The Act of Reading

The Act of Reading

Reading is a very common practice. Whether of bodies, texts, charts, images, spaces, dances, people, situations, reading is an imaging, already a composition and representation. Every reading offers an image of a situation or an event (or a text or a body or…), exposing its possibilities while shifting our perspective. To insist on the act of reading is to engage in many readings, allowing them to create a space where multiple perspectives coexist and knowing becomes possible beyond efficient causality and the principles of non-contradiction and identity.

This view of reading as imaging draws from Walter Benjamin’s writing on reading and imaging as modes of expression that privileged the intuition, against a view of knowing and existing that relies on reflection, understanding, and recognition. Reading privileges matter without the mediation of these concepts of modern western philosophy (1). An imaging/reading has the power of arresting you, of stopping the flow of experience as it exposes that a power, which determines and limits existence, is at work. It allows you to view any situation, be it a hand, a body moving, a text or an astrological chart. Before any situation, each one of us “gets a picture”, and create (assemble) an image, a reading that is a description of what is there but does not determine or decide on what it is. As Benjamin says, one apprehends what is there, as an image, at once, using the intuition (2), which is away of knowing that precedes understanding (categorisation) and thought (reflection) and does not presume or necessitate efficient causality.


(1)  Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999

(2) Walter Benjamin, The Doctrine of the Similar.  New German Critique, No. 17, Special Walter Benjamin Issue (Spring, 1979), pp. 65-69