Relearning to Read
Grundy Art Gallery, 1 April – 13 May, 2017
Artists: Anna Barham, Nathan Jones, Erica Scourti, Tom Schofield, Sam Skinner, Emily Speed and The Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism. Curated by Torque.
Accompanying events included: Symposium with presentations by Anna Barham, Amy Clarke, Helen Palmer, Nicolas Malevé, and Mark Simmonds. Flip-book making workshop with Lisa Wigham.
Web link here

Involving interactive installations, VR headset poems, and a new ‘reading machine’ made in collaboration with artist/technologist Tom Schofield, this exhibition pushed text-based art to the limit and asked how we might all relearn to read in a fast evolving digital era.

We are increasingly asked to read different things in different ways – from emojis to social media feeds, speed reader phone apps to public information screens.

This combination of new places and forms of text makes reading both more common, and more difficult to grasp – demanding new forms of literacy, and putting pressure on our attention and reading abilities.

The exhibition functioned as an alternative library-like space, showcasing how artists can offer different and experimental ways of reading and writing which might help us navigate the new textual environments we now inhabit.

Many of the works played with the space between more traditional print based and analogue media, through to newer digital technologies. We presented some of Torque's web browsing history as a 2000+ page microfiche for offline viewing.

Downstairs in the foyer, audiences were invited to bring along their own books or borrow books from the library next door, to use on a new “reading machine” made in collaboration with Tom Schofield. To activate the machine, readers placed their book on a scanner which convert analgue text to digital, which was translated into a speed reading display. The scanned text was then analysed using a form of AI for ‘interesting’ words and then reformulated into text that the computer attempted to write and communicate with.
Video documentation here.

We also presented a library with newly produced flip books and previous Torque publications.

I produced the text work: Re Ascending a Staircase in copper leaf. Words that start with “re” were distributed in alphabetical order up the stairs leading to the upper gallery. Verbs such as ‘reconfigure’ are followed by nouns such as ‘reconnaissance’ to form a mantra like rereading of this particular lexicography.

Etymologically ‘re’ is a word-forming element meaning "back to the original place; again, anew, once more," also with a sense of "undoing," c. 1200, from Old French and directly from Latin re- "again, back, anew, against”.