The shared practices of reading, Re-sensing, Weight-lifting, and Lettering, are grouped together under the thematic, Vocalisation. This thematic emerges from and builds upon concerns and interests explored by Cordula Daus within the wider context of her research practice. Within this page, Daus presents aspects of her own previous research enquiry in-and-through reading as a way of situating the 'reading on reading' project within a broader lineage of research activity. She draws on several projects where different reading practices have been explored with specific focus on 'vocalisation' including: Toponymisches Heft No. 2, (2013); Toponymisches Heft No. 3, (2016) (both artist books) and Kay (PhD project 2018 >).










The text at the center of this page gives a general introduction to how I approach vocalisation and the voice within my artistic practice. The words in bold and dotted lines lead to examples and fragments from three bodies of work.



During a research trip J.C. Duenkel makes the groundbreaking discovery of a language thought to be long dead – Quingnam. Fascinated by its peculiarly coarse sound, the researcher begins to make recordings of the forgotten idiom, develops a notation system and then a language of his own.

from: Toponymisches Heft No. 2 – Geophysics of the Voice, pp. 80-81.


Sound impression, from: Toponymisches Heft No. 2, p. 13.


 From: Toponymisches Heft No. 2, p. 87.



In Reading on Reading I ask: How and where does meaning emerge in/through reading?  How are we being affected by it? Is there such thing as an intensity of meaning? How can the intensity of a text as affecting material be dosed or modulated through intonation and vocalisation? Is it possible to abstain from meaning at all? 

Over the last decade my texts, lectures and performances have explored the relation between language and matter, affect and intonation, voice and vocalisation.0 I investigate where and how meaning originates and occurs – literally, where meaning takes place. 


In 2009 I coined the word-concept re-sensing (Entsinnung) and put it in the mouth of the fictional linguist J.C. Duenkel (1910-1970): “Re-sensing enables to recall the origin of a thing and to get rid of its meaning at the same time: A paradoxical state, a suspension of sense is achieved, in which nothing seems to have changed but everything is put into question, waiting to become possible.”1 Struggling with the dominance of colonial place names, the loss of indigenous languages and culture in Latin America, Duenkel carried out a series of controversial 'geophysical speech acts' in Chan Chan (Peru). 

I have varied and played with this phantasmic technique in my writings and recently I have begun to further develop it in live performances. The function and meaning of re-sensing has thus mutated and changed over the years from being an anti-colonialist tool and call for denaming, to a practice of in-feeling and remembering, to a ritual of forgetting, and a dadaist-like word repetition. 

The joint collaboration in Reading on Reading has enabled me to articulate and test re-sensing as a possible exercise to be used by others. I was able to hear and attend to different voices, to words in different accents and tones. A certain intimacy and trust needed to be built until I felt secure to test the exercise with Emma and Lena which I had only done on my own before. Also, I hadn’t worked with scores before and in the beginning I was a bit reluctant to come up with one for re-sensing. Why should I transfer something into an instruction for others that is part of my artistic practice? I followed the task to write a score and realised that it forced me to be precise in a new way.

I hadn’t worked with scores before and I was quite allergic to them for different reasons. Who am I to tell you what to do? In Reading on Reading I followed the task to write a score myself and I realised, that it forced me to be precise in a new way.

0. My thinking about vocalisation has gained momentum since I have been confronted with the 'problem' of reading my own literary texts out loud. In previous years I felt safe in a self-invented role, I performed mostly as the founder of The New Society of Applied Toponymy, and it was this fictional scientific framework – or the moving in and out of it – that informed my aesthetics of reading. How does one find an adequate tone for a written/spoken text? The situation of reading my own literary texts seemed to be connected with a certain involuntary pathos that I was struggling with. Collaborative practice helped me to reflect on the subjectivities at play while reading. How can reading expand the individual I? What kind of intensities come with the choice of pronouns such as 'I', 'he', 'she', 'it'? And how do they affect the reader? How do I read them? Even if it is a 'lyrical I' that I am voicing – I'm reluctant to impersonate 'the writer' or the 'I' on stage. Is this related to a psychological complex, to an aesthetic concern or to both? Apart from choreographic moves and the use of costumes, I have started to work with live voice filters that I can choose while reading. Speaking and testing text with a microphone in different voices has become not only a performative effect but a tool that I use during writing. Voice effects have started to feedback, to affect the written text.


In the context of the research cell Through Phenomena themselves I became fascinated with reduction. 
Defined as a phenomenological procedure or attitude of abstaining from meaning, it resonated with my own approach or re-sensing. If phenomenology claims to access lived experience, to turn from “mere words to the things themselves”2 by practising a particular art of observation and description which transforms experience back into words – I look at the “mere words“, to perform and access words as affecting and affected material. 'Word-phenomena', as I call them, can appear in all possible materialisations: as graphical forms, sounds, as impressions and expressions of meaning. My audio-graphical piece Jens consciously plays with what happens when the difference between the signified and the signifier, between proper name and person becomes ambigious.

Reading Merleau Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception I discovered the work of the psychologist Heinz Werner and his physiognomic approach to language.3 Werner was an Austrian-Jewish psychologist whose understanding of language physiognomy evolved around the materiality and corporality (Leiblichkeit) of the sign as an immediate expression of the signified. His theory is centred around the experience of the word (Worterlebnis) within a synesthetic semantics. According to Werner, words and sentences are perceived visually, acustically and motorically. The word-face (Wortgesicht) as a whole can be analysed, as well as  the physiognomic and corporal sensation of singular letters. Werner's experiments with language inspired me to do a series of live re-sensings which took place in lecture performances and/or readings with others starting with the words 'gap' (SAR10, Zurich, March 2018); 'understanding' (Reading on Reading, Venice, May 2019), 'Jens' (Convocation, Venice, June 2018), 'womb' (The Temple of Artifice by [M]Dudeck, September 2019), 'lieben' (Continental Drift, Linz, October 2019). If phenomenology aims to bring forth inner meaning, for “meaning to become experienced as meaningful”4, I ask what an outer meaning could be. My work proposes a lessening and/or loseness of meaning against culturally contaminated or used-up terms such as 'loveor 'sex'. By imitating, re-writing and/or simply failing to  repeat those conventional scripts of speaking, doing and feeling I seek to arrive at other stories – or simply to gain time for new wor(l)ds to come. 

After a collaboration one looks differently at one’s own work. Material gets shaken and re-sensed. (Just as a new listener is able to influence the story telling of one's life.) A collaboration may start from the simple enjoyment of doing something with specific others, and it is out of this specific togetherness, that 'something' can develop into a thing. It might have been present before in each of the researcher's practices but it could only grow due to the specific attention or co-presence of being in communication with others. 




1. Cordula Daus, 2010, Toponymisches Heft, viewed 26.11.2019, toponymy.wordpress.com/method/
2. 'Wir wollen auf die ‘Sachen selbst’ zurückgehen', Edmund Husserl: Logische Untersuchungen, Zweiter Theil, Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis, Einleitung, §2, (Halle a. S.: Max Niemeyer, 1901), p. 7.
3. In the early 1930s, Werner conducted a series of experiments in which test persons elaborated on their experience being confronted with selected words in graphic, acoustical and visual form. Werner lead the Psychological Laboratorium since its foundation at the Psychological Institute at the University of Hamburg until his forced emigration to the USA in 1933. Heinz Werner, Grundlagen der Sprachphysiognomik, (Leipzig: J. A. Barth 1932).

4. In the chapter titled 'Writing Desire' van Manen states: "Phenomenology does not just aim for the clarification of meaning, it aims for meaning to become experienced as meaningful. Meaningfulness happens when meaning speaks to our existence in such a way that it makes 'contact' and touches us." Max van Manen, Phenomenology of Practice, (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 373.


Testing the title, 0:21 min, May 8th 2019



Spectrogram of the American English vowels [i, u, ɑ] as pronounced by a native from Louisiana, Wikipedia CC-by-2.0

Visual excerpts from Jens used during live performance, (2019)


Currently I'm working on an emotionally speculative fiction called Kay. Kay examines the concept of intensity and the reciprocity of body and language focusing on the states of fucking, loving, grieving. Below follows a summary of 'Rek' and 'Jens', two episodes from this work in progress.


The story unfolds as a chat between Rek and Kay: —You said you’d like to suck my 'hobby'. —I like the idea. —It’s all about context. Reading and writing, lost calls, voice messages and attachments become the medium of a (love) story which the two characters try to script and control at the same time. In this constellation, words trigger direct body reactions and vice versa, reading is a reading which has no back up in reality. —We need a strong connection. —Understanding. —Trust. —3G. —We will only script the very first five minutes of our meeting. —Walk up to me and stare at my face. The intensities of reading and listening, of writing for one another, of saying and doing, correlate with the increasing intention and anxiety to meet for real. Kay and Rek agree on a day and time. “—I’m gonna call you now first. —I’m afraid of your voice. I mean, it’s the very same mouth. —Call duration 4:34 min.” Kay gets hooked on Rek’s Scottish accent. She can’t stop hearing him. Rek gets hooked on the script Kay has written for him. But Rek will not come, ever.


The piece opens with the following introduction: “Hello, you have been assigned to co-sleep with Mr. XY from Z. He has received your phone number and address. Please open the door. Mr. XY leaves at 7 in the morning and does not wish for any breakfast.” A woman called Kay meets a man called Jens through an automated dating system. Kay pursues a radical form of interrelation: meaning lesser sex. In this case, she decides just to describe Jens: “Jens lies on Kay’s canapé playing a video game. He wears a dark-blue hoody, no trousers. Kay starts with his ankles, his calves, the inside of his thighs. She moves on to his forehead. Continues to describe the bridge of his nose.” During Convocation I performed this piece through an audio-graphic play consisting of projected text, live reading, recorded voices and typographical fragments. Inspired by Husserl’s notion of  “Worterscheinung” and Werner’s word face – I played with the ambiguity between the proper name and physical person Jens:  “Jens is undetermined, tense. The s leans out of the word, pulls and drags.” Unfolding through a series of descriptions the listener or reader becomes part of a strange eroticism of description between the characters Kay and Jens. 


According to the phenomenologist Max van Manen intensification is produced through the “thickening of language”. Intensity is produced through a form of compression, a kind of Ver-Dichtung. It is no accident, he says, that the Dutch and German word for poem is ‘Gedicht and Dichtung’; writing poetically means ‘to make dense, to thicken, to intensify.1

The American poet Ezra Pound arguments in the same direction: “Good literature is language charged with meaning to an utmost degree.“ According to Pound, the degree of poetic charge helps to define the difference between language and literature. The degree of poetic charge defines the degree of ‘literariness’. Pound sketches three possible ways to stuff the charge into language, namely: [P]hanopoeia, melopoeia, logopoeia. You use a word to throw a visual image on to the reader’s imagination, or you charge it by sound, or you use groups of words to do this. Thirdly, you take the greater risk of using the word in some special relation to ‘usage’, that is, to the kind of context in which the reader expects, or is accustomed, to find it”.2  


Linguists have described different strategies to achieve intensity in language: The use of comparatives and superlatives is one of them. Properties of gradable quality can be attributed to objects or events through adjectives or adverbs, or through other morphological, lexical and syntactic stylistic devices such as intensifiers.3

Intensifiers strengthen the meaning of expressions and show emphasis without making any contribution to the propositional meaning of a clause. Intensifiers are grammatical expletives – derived from the Latin verb explere, to fill’. The word expletive was originally introduced into English in the seventeenth century for various kinds of padding, the use of soft filling material in cushions etc; of extra characters such as spaces added to the end of a record to fill it out to a fixed length; or extraneous text added to a message for the purpose of concealing its beginning, ending, or length in cryptography. [In this text, I use the definition of intensifiers as expletives to generate time, meaning but also to withhold meaning. Intensity tends to exhaustion and therefore needs de-tension, boredom, time to simply, rather, just slow us down.] Intensifiers, expletives, fillers are often regarded as profanity or bad language“ as they are semantically vacuous. Vacuous as empty as of emptiness, a human condition in the sense of generalized boredom, social alienation and apathy. Feelings of emptiness often accompany dysthymia, depression, loneliness, anhedonia, despair, or other mental/emotional disorders, including skizoid personality disorder, post trauma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, skizotypal personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. A sense of emptiness is also part of a natural process of grief, as resulting death of a loved one, or other significant changes, says Wikipedia.4

A summary: Intensifiers are fillers of emptiness. A serious proof reader will cut them out of a literary text. How can I use this anti-literary stylistic mean to modulate intensities? 

1. Max van Manen, 2014, p. 293.

2. Ezra Pound, ABC des Lesens, (Zürich: Suhrkamp, 1967), p. 47.

3. intensifier, Wikipediaviewed 28.11.2019 

4. expletive, Wikipedia, viewed 28.11.2019

Re-writing the writing of an earthquake, 1906/2019, 
See: Toponymisches Heft No. 3: Seismolology, p. 4

Material taken from my research into the early history of modern seismology and its manifold methods to sense, notate and measure shakings of the earth. My present work is inspired by the concept of seismic intensity.

from: Toponymisches Heft No. 3 – Seismolology, p. 1. 

List of English Intensifiers:
absolutely; amazingly, -ass (as in "a sweet-ass ride"); astoundingly; awful (as in "awful good"); bare (as in "bare jokes"); bloody (as in "bloody hell"); crazy; dead (as in "dead cute"); dreadfully; colossally; completely; especially; exceptionally; excessively; extremely; extraordinarily; fantastically; frightfully; fucking (as in "fucking awesome"); fully; Hella (slang); highly, holy (as in "holy shit" or "holy crap"); incredibly; insanely; literally; mad (slang); mightily; moderately; most (as in "Most Reverend"); outrageously; phenomenally; precious (as in "precious little"); quite; radically; rather; real (as in "real nice"); really, remarkably; ridiculously; right; sick; so; somewhat; staggeringly; strikingly; super; supremely; surpassingly; terribly; terrifically; too; totally; uncommonly; unusually; utterly, veritable; very; wicked

Testing the effect of intensifiers, 0:29 min