The Parasitic Reading Room

“[Books] can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”

—Neil Gaiman
‘Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.’ The Guardian, 2013

 

Aristide Antonas and Thanos Zartaloudis define ‘The Parasitic Council’ as that place “where a public space can be the plateau for the occupancy of a commonhold in order that it performs multiple parasitic functions of common use without claims to property.” Following this protocol of action and occupancy of the city, and connecting them with the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial ‘A School of Schools,’ dpr-barcelona and the open raumlabor university joined forces to set up a Parasitic Reading Room for the opening days of the IDB, in September 2018, a nomad, spontaneous and parasitic set of reading spaces that took place along the biennale venues and other spots in the city, with the intention to ‘parasite’ the event participants, visitors, ideas, contents and places, and to provoke a contagion of knowledge. The Parasitic Reading Room is a spontaneous school, made by reading aloud a selection of texts that are related with the biennale’s scope.

On his book Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich states that most learning happens casually, and training of young people never happens in the school but elsewhere, in moments and places beyond the control of the school. When claiming for the revolutionary potential of deschooling, Illich makes a call to liberating oneself from school and to reckon that “each of us is personally responsible for his or her own deschooling, and only we have the power to do it.” This is why the wide domain of academia needs to be challenged in radical and unexpected ways and we need to envision other spaces of encounter and knowledge exchange out of its walls. Similarly, Michael Paraskos rightly pointed on his essay The Table Top Schools of Art, that “we might well say that if four individuals gather together under a tree that is a school. Similarly four individuals around a kitchen table. Or four individuals in the café or bar. By redefining the school in this way we also redefine what it means to be a student in a school or a teacher.”

Perhaps the essential question at this point is what kind of readings should form this alternative bibliography on different pedagogical models, about other sources of knowledge, that come not only [but also] from the pages of our favourite books? This question can have multiple answers which all of them are to be intertwined, multi-connected, overlapped. Poems, films, instagram photos—and its captions—, songs, e-mail exchanges, objects, conversations with friends over a glass of wine or a coffee, dreams; we learn from all of them albeit [or often because] the hectic diversity of formats, and sometimes its lack of seriousness.

By reading aloud we share a space of intimacy, a time and place of learning not only from the contents, but from the nuances, the accents, the cadence of the reading. Abigail Williams called this ‘the social life of books,’ “How books are read is as important as what’s in them,” she pointed—we call it ‘the book as a space of encounters.’ This means spaces where different books coexist and enrich each other; books as the necessary space where the author can have a dialogue with the reader, where different readers can read between the lines and find a place of exchange, where to debate, and discuss ideas. Books and encounters as an open school.

If everywhere is a learning environment, as we deeply believe, and the Istanbul Design Biennial intended to prove by transforming the city of Istanbul into a school of schools, we vindicate the importance of books—be them fiction, poetry or critical theory—as learning environments; those spaces where empathy and otherness are stronger than ideologies, where we can find space to ‘parasite’ each other’s knowledge and experience and create an open school by the simple but strong gesture of reading aloud together.

Because, what is a school if not a promise?

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The Parasitic Reading Room expanded its reach with one of its most dynamics installment, an urban dérive across the irregular streets of the city in companion of a mobile radio (radioee.net), through a live broadcast of the public readings. In that moment, the “walking reading room” became a space of knowledge exchange, of joint efforts to keep the radio moving, of empathy and joyful, of different languages discussing together relevant topics, a space where to sing and to learn, a borderless open school.

Please join us on this wonderful adventure of reading aloud, by listening to the broadcast, here:

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All photos by Lena Giovanazzi for Making Futures.

You can read the Parasitic Readers on line: The Parasitic Reader 01 and the Parasitic Reader 02.

— This is an on-going projects with more instalments following the Istanbul Design Biennal kick off. Other instalments includes The Parasitic Reading Room: Repair Acts readings led by Rosario Talevi, as part of RepairActs, International Network Meeting & Conversation, Bristol [February 2019]; and the forthcoming Friend/ships: l’amitié comme moyen de transmission, with Rebekka Kiesewetter, Continent, and dpr-barcelona, Centre culturel suisse, Paris [March 2019]; and more to follow.

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