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Laura Leupi und Ariane Koch

"An ethical reading is (...) a hospitable, a receptive reading that responds tenderly to a text and finds a responsibility, a response-ability, in this ethical and not merely private-political reaction, a term I take from the work of Donna Haraway."
(From: tender poetics by Fredi Thiele)

- I think many people are afraid of reading. They are not afraid that the object of the book might do something to them, for example by unexpectedly jamming their fingers in it. They are not afraid that the monsters in the texts will follow them into their dreams and turn them into nightmares. I think they are afraid of the aura of sanctity, the aura of interpretative authority that texts (supposedly) radiate.
Or they fear that the book will make demands, that it wants something from them, an interpretation, an opinion, an attitude. Help, an attitude!

- It's about questions of accessibility. What is too sacred may be rejected instead of scrutinised. What is irrefutable is perhaps bypassed but not touched.
Perhaps texts should be touched and caressed more tenderly.

- Perhaps the concept of literature is too narrow and genres are prisons.

- Perhaps it is even more the problem that writing and studying literary texts was long reserved for certain male-read bodies. So the irrefutability is much more the historically enduring aura of patriarchy.
I once had a heated argument in a relationship about Goethe. He said: Goethe is rubbish. I said: But you can't say that, he was so influential. Faust! Werther! Poetry and truth! The theory of colours! He said: Exactly. I said: But to see what holds the world together at its core! Gesticulating wildly, we wandered through Berlin, shouting at each other in front of the Späti. Studying German has left a lasting mark on me.

- However, no one should be excluded from reading and writing. Both readers and writers must have the opportunity to find themselves in texts, literary characters and situations.
This is also a class and gender issue. Who can afford to sit hunched over a desk for months poring over a novel project? And who has time to read 1000-page epics? Audre Lord writes in Sister Outsider that she first wrote poems before she ventured into prose because poems literally take up less space. Poems can be written on a till receipt, on the back of an advertising brochure, in the gaps between other poems. Poems can be written between shifts at the factory, between putting the kids to bed and doing the washing up, between reading other poems.

- The other day I thought I had forgotten how to read because the books were piling up in my room but not finding their way into my hands. I thought I'd stopped reading and it felt like a terrible omen. But then I remembered that I was constantly reading, even if it wasn't the books in that pile. That I was scrolling through long articles, looking up a poem here and there, reading the opening text of a catalogue about a painter friend of mine.
Or the caption of an Instagram post, the timetable advert, a package insert, a sticker on a street post. Reading can take place anywhere.

- Writing and reading are simultaneously physical and disembodied, conscious and unconscious.
Anyone who reads cannot do anything else, possibly escaping the logic of production and the pressure to perform for a moment.

- Reading is perhaps always tender, even if books are devoured greedily, even if texts are disliked.

- Devoting oneself to a text, focussing one's attention on it, is already tender. I mean, who should take care of a text if not a reader?
Tender reading opens up other time-spaces, because it only requires itself.

- What spaces does reading need - mental spaces, but also architectural spaces?
And how can we ensure that these spaces remain fluid and open, soft and tender?

"As Haraway's work points out, this response-ability is never merely the responsibility to respond to something that already exists in the world, but a process of becoming-together, of becoming-together, which establishes a "collective knowing and doing". A response-able reader is not only receptive to the text, but understands that both are transformed together in the process of becoming a reader. (...) The responsibility of such a reader therefore logically extends beyond mere reading and changes decisions and actions in the reality of their lives."
(From: tender poetics by Fredi Thiele)


The Tender Reading Training reading series took place on Tuesdays in September and October 2023 at CIVIC in cooperation with CoCreate. Ariane and Laura, who already knew each other from readings and interviews, wondered whether a reading series could be organised in a different way than the classic water glass scenario: an author reads, a moderator asks clever questions, a glass of water stands next to them and everyone listens attentively. How can this format be broken up? How can reading and writing be experienced as a sensual, physical activity?

The reading series thus asked about the body in literature - the ageing body, the queer body, the damaged body or the migrant body. What function does the body have in literature? What methods do authors use to write the body? What concepts of the body underlie their writing? And how do they experience their own writing body?

The spatial situation was adapted to the author and the texts and created different (physical) reading experiences. For example, the texts were read out of the window, in front of the kiosk, on the floor or from the sofa. Meanwhile, the listeners could settle down on the many different seats and loungers - depending on their mood and needs.

The talks and readings were also accompanied by performative and participatory activities that invited people to take a different perspective on reading and listening - from a live radio play read collectively to a writing workshop and a sound performance with a smoke pétarde. There were also home-baked snacks and a bar. Welcome to Tender Reading Training!

We were there:
19 September, 6 pm
Sascha Rijkeboer - Mir wächst ein Schnauz & Transtrender Chroniken

26 September, 6 pm
Christoph Keller - Easy Language & Every Cripple a Superhero

3 October, 6 pm
Nora Osagiobare - Othering, Sturm der Triebe & reading (aloud) together

10 October, 6 pm
Yael Inokai - Medicine & Lesbian Love

17 October, 6 pm
Fredi Thiele - Daseyn & Poetics lecture reloaded

31 October, 6 pm
Katja Brunner - Paula Rot & sounds for a world in solidarity

All events were streamed live in collaboration with RADIOHR:


Laura Leupi, born 1996 in Zurich, studied theatre studies and cultural analysis in Gießen, Bern and Zurich. Laura works for the theatre and writes prose and performance texts, also in various collectives. Most recently, Laura was Artist in Residence at the Dogo Residence for New Art. Laura's debut text Das Alphabet der Sexualisierten Gewalt will be published by März Verlag in 2024.

Ariane Koch, born in Basel in 1988, studied Fine Arts and Interdisciplinarity. She writes theatre, performance and prose texts - sometimes in collaborations. Most recently, she was an in-house author at Theater Basel, where she wrote the play Kranke Hunde (Sick Dogs). Ariane has been a guest lecturer at the Basel School of Art and Design since 2019.