[NetBehaviour] "In the Reading Club, reading is not unthought" Interview by Annick Rivoire

Annie Abrahams bram.org at gmail.com
Mon Oct 21 10:32:47 CEST 2013

 Hi All
Yesterday Annick Rivoire of the French online magazine poptronics published
an interview on the backgrounds of the project Reading Club with Emmanuel
Guez and me. I thought it might be nice for those who plan to attend this
evenings or tomorrows online performance to be able to read it. So I did a
quick translation. I hope it will warm you up for :

Tonights session  based on a chunk of *A* *Hacker
McKenzie Wark.[version 4.0]
 <http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/warktext.html>with *Aileen
Derieg, Cornelia Sollfrank*, *Dmytri Kleiner* and *Marc Garrett*.

Tomorrows session based on a part of one of the *ARPANET
dialogues*<http://www.arpanetdialogues.net/>from 1975 -1976.
with *Alessandro Ludovico, Jennifer Chan, Lanfranco Aceti *and* Ruth Catlow*

At* 8pm London time* ( find your local time  :
*go to to readingclub.fr* . I hope to "see" you there!


*Interview by Annick Rivoire for poptronics 20/10/2013
http://www.poptronics.fr/Avec-le-Reading-Club-la-lecture-n Translation
Annie Abrahams*

"In the Reading Club, reading is not unthought"

One might think (wrongly) that the "Reading Club" is a mixture of a "Fight
Club" and a "Bookfighting" (book battles invented by a community from
Orleans called Labomedia). Except that, the activity of the "Reading Club"
is above all reading, a active, participatory, collaborative and
performative reading,on the Internet.

Annie Abrahams <http://www.bram.org/> and Emmanuel
Guez<http://emmanuelguez.info/qui/>wanted this project to be nomadic
and shared, so they invited, in addition
to IRL institutions like the BPI Centre Pompidou or Le Jeu de Paume in
Paris, network partners like Furtherfield, an art and digital resources
center in London, and Poptronics. When Annie Abrahams (a challenging
net-artist whose work Poptronics
likes<http://www.poptronics.fr/La-vie-dans-les-reseaux-d-Annie>) told
us about the "Reading Club", it did not take us long to accept the
proposition! This "interpretative arena" had a taste for experimentation.

So, in June began the first test (which I attended). Then, during the
summer and early September, the device has been refined and made public. An
extract from "A Hacker
by McKenzie Wark, and snippets of the "Arpanet
these pre-chatrooms conversations from the 1970s attended by Yoko Ono,
Marcel Broodthaers, Jane Fonda and a certain Governor Ronald Reagan, have
been chosen for the fourth online session with
Furtherfield<http://www.furtherfield.org/>on this Monday and Tuesday
21 and 22 October.

Annie Abrahams and Emmanuel Guez both have a taste for experimentation. The
proof? They immediately organized a session of the "Reading Club" with the
two of them to answer a few questions to present their project! What you
read below is the final version of this session. The writing process is
visible on the site of the Reading
clicking on the arrow at the top right).

*"Reading Club" is an "online performative reading experiment." In this
statement, what term do you prefer?*
Experiment, in terms of both the act of reading (and writing) in common and
the audience to actively attend these readings through a chat window.
Experiment also in the sense that piloting the project and its various
sessions allows us to experiment different conditions of reading and

*Reading is generally considered something a little outdated (see: the
complaints by publishers and teachers on the crises of the book and of
writing since the advent of the digital). Is it to rehabilitate reading
you've imagined "Reading Club"?*
In the Reading Club, reading is not unthought, not a background. The text
can be easily decomposed and recomposed. The radicality of text becomes
visible. Words; the text allow what images can only indicate. They are
closer to the temporality of thought, bring along a certain slowness, a
return to attention. Text gives way to reflection. An image globalizes,
leaks everywhere, encompasses but does not travel.

*You invite critics, artists, performers to participate collectively, to
share the "Reading Club" experience. Why?*
Because without participation, the "Reading Club" does not work! It is a
device made for people who love to read, who love to write and love to
share. These three actions are combined and objectified in a single time
and place.
But the "Reading Club" is not restricted to the world of art and
literature. We would love to propose a "Reading Club" to a wider audience
over a longer period, for example in a series of sessions of 10 to 12
consecutive hours

*You explain that the "Reading Club" was inspired by the "Reading Group" of
Brad Troemel and the "Department of Reading" by Sönke Hallman. Can you tell
us more about these experiences?*
Existing texts are at the center of both projects who ask to be payed
attention to, to read and then discuss these together. Troemel proposed
this on irregular intervals in the rather classical context of a workshop
called Reading Group, whose archives unfortunately disappeared from the
net. The project by Sönke Hallman, “Department of
(2006), however is much closer to ours. It is an interface, a combination
of a chatbot, written in python and a wiki, developed to slow down and
explore the act of reading and writing in a group.

*Having participated in the first experiment of the "Reading Club", I was
surprised by the latitude of intervention of the "readers" on the text,
transforming this test session of shared reading in a writing session, or
rather in a writing "battle". A very amusing, stimulating and annoying play
with simple rules, which resulted in the complete rewriting and inevitably
to the emergence of another text on arrival. Did you plan this "killing
game" to revisit in

Please, take into account that the session in which you participated was a
test session during our residency at Zinc (Marseille). We carefully chose
which player was going to work on what tesxte (sic), but the interface had
many bugs, so, we were forced to do only one tesxte with a group of very
heterogeneous readers. It is true that the use of color leads to toying
with the visual side of the interface, especially if the text is turned on
itself, if it offers a thought biting its tail.

*How did you set the cursors and determined, or even changed, the rules of
the "Reading Club"?*
The setting is not fixed. For each session we redraw the reading
modalities, the rules of the game. We can act on the identification of the
readers (by removing the color, they become anonymous), the duration and
length of the text and the number of characters to be used. For example, a
short time will not allow a lot of thought. A low upper limit of the number
of characters forces the readers to play with the letters rather than with
sentences, etc. The choice of the readers in relation to the original text
is also important. We know for example that a performer seeks to occupy
space, to make the interface "shake".

*In the presentation of the project you mentioned the notion of
"interpretive arena". One can not help but think of the violence of
comments, twittos, the most aggressive sentences thrown as fodder on the
Internet by the blogosphere etc.., in short, that other textual arena which
is the Web as a whole and even more the social networks of Web 2.0. To what
extent "Reading Club" is a criticism, a mise en abyme of that arena ?*

The "Reading Club" does not criticize the aggression you describe.
Moreover, the "Reading Club" is not a critical apparatus, but something
that makes possible a new form of criticism carried out jointly. What
"Reading Club" reveals is that a shared reading and writing passes through
emotions, through tensions, through power lines, but also through a certain
euphoria. Any act of writing involves a certain symbolic violence. This
violence is translated here by the control of the writing space (do not
forget that the number of characters is limited). Remains that in the end
there is a text and the whole session which we keep as an archive and which
is visible through a timeline. They embody the thoughts, affects, the
emotions of the readers at that time.

*What is the status of the final text, who is the author, and how this
status is questioned in the various experiments (in single or multiple
configurations from Zinc to the Bpi Beaubourg )?**
We have our specialist Antoine Moreau, one of the founders of the **Free
Art License <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Art_license>**, **under
which we placed all the productions of the Reading
**. We are less interested in the final text of a session than in the
process of reading and **the **a**ccompanying** writing strategies. To
answer the question, let's say that the final text is both the product of
the device we designed and a process that is the work of the invited
readers, without forgetting the author of the original text (in French
“texte originel”) - you will notice that we did not use the concept of
"original" (in French “original”) - We are therefore multiple authors ...*

*The appointment, the performance, the text ... All concepts that are being
undermined on networks, where fragmented practices, the consultation and
mass production of images (video, photo) push in a different direction.
Doesn't your project which advocates writing (that of an author, those of
the readers), has something "old fashioned", i.e. the weight of words
rather than the shock of the photos?*

*If the question is "are we old fashion" (sic), we reply that it is cheesy
to oppose text to image (it can not be seen but we are laughing). If you
look at the timeline, you can see a film of a shared thought in the making.*

*Is the choice of texts the result of long discussions? The authors are
rather (as far as the first editions of "Reading Club" are concerned)
engaged personalities (artists or researchers). Are you inventing a form of
controversy 2.0?*

*Not necessarily. The texts are selected jointly with the partner of the
session. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes we immediately have an
intuition that appeals to all partners. We aspire to have the selected
texts reflect the concerns of the structure or the institution hosting the
session (and ours). We do not seek controversy, it is already there all the
time, everywhere. Rather we want to create a situation of confrontation, to
ask the reader the question of how to choose his place, his attitude
towards others who treat and mistreat the text along with him, to put him
in the position to see evolve a thinking in which he participates, but can
not control.*

*"Reading Club" goes international with this new edition with Furtherfield.
How do you handle the issue of language? At the BPI, the selected text was
signed by Mez, an artist who, as you explained, "wrote her names and texts
as names of application and lines of computer code." A solution to the
issue of translation?*
The language is that of the original text. Difference exists. Take a look
at Mez 3.9.11 _i_dentity_x _or[s]c[h]ism_ (2005-09-29 06:17)

*Interview by Annick Rivoire for poptronics
http://www.poptronics.fr/Avec-le-Reading-Club-la-lecture-n 20/10/2013
Translation Annie Abrahams*

[image: Inline image 2] Screen capture of the test session the Reading
Club, in June 2013, from a text on P2P by Michel Bauwens, the colors
represent the interventions of the different "readers."

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