

24. Van Manen, 2014, p. 358.

25. See Vilém Flusser, Gestures, trans. Nancy Ann Roth (London and Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), specifically the chapters ‘The Gesture of Writing’ pp. 19 25 and ‘The Gesture of Speaking’ pp. 26 31.

26. Karen Barad, ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 2003, vol. 28, no. 3. Barad argues for relational co-constitutive “intra-actions” between humans and non-humans, stating that, “On an agential realist account, agency is cut loose from its traditional humanist orbit. Agency is not aligned with human intentionality or subjectivity … Agency is a matter of intra-acting; it is an enactment, not something that someone or something has. Agency cannot be designated as an attribute of ‘subjects’ or ‘objects’ (as they do not preexist as such). Agency is not an attribute whatsoeverit is ‘doing’ / ‘being’ in its intra-activity. Agency is the enactment of iterative changes to particular practices through the dynamics of intra-activity”, Barad, 2003, pp. 826 827. Elsewhere she states, “We don’t obtain knowledge by standing outside the world; we know because we are of the world”,Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2007), p. 185.In Vibrant Matter, Jane Bennett explores the “capacity of things … not only to impede or block the will and designs of humans but also to act as quasi agents or forces with trajectories, propensities, or tendencies of their own”, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. (Durham, NC/London: Duke University Press, 2010), p. viii. Referring to our current epoch as the Chthulucene rather than the Anthropocenean epoch in which the human and non-human are inextricably linked in tentacular practices, Donna J. Haraway argues that what is required is the conceptualisation of sym-poiesis, or making-with. See Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.See also Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’, in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991).

27. From the Disruptive Processes Manifesto, 2019. See

28. Perec, 1974/1997, p. 180.

29. Guattari, 2014, p. 22.

30. In One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity (2004), Miwon Kwon attempts to articulate a shift from site to community within new genre public art, coining the term ‘temporary invented community’ to describe those specific social configurations that are “newly constituted and rendered operational through the coordination of the art work itself,” Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: The MIT Press, 2004), p. 126. These temporary communities are formed “around a set of collective activities and/or communal events as defined by the artist” (Kwon, p. 126). Such communities, Kwon asserts, are both projective and provisional, always “performing its own coming together and coming apart as a necessarily incomplete modeling or working-out of a collective social process. Here, a coherent representation of the group's identity is always out of grasp” (p. 154). Theorist Irit Rogoff explores a similar “emergent collectivity” those “emergent possibilities for the exchange of shared perspectives or insights or subjectivities” made possible through the encounter within art practice, within her essay, WE: Collectivities, Mutualities, Participations (2004) - available at Rogoff points to how “performative collectivity, one that is produced in the very act of being together in the same space and compelled by similar edicts, might just alert us to a form of mutuality which cannot be recognized in the normative modes of shared beliefs, interests or kinship” (2004, unpaginated). Nina Möntmann’s New Communities (2009) addresses “the emergence of temporary and experimental new communities in art and society that refuse to function as an easily manipulated mass united by a common identity”; exploring “ideas about how to position yourself as an individual, how to conceive communal spaces and to what extent communities inform the quality of public space”. Kwon’s term “temporary invented community”, Rogoff’s “performing collectivities” and even Möntmann’s “new communities” might describe the temporary relationships, connections and intensities that bind together diverse individuals within the specific space-time of a participatory aesthetic activity, including reading together.

31. See Roland Barthes, How to Live Together, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). Barthes use of the term ‘idiorrhythmic’ idios (own) and rhytmos (rhythm, measure) — draws on several historic monastic communities in which each individual finds its own place. We were often reminded of this idiorrhythmic coincidence while walking and reading in the courtyard of the Sala del Camino. The Sala del Camino within which the Research Pavilion is located is part of Santi Cosma e Damiano – a Benedictine monastery founded in 1481 by Marina Celsi, one of the most prestigious female monasteries of the city.

32. Guattari, 2014, p. 30.

33. In one sense, our advocacy of aesthetic, affective, poetic modes of reading could be situated within a wider context of ‘postcritique’ approaches, which are concerned with discovering new experimental postures and stances of reading, as well as “testing out new possibilities and intellectual alternatives” to the standard operations of critique. See Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, ‘Introduction’, Critique and Postcritique, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2017). p. 2. See also Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).Alternatively for Rosi Braidotti, “Texts are not here to be interpreted, but rather to be assimilated, consummated, used or not,” in Metamorphoses: towards a materialist theory of becoming (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2002), p. 96.

34. See Alva Noë, Strange Tools Art and Human Nature, (New York: Hill and Wang, 2015). The showing of the means through which we are organised and the capacity for reorganisation also resonates with Henk Borgdorff’s argument that artistic research can be conceived according to two different perspectives: “a constructivist and a hermeneutic perspective.” Borgdorff, 2011, p. 61. He argues that, “the hermeneutic perspective assumes that artistic practices and artworks disclose the world to us. The world-revealing power of art lies in its ability to offer us those new vistas, experiences and insights that affect our relationship with the world and with ourselves.” Borgdorff, 2011, p. 61. Alternatively, for Borgdorff, the “constructivist perspective holds that objects and events actually become constituted in and through artworks and artistic actions. Only in and through art do we see what landscapes, soundworlds, histories, emotions, relations, interests and movements really are or could be. Here lies the performative and critical power of art. It does not represent things, it presents them, thereby making the world into what it is or could be.” Borgdorff, 2011, p. 61.

35. Perec, 1974/1997, p. 175.

36. Whilst in Helsinki we met with artist-researcher Simo Kellokumpu to talk about his recent PhD research ‘Choreography as Reading Practice’, University of the Arts Helsinki (2019), In Uncreative Writing Kenneth Goldsmith refers to a new type of writer/reader subjectivity, which is produced through the influence of the Internet’s ‘ecosystem’. He compares this new strategy of reading with ‘parsing’ in the sense to dissect, analyse, dismember a collection of sheer endless data, which is not intended to and cannot be read anymore. See Uncreative Writing, Managing Language in A Digital Age, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

37. Our working materials for our reading practices were predominantly photocopies of the pages of existing books, in order to enable multiple readers to work with a shared text, whilst also enabling the presence of physical gestures such as page-turning. Reading from A4 copies of printed books also has its own sound and creates its own pauses. With additional resources, it would be interesting to explore how a shared practice of reading becomes amplified when a community of readers can be seen as reading from the same book e.g. multiple readers all holding actual physical copies of Perec’s Species of Spaces. This visible sense of a shared reading experience (as evidenced through the visibility of the book cover) is less communicable through digital devices, which conceal the content of reading behind the technology.






As previously stated, we did not initiate our collaboration with a clear sense of these three interconnected threads of enquiry, rather they have emerged in-and-through practice. Our shared commitment was to practise, to share practices, and that gradually through the process of practising together we might establish the terms of such practices. We focus on the ing-ing of research, with an emphasis on the verb rather than the noun, on the doing of the doing. We asked: How do we practise reading? What conditions are needed for the practising of this practice? What do we need to do to give us enough structure or a frame to allow things to unfold? We conceive our practices as exercises or even as askesis to draw on the monastic context of the Sala del Camino.38 Yet our practices are not conceived as a means for improving our capacity to read. “Practice does not mean rehearsal”, states Jon Kabat-Zinn, “There is not ‘performance’. There is just this moment. We are not trying to improve or to get anywhere else”.39 Likewise we are not rehearsing towards the perfection of a given practice. How can we really attend to the practice of reading — beyond the sense of what is being read, beyond ulterior motive, beyond preconceived anticipation of outcomes and insights gained? Indeed, the initial idea of Disruptive Processes was to generate art works in situ and not to bring in existing works, structuring the contribution to the Pavilion instead through a series of five workshops. In parallel, the core ethos within the logic of Through Phenomena Themselves was not to exhibit art works as such but to ‘practise our practice’ in the public context of the Research Pavilion — to research but also to make public the process of researching. This raised the questions: How to do artistic research in an exhibition space? Moreover, how does one really do and not simply perform the doing?  How can we just read without our reading being misunderstood as a performance of reading? These questions reverberated at the micro level/core of our exercises, forcing us to scrutinise the very act of reading itself. Are we gesturing? What does it mean to say I am really reading?


Our first phase of practising together took place within the frame of the Research Pavilion #3 in Venice in May 2019. We approached the Pavilion as a process-oriented laboratory for live exploration, inhabiting the inner spaces and courtyard outside as a site for testing our shared practices. During the opening week of the Pavilion (and as part of the opening event itself) we bracketed specific time frames within which we would collectively explore different approaches to ‘reading on reading’. Whilst the PRACTICES section provides a more detailed account of each separate practice of reading, here we briefly share a sense of how the research process unfolded. Rather than conceiving a plan in advance, our development of the reading practices emerged spontaneously, intuitively, sequentially, where we were working spatially in situ and temporally in the moment. Our process involved: (I) One of us proposing a reading practice (an initial impulse or instruction); (II) An agreed time frame wherein we would actively test that practice; (III) An agreed time frame directly following the practice where we would come together in conversation to reflect and share our experience. Conceived as a linguistic form emerging in close proximity to our practices of reading, conversation is approached as a practice or a research process in its own right.


To con-verse: to turn about together. To listen, to remember, to notice and pay attention when something new comes about, to embrace the attitude and approach of another, to recognise how the other’s view interfaces with one’s own, fleshes out one’s experience beyond the perspective of a single I. Here, the critical reflections emerging through conversation are not considered supplementary to the research process, but part of its very fabric. Our conversations were recorded and later transcribed — the process of transcription itself also happening as a live event (made public and visible) within the context of the Research Pavilion. Using a ‘conversation-as-material’ approach, these transcripts have subsequently been condensed into textual extracts that operate within this exposition (e.g. as a list of questions generated within our enquiry [see left]; as textual reflections on some of the practices) as a means of speaking from our shared practice rather than only about it.40 Within this exposition the reflections included as part of each practice are predominantly drawn from this conversational transcript: we emphasise the quality of reflection fostered in-and-through the live experience of the research, emerging in close proximity to the doing, emerging through the interplay of our different voices in live exchange.


Each newly evolving practice was proposed in response to the practice that came before, as well as in relation to the wider ecology of activity within the Research Pavilion. For example, initiated during the intensive preparatory activities before the official opening of the Pavilion, it is no accident that our first day of practices addressed the ‘poetics of attention’ between concentration and distraction within the act of reading (e.g. see Lapse Louding, Walking-Reading). We wanted to explore how reading could operate as a notational system for attending to and marking the contours of attention within the act of reading itself. Questions: Where are the spaces in the room that felt most conducive to concentration? What is it that enables me to go from a state of lapsed concentration into concentration? What would it be like if I walked when I was concentrated and then stood still and read out loud when I was distracted? Is breathing a way of managing the sentences that we think? Our second day of shared practice focused on the vocalisation of intonation and affect within the process of reading (e.g. Re-Sensing, Weightlifting). Questions: What would be my tone, my tonal attitude? Do tone and intonation mean the same? What is the difference between emphasis or intonation and force and volume? Is the re-sensing happening in the voicing or the listening? What would it be to put the tonal emphasis on the non-important? On the third day, our emphasis shifted to address practices for site-specific or site-attentive reading, a practice of site-reading within which we considered the relation of reading to both actual external space and the virtual space of the textorium opening up to us through the act of reading (e.g. Space Sounding; Shoaling; Synchronic Looping). Questions: Does focusing on spatial thresholds invite a different question? How can I reverberate something in a space and see if it has an effect or not? Did we get to the point of connecting with the space? Our process of questioning reflects an embodied attitude — the delicate yet tenacious testings of improvisatory enquiry.


In the PRACTICES sections of this exposition we elaborate on the nine reading practices that we tested and developed during this period, where for each practice there is a description or even a kind of ‘score’ — which we hope can be used by others in the future for their own explorations — alongside an archive or collection of material findings and documents from our own investigations. Certainly, the issue of both the document and the archive present interesting questions for the artistic researcher, as well as for the field of artistic research more broadly. Whilst the shareability of one's research is arguably necessary (particularly in the academically-defined arena of research), it is not always clear at the outset of a research process what needs to be recorded, documented or captured and how41 Whilst the conventional focus within artistic practice might be on the documentation of artworks and their exhibition, within artistic research the activity of documentation might well address the research process as much as its resulting outcomes and artefacts — the tests, trials and failures as much as the points of resolution and success.


For Robin Nelson, “A key challenge … is dissemination by way of the articulation and evidencing not so much of the practice itself (though the practice is a crucial mode of evidence) but of an overall research enquiry.”42 He argues that whilst, “audio-visual evidence of the ephemeral event can never be mistaken for the practice itself ...  insights into how it might have been variously experienced as a sequence of moments in time might nevertheless be imaginatively understood.”43  However, Nelson also cites Matthew Reason to acknowledge that, “There can be no concept of documentation without a sense of that which is not (or cannot be) documented”.44 Rather than striving to communicate the totality of a research process through any single means, Nelson advocates a selected, fragmented, disjointed, multi-perspectival and multimodal approach, where “the incompleteness or partiality of any one medium or document can be buttressed by information gathered from another.”45


For artistic researchers, the challenge of communicating the research process, findings, discoveries or insights, as well as the creative outcomes of the research can often be one of showing as much as telling, where non-linguistic (visual, material, audio, performative) as much as linguistic methods will need to be cultivated for exposing / showing / evidencing / recording / holding / noticing / chronicling / reflecting the doing of the doing. For Dieter Mersch, “Art portrays, exhibits, presents and performs, but the decisive epistemic modus of these varying practices is always showing. Key to an epistemology of aesthetics is a detailed reconstruction of these varying ways of showing.”46 He argues that, “Art does not know because it speaks, instead it makes recognizable by showing”47, further elaborating that by “‘showing’ and ‘manifestation’ we do not mean expression, but exhibition and exposition […] We are dealing with ‘showings’ that in equal measure reveal something and show themselves while in showing, hold themselves back … their métier is not representation, but presence.”48 But how might one articulate the process of research through showing rather than just telling? What does one need to show — what aspects of the research process are important to communicate to others; which parts of the process itself need to be captured, revealed and shared in order to expose practice as research? What different forms could this showing take?


In parallel, the relationship between the artistic process and its documentation has an extensive history within Conceptual Art, Land Art and Fluxus, where the differentiation between the artwork and its documentation has at times been deliberately blurred or challenged; where the artwork exists only through its documentation, or else where the documentation is the artwork.49 Within the field of performance and live art, the role of documentation and the document has been highly contested, historically drawing on theorist Peggy Phelan’s oft-cited cautionary against the attempt to capture the experiential, ephemeral nature of performance, where she states, “Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance”.50 However, more recently, as curator Bridget Crone argues, many contemporary artists are now “interested in articulating a sense of separation . . . between the ‘live’ unfolding performance and the quoted or re-enacted material”51 and “have already radically disrupted these neat separations between the liveness of the body and the not-live status of the image” where “staging becomes a means for re-thinking and re-configuring the relationship between body and image, between immediate experience and mediated information, between projected image and performed body.”52 Additionally, the issue of documentation also resonates with ideas emerging from within non-representational theory such as the writing of Nigel Thrift, who advocates moving ‘beyond representation’, beyond signs that stand in place of something else.53   


Whilst not the explicit focus of our research, these ideas have informed our own approach to documentation and the archive. We do not consider an archive as being a repository — a non-changing record of the past — but rather as a phase in the process of research, active in both the present and future sense. The materials that we have gathered pertaining to our practices are fragmentary and incomplete — an assemblage of parts rather than a coherent whole. In places, the material is documentary — that is, a record of something having happened, the evidencing of an event. In parallel, we have explored the potential of the research ‘document’ rather than just documentation, where the materials are less about re-presenting what ‘has been’ but rather are intended more like scores or propositions for future activation, for new tests and further experimentation by the potential reader.54 Here, we conceive the document less as an indexical record of ‘being there’— of what is now ‘past’— but rather as a malleable material dislocated from its original context and brought into new configurations. We are interested in the interrelationship between showing and saying, between the visual, the embodied, the material and the linguistic. Indeed rather than translating the embodied experience of practice into language, the textual fragments themselves attest to the bodily rhythms of voicing (since they are extracted from recorded conversation) as well as to the bodily labour of transcription (over 30,000 words transcribed over several days).


Sharing Practices

Following the first phase of our collaborative exploration in May, we returned to the Research Pavilion again in June 2019, to further nourish and share our enquiry within a larger community of other language-based artist and practitioners. In parallel to our own Reading on Reading investigation, we co-organised and hosted a 3-day research event called Convocation: On Expanded Language-based Practices (1618 June 2019). Forming part of the wider public programme for the Research Pavilion, we conceived Convocation as a call to come together, a gathering of expanded language-based practices. Weaving between artistic research and phenomenological approaches, this 3-day event included open workshops, live research, collective writing / reading exercises, and performative lectures, and was conceived as a reciprocal space for creating viable interconnections with a wider international community of artistic researchers (a multitudinal ‘ecology’ of contemporaneous practices) through a material encounter with language experienced in its diversity (See Convocation).


Convocation was a way of contextualising our investigation of reading as an aesthetic practice in relation to other artist-researchers working with language in an expanded sense, as well as creating a context for us to test some of our practices with a larger group, for further exploring the emergent we-ness generated in-and-through shared acts of reading.55 For example, on 16 June 2019 Convocation participants were invited to engage in a practice of Walking-Reading from the Campo in front of Chiesa di San Gerardo Sagredo in Sacca Fisola, along Calle del Large Lavraneri and Calle Convertite, arriving at Campo San Cosmo, Giudecca, whilst reading Perec’s text Reading: A Socio-Physiological Outline (See Walking Reading). From here, we engaged in a shared practice of Circuiting on the steps of the Chiesa dei Santi Cosma e Damiano and in the courtyard of Sala del Camino (See Circuiting). Since our initial phase of research activity within the Research Pavilion in Venice we have also shared our Reading on Reading practices with other researchers within the frame of RP#3 Info Lab at Exhibition Laboratory (Helsinki). We invited attendees at the opening event (on 24 October 2019) and research seminar (on 26 October 2019) to engage with us in the practice of Lapse Louding (See Lapse Louding).56

38. The term askesis is used to refer to a training exercise, specifically in the sense that Michel Foucault describes askesis as the “training of the self by oneself”, See Foucault, ‘Self Writing’, in Ethics: Essential Works of Foucault 1954 — 1984, Vol. 1 Subjectivity and Truth, (ed.) Paul Rabinow, (The New Press, 1997), p.208. For Foucault, “The aim of the askesis was one of perpetual preparation and testing (l’epreuvre) rather than completion or accomplishment; for Foucault, the askesis were conceived as  “permanent preparation for a test that lasts as long as life”, Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Lectures at the College de France 1981 — 1982,

(Picador, New York, 2001), 2001, p. 454.

39. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are, (New York: Piatkus, 1994), p. 22.

40. Conversation-as-material is a research practice developed by Cocker within the frame of several artistic research collaborations including Re- (with Rachel Lois Clapham) and The Italic I (with Clare Thornton). Within the practice of ‘conversation-as-material’, dialogue is recorded, transcribed and then distilled to reveal an emergent inter-personal textual poetics. Within this dialogic practice, the quest is for a not-yet-known vocabulary, where meaning does not exist prior to utterance but rather is co-produced through the dialogic process itself, through an inter-subjective and immanent mode of sense-making emerging from the enmeshing of different voices engaged in live exchange. See Emma Cocker, ‘Conversation-as-Material: Writing without Writing’ in The Creative Critic: Writing as/about Practice, (eds.) Katja Hilevaara and Emily Orley (eds.), (London: Routledge, 2017).

41. As Henk Borgdorff states, “The academic requirement that the research process and the research findings be documented and disseminated in appropriate ways raises a number of questions when it comes to artistic research. What does ‘appropriate’ mean here? What kinds of documentation would do justice to research that is guided by an intuitive creative process and by tacit understandings? What value does a rational reconstruction have if it is far removed from the actual, often erratic course taken by the research? What are the best ways to report non-conceptual artistic findings? And what is the relationship between the artistic and the discursive, between what is presented and displayed and what is described?”, ‘The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research’, in The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, edited by M. Biggs and H. Karlsson, (London and New York: Routledge), pp. 57 - 58.

42. Robin Nelson, Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances, (London : Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p.72.

43. Nelson, 2013, p. 86.

44. Nelson, 2013, p. 72. He is referring to Matthew Reason, Documentation, Disappearance and the Representation of Live Performance, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 27.

45. Nelson, 2013, p. 84.

46. Dieter Mersch, Epistemologies of Aesthetics, (Zürich : Diaphanes, Berlin, 2015), p. 14.

47. Mersch, 2015, p. 115.

48. Mersch, 2015, p. 170.

49. See for example, Visual Resources: an international journal on images and their uses, ‘Documentation as Art Practice in the 1960s’, (eds.) Christian Berger & Jessica Santone, Volume 32, Issue 3— 4 2016. 

50. Peggy Phelan, Unmarked — The Politics of Performance, (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 146.

51. Bridget Crone, The Sensible Stage: Staging and the Moving Image, (Bristol: Picture This, 2012), p. 6.

52. Crone, 2012, p. 6. See also the research project Performing Documents, which explores the problems and potential of performance and its documents. Performing Documents was funded by the AHRC and hosted by University of Bristol, in partnership with University of Exeter, Arnolfini and In Between Time. See also the research project, The Alternative Document (curated by Angela Bartram) and the resulting special issue of Studies in Theatre and Performance (Volume 38, 2018 - Issue 3, The Alternative Document), including the article, Emma Cocker & Clare Thornton,  ‘The Italic I  – between liveness and the lens’, pp. 238 - 250. Fellow researcher in the Research Pavilion, Charlotta Ruth, also addresses these issues in her project, Living Documents, stating that, “When working with art in live situations, documentation tends to be the necessary evil where the work is forced to change to something rather static. In Living Documents we are embracing this friction by examining documentation formats and approaching work of us and our colleagues with documentary methods. We are also playing with what ‘ephemeral documentation’ possibly can be” See

53. See Nigel Thrift, Non-representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect, (London: Routledge, 2008).

54. We have differentiated documentation and documents through a visual approach – documents (images with the capacity to act as a proposition or prompt for future action) are presented in monochromatic blue often with individuals occluded with a red circle (so they are indicative of anonymous participant engagement rather than of a specific individual’s involvement). Alternatively, documentation (evidence of a specific event) includes the participant’s names.

55. As part of our framing for the Convocation event, we spoke about the complex issues of research and its documentation, where participants were informed that different modes of documentation would be taking place over the next three days, and their consent was sought. They were also able to decline being involved in the process of documentation.

56. Researchers involved in the Infolab event were aware that documentation would be taking place, and their consent was sought. They were also able to decline being involved in the process of documentation. The project Rewording was activated in parallel to the Reading on Reading practices within the frame of InfoLab as part of both the opening and the seminar. See Site and Subjectivity.


Throughout our three-fold enquiry around the how-ness, we-ness and how-else-ness of reading, the practice of reading has been folded back on itself as a reflexive gesture for attending to its own ecologies of practice — through the affective poetics of attention and resistance; vocal intensity and intonation; as well as the social-spatial relations between site and subjectivity produced in-and-through reading. Whilst Reading on Reading has evolved as a collaborative research enquiry, it nonetheless draws on and expands our own individual research interests around reading. Indeed, the practices of reading that we have tested within the frame of Reading on Reading can be located and contextualised through the prism of three thematics that acknowledge the specificity and singularity of each individual researcher’s own ongoing enquiry within this collaborative exploration. For example, the reading practices Walking Reading, Lapse Louding and Circuiting stem from Emma Cocker’s research, her interest in the poetic, aesthetic as well as affective aspects of reading. In the section of this exposition entitled Poetics of Attention, Cocker brings her previous investigations in-and-through reading into dialogue with Michelle Boulous Walker’s, Slow Philosophy: Reading Against the Institution, in order to ask: How do we read as artists, as writers, as poets? Against utility, against informational acquisition: what other modes of reading might we cultivate? Reading as resistance; reading as reparation, reading as experimental adventure.57 What different kinds of sense-making are generated through different critical-poetic practices of reading? What emerges in the shifts and slippages from one text to another; in the chance encounter between words; in the gaps and intervals; in the breath; in the stumble and the pause?


The practice of Lettering bridges between Cocker’s interest in the ‘poetics of attention’ and the chance poetics emerging through different modes of attending (close up, myopically) to language, and Cordula Daus’s exploration of the phenomenon of the voice and vocalisation. The reading practices Re-sensing and Weight-lifting further extend from Daus’s own investigations into where and how meaning originates and occurs (literally, where meaning takes place) and how sense-making can be destabilised. Throughout her artist book series Toponymisches Heft Daus has developed the notion of ‘re-sensing’ (Entsinnung). “Re-sensing is a psycho-onomastic technique (…) which enables to recall the origin of a thing and to get rid of its meaning at the same time.”58 Applied in the right form and with a little bit of luck, re-sensing can enable “new wordings of the world.”59 Tested for the first time on Spanish colonial place names and further deployed by the (fictional) linguist J.C. Duenkel, Daus has recently explored re-sensing of specific word-phenomena through live vocal improvisations. In the section of this exposition entitled Vocalisation, Daus gathers a constellation of research fragments from her works in order to ask: How and where does meaning emerge in/through reading?  How are we being affected by it? Is there an intensity of meaning? If yes, how can we modulate, dose or abstain from it in-and-through reading? 


The three reading practices Space Sounding, Synchronic Looping and Shoaling can be situated in proximity to Lena Séraphin’s ongoing exploration of the capacity of collaborative acts of writing and reading to shape both the experience of public space and the emergent subjectivities therein. In the section of this exposition entitled Site and Subjectivity, she brings documents and reflections from her recent research project RE/WORDING into dialogue with architectural theorist Jane Rendell’s essay From Critical Spatial Practice to Site-Writing. Extending from her experimental writing project Wording Collaborative Writing in Public Space (in which a gathering of 50 writers were asked to ‘word’ — notate, record, observe, attend in words — a specific public space, inspired by Georges Perec and his experimental work An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, 1975), RE/WORDING involves a process of collaborative reading in order to shape a public space using words, and through the positioning of oneself in shared spaces. What happens through the reinsertion of a text back into the space of its becoming through reading? What happens when that same text is read elsewhere? How does the read text become operational, when it starts to reverberate in space? How can shared reading practice operate with infraordinary subversiveness?60

The shared aim of these three different pages within our exposition — Poetics of Attention, Vocalisation, Site and Subjectivity — is to situate specific aspects of our collaboration Reading on Reading in relation to the broader lineage of our own individual research practices, therefore the format for these pages varies. By differentiating our shared research enquiry into these named thematics, we acknowledge that whilst our collaboration has enabled the co-production of research emerging between the lines — or in the subtexts — of our different practices, it simultaneously provides a fresh context within which we might reflect back on and nurture our own extant interests. Here, the energies of collective and individual research activity are not mutually exclusive, but rather operate symbiotically. Within this exposition, we aim to exercise a sense of the idiorrhythmic nature of collaborative practices of research (as much as practices of reading): towards an ecology of research and reading predicated on the delicate relation between being-with and being-apart; between engagement and withdrawal; between solidarity and singularity; between the ethics and politics of both gathering (togetherness, commonality) and dispersal (separation, departure).

Indeed, in considering the fragile ecologies of practice, is there a risk that increased (over-)emphasis on collaboration (especially as it is championed within institutional strategic rhetoric) might come at the expense of, overshadow or eclipse other modes of relationality and being-with? Within our own process of shared research (which we call ‘collaboration’ for want of a better word) we acknowledge the presence of many species of proximity and community, we-ness and near-ness, different manifestations of the prefixes co- (together; joint or jointly; mutual or mutually, in common) and com- (beside, near, by, with): participation; observation; conversation; caring/curation; listening; hosting; guesting; audiencing; supporting; bearing witness; hearing out; feeding back; offering help; spending time; sharing time; sharing resources, world-building.61 Receptivity. Generosity. Reciprocity. Beyond co-production, we experience co-operation, co-inhabitation, co-existence, even the co-incidences through sharing space and time together (of experiences or occurrences existing at the same time). Does the emphasis on collaboration within academic research rhetoric risk the prioritising of working or labouring together (from the Latin collaborare ‘work with’, from com ‘with’ and laborare ‘to work’), whilst failing to acknowledge the implications and shared responsibilities of really ‘living together’? How can we create ecologies of practice whose concerns extend beyond the imperative of work and production, whose values are more ethico-aesthetic than economic?


In The Ecologies of Attention, Yves Citton argues that contemporary neoliberal life is marked by a gross overabundance or excess in terms of production, whilst there is simultaneously a critical deficit in or exhaustion of our collective and individual attention. He traces the emergence of the ‘attention economy’ within late capitalism, an economy whose “principle scarcity is attention rather than the traditional elements of production”.62 Citton asks: “What can we do collectively about our individual attention, and how can we contribute individually to a redistribution of our collective attention?”63 One point of focus within his argument addresses the potential of ‘joint attention’, collective attention and even individuating attention — where “The co-construction of subjectivities and intellectual proficiency requires the co-presence of attentive bodies sharing the same space over the course of infinitesimal but decisive cognitive and emotional harmonizations”.64 Here, Citton’s description of joint or even ‘presential co-attention’ resonates with the quality of shared attention that we experienced together within our reading practices, where “several people, conscious of the presence of others, interact in real-time depending on their perception of the attention of the other participants”.65


Citton seeks to reconceptualise the vocabulary through which contemporary attention has been inscribed, moving away from the language of ‘attention economy, economics of attention, economy of attention’ towards the notion of an ecology or even (drawing on the work of both Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess and Félix Guattari) an ecosophy of attention. Following this line of thought, does the call towards ‘ecologies of practice’ similarly attempt to wrestle research away from the increasingly economic basis through which it is often institutionally valued (with the emphasis on knowledge production, transfer and exchange)? Beyond the production of new knowledge, new insights, new revelations, might not artistic research play a role in the cultivation of reinvigorated forms of attention, of being attentive; the reformulation of a research culture for gently tending and attending to one another’s research processes and practices, rather than fixating on the production of more and more knowledge in an already over-saturated ‘knowledge economy’? Can we shift the notion of what artistic research does away from the preoccupation with knowledge production, to better consider the ecologies of shared practice that researching artistically — researching aesthetically, researching attentively — gives rise to?

Throughout this exposition, we implicitly relate the philosophical questions of ecology to the contemporary realities of artistic research practice, as manifested within our own research project Reading on Reading. Drawing on the notion of ‘ecosophy’ as much as ecology, our own concrete practice has enabled us to reflect on Guattari’s three ecological registers of environment [environmental ecology], social relations [social ecology] and human subjectivity [mental ecology]. Rather than being bent on the individual production of knowledge, Reading on Reading has involved the ethics and politics of shared research practices. We acknowledge the importance of research environments such as the Research Pavilion for the cultivating of artistic research, however, we wish to invoke the etymology of this term to refer to the labour of care; the devotion of special attention or the promotion of mental growth or development, rather than to the practice of tillage, the preparation of a ground for productive yield. Indeed, the term culture refers to the tilling of land in anticipation of production, for an increase in the desired outcome or ‘crop’. How can we shift the emphasis from the privileging of production towards attention and care; moreover, from the stimulated growth of the neoliberal knowledge economy towards growth conceived as environmental and social transformation, as growth for individuals and communities in ethico-aesthetic terms? For this, we need open research environments that allow time and space, where collaborations can arise through emergent affinities rather than forced opportunities; where the process of research develops serendipitously through a receptive mode of ‘finding’ as much as through actively searching. As Silvia Henke et al state in the Manifesto of Artistic Research, “‘Researching’ is a form of ‘finding’. There is always an element of chance in finding [...] and not the strict, straightforward ‘search’ (search, research, recherche) by means of a system or models which have been otherwise legitimated”.66 


Rather than entering the Research Pavilion as an existing collaboration with a history of shared practice, we ‘found’ each other within its frame. We began our collaboration without knowing where it would lead, in the absence of preconceived research questions or methodology. Yet we did not consider this a deficit or limitation, since the process of negotiating how to collaborate, how to share practice, indeed how to ‘live together’ — in Barthes’ terms — seems to us a central issue for creating generative ‘ecologies of practice’. Whilst we may not have provided answers to the many questions generated in-and-through our shared process of research, we hope that in some modest way Reading on Reading contributes to the wider ecology of artistic research through its exploration of reading as an ethico-aesthetic practice for cultivating shared poetics of attention, for the re-sensing of language through embodied vocalisation, for tending to the emergent ‘we’ that reading together affords.    


57. See Michelle Boulous Walker, Slow Philosophy: Reading Against the Institution, (London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).

58. Daus, Toponymisches Heft (2010) available at (viewed 26.11.2019).

59. Inspired by the ‘poetics of excessive specialisation‘ as encountered in scientific language and articles, Daus has appropriated the discipline of toponymy to intervene in the histories of knowledge and invent her own form of ‘applied toponymy‘. Her notion of 're-sensing' is derived from an International Handbook of Onomastics taking up the herein expressed claim for onomastics to become a basic research into the ‘wording of the world’. See Ernst Eichler, Gerold Hilty and Heinrich Löffler, (eds.), Namenforschung. Name Studies. Les Noms propers. Ein Internationales Handbuch zur Onomastik. An International Handbook of Onomastics. Manuel international d’onomastique,(Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), p. 16.

60. Perec uses the neologism 'infra-ordinary' to refer to an everydayness that requires sustained attention. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'endotic' it describes a quality of the everyday that is neither ordinary nor extraordinary. In ‘Approaches to What?’ he states, “What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?[…] To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why?”, in Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, translated by John Sturrock, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974/1997), pp. 209 — 2011.  First published in Cause Commune in February 1973].

61. The term ‘world-building’ was used by [M] Dudeck during Convocation (18 June 2019).

62. Yves Citton, The Ecologies of Attention, trans. Barnaby Norman,(Cambridge: Polity, 2017), p. 6.

63. Citton, 2017, p. 10.

64. Citton, 2017, p. 18.

65. Citton, 2017, p. 84.

66. Silvia Henke, Dieter Mersch, Thomas Strässle, Nicolaj van der Meulen, Jörg Wiesel, (eds.), Manifesto of Artistic Research A Defense Against Its Advocates, (Zurich: Diaphanes, 2020), pp.18 — 19.