Reading into Things: Queer Phenomenology in Everyday Life

Reading into Things: Queer Phenomenology in Everyday Life

“Theory does not only mean reading dense academic texts. Theory can be lived, held, shared.”
Lola Olufemi, “Feminism Interrupted”

Page Not Found and The Reading Room are delighted to invite you to participate in our new program. The Reading Room is a series of reading sessions revolving around short texts provided by invited guests — contemporary researchers, cultural theorists, philosophers and artists — who join the session to provide insight and context to the topics at hand. The Reading Room is curated by Sissel Marie Tonn, Jonathan Reus and Flora Reznik.

The guest of this session is Shailoh Phillips, who chose an article by Sara Ahmed entitled “Orientations: Towards a Queer Phenomenology”. Shailoh Phillips will invite us to consider how we orient ourselves towards a text and to the complex world we part of. Through various embodiment exercises we will reconsider the materiality of a text as well as the possibility of reading into the world around us. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the concentration and motivation to really digest a text. We will explore different ways of working with text as material, breaking it down and reading it against the grain. We will try to understand Ahmed’s text through embodied explorations of its themes, and explore what it really means to “read together”. We will also practice reading other surfaces, images and everyday objects – from stars, to coffee grounds, to tables, faces and streets.

“The lines that direct us, as lines of thought as well as lines of motion, are in this way performative: they depend on the repetition of norms and conventions, of routes and paths taken, but they are also created as an effect of this repetition. To say that lines are performative is to say that we find our way, we know which direction we face, only as an effect of work, which is often hidden from view. So in following the directions, I arrive, as if by magic.”

In Queer Phenemonology, Sara Ahmed extends an invitation to explore what it means for bodies to be situated in space and time. Being “orientated” means feeling at home, knowing where one stands, or having certain objects within reach. Orientations affect what is proximate to the body or what can be reached. Tables, chairs, windows, light – we can take the embodied nature of reading quite literally. A queer phenomenology, Ahmed contends, reveals how social relations are arranged spatially, how queerness disrupts and reorders these relations by not following the accepted paths, and how a politics of disorientation puts other objects within reach, those that might, at first glance, seem awry.

This is the first of two collaborations with Shailoh, where she introduces her practices of what she calls “reading against the grain” – following is a session on the relationship on reading and drawing, which will be programmed in early 2021.

Shailoh Phillips (1979, USA) is a polymash media artist / researcher / educator. Her practice revolves around fostering playful forms of resistance, seeking out pressure points to act in the face of social inequalities and unfolding ecological disasters. Her practice is based in Studio Babel in Amsterdam, where she runs a community-based library of books and materials on the top floor of the former squat and autonomous collective Kostgewonnen. Before going independent, she worked in the cultural field in multiple roles — as a game designer, screenwriter for television (VPRO), as the Media Lab manager at the Rijksmuseum and in digital arts educational institutions. Over the past decade, she has been cultivating a practice of constructive troublemaking and community organizing. She was trained in cultural anthropology, philosophy and cultural analysis and later went back for a MA degree in MA Education in Arts and Design at Piet Zwart Institute. For the past years, her practice has mainly been dedicated to developing critical pedagogies in the context of arts, design and technology education.

She is co-founder of Salwa Foundation, a platform and critical space for supporting artists who have recently arrived in the Netherlands. Previous collaborations include the international Tools for Action artist group, working with inflatable sculptures in collaboration with protest movements. She also works with interactive installations, video, animation, photography and re-purposed machines. She teaches at Willem de Kooning Academy and in the MA Photography and Society at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague (KABK). She never really stops learning, which is part of why she has a passion for creating a stimulating learning environment.

Note from the curators

There are a limited number of spaces available for this event. As this is a discussion, you are expected to have read the provided texts before attending. Please follow the link to Eventbrite to book your free ticket. We will provide you with a copy of the texts once you have RSVP’d. Due to the current pandemic situation, we ask you to bring your own snacks and observe physical distance. We will provide masks.

Starts at 19:00. Get your free ticket