Torque Symposium: The Act of Reading Picture house at FACT

11am - 6pm in The Box, £5/£6 (Members and Concs)

Talks by Katherine Hayles, Garrett Stewart, Esther Leslie, Nina Power, Soenke Zehle, Alex Leff

This second symposium of the Torque project, curated by Sam Skinner and Nathan Jones in partnership with FACT, evolves Torque’s concern with language, brain and technology into discourse on The Act of Reading.

Through a day of talks and conversation at FACT, writers from fields of art, literature, media, politics and neuroscience will unpack the complex and radical ways in which commonly held understandings of reading are being challenged by contemporary technologies, politics and lifestyles.

Speakers include Katherine Hayles, on the divergent modes of reading available across print and screen-based media; Typemotion curator Soenke Zehle on algorithmic logics that set type in motion; Garrett Stewart on the phonology of reading; cognitive neurologist Alex Leff on the neural basis of reading; and contributions from prominent theorists of politics and aesthetics - Nina Power and Esther Leslie.

The symposium will also include a generous platform for discourse and audience contributions, the results of which will be included along with essay forms of the talks, in a book published in mid-2015.

This event is supplemented by an evening performance including works by Tim Etchells, James Wilkes and Anna Barnham, taking place 8 - 11pm at Static Gallery (Entry £3 on the door). Torque #2 coincides with an exhibition of Nathan Jones and Sam Skinner's work for Torque #1 as a triptych of speed reader, ebook and print edition, in the FACT foyer.  


Full abstracts and biographies available at

N. Katherine Hayles - There Are No Self-Reading Books:  The Cognitive Nonconscious and Suffering Agency in Contemporary Literature

N. Katherine Hayles teaches and writes on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries and is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Program in Literature at Duke University.

Alex Leff - Brain Mechanisms Engaged in Reading and Therapies for Specific Disorders of Acquired Alexia

Alex Leff is in Reader in cognitive neurology at the Institute of Neurology and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

Esther Leslie - Moving Words

Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck - her books include Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso, 2002), Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005) and Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (Unkant, 2014). She has also published two books on Walter Benjamin.

Nina Power - Reading Riotously

Nina Power is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Tutor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art. She has written widely about European philosophy, politics and culture.

Garrett Stewart - Tongue #2: Echo Neurons, Secondary Vocality, and the Lex-Seam

Garrett Stewart is the James O. Freedman Professor of Letters in the Department of English at the University of Iowa and the author of numerous books including: Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext, Dear Reader: The Conscripted Audience in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction, and Bookwork: Medium to Object to Concept to Art.

Soenke Zehle - Scaling our Senses: Type in Motion between Schriftbildlichkeit and Semiotic Machines

Soenke Zehle, German media theorist, lecturer in media theory / netculture at Academy of Fine Arts Saar, Saarbruecken, Germany, co-founder and managing director of the academy's xm:lab - Experimental Media Lab


Two guest session moderators (also writing texts informed by the symposium):

Hannah Proctor - PhD candidate at Birkbeck College, University of London. She works on the history of Soviet psychology and neurology. @hhnnccnnll – twitter/tumblr/instagram

Stephen Fortune - artist, media writer and tech editor at Dazed Digital 



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