Bad Reading – An Experiment

The literature and performing arts fellows Rasha Abbas (Syria), Dan Boehl (USA), Vanessa Emde (Germany), Márió Z. Nemes (Hungary), and Sînziana Păltineanu (Romania/Germany) left their usual working routines and joined an author collective for an experiment, which was performed on Nov 26 at the Akademie’s project space Römerstraße as a »bad reading«. The title references »bad painting«, a trend in American figurative painting in the 1970s that asserts painting should not be understood in a literal sense, but in an ironic way by rejecting conventional attitudes of art and market in working process, motifs and presentation, etc.

To mitigate differences in style, genre, and native language, the fellows created new works by using a collection of keywords to guide them. Once new texts were written and printed out, fellows physically cut them into pieces and rearranged them into a textual sequence of fifty fragments on a library table. This first draft was then remixed overnight and retuned collectively the following days. During this whole process, single authorship was negotiated and then dismissed in favor of a unique composition of diverse voices, which was presented during the reading. – Find an extract of the text and an amazing audio version of the whole reading here.

»Bad Reading« part 1

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One Bad Tarot Reading


R: Rasha Abbas, writer, SY
D: Dan Boehl, poet, US/TX
V: Vanessa Emde, playwright, DE
M: Márió Z. Nemes, poet, HU
S: Sînziana Păltineanu, writer, RO/DE

R: Thank you for choosing our service for Tarot cards reading … Please remember it’s an automatic tarot play for entertainment only …
Your request has been received by the system.
Your tarot divination is underway.
Please wait …


Card #1: The castle.

27 (reptile-)fighters, some called them soldiers and some called them monsters, are having a silent dinner now on the fancy table in the old abandoned castle.

Duke of the castle couldn’t invite them to his table because he died long time ago, and they wouldn’t gather around a table not invited to in other situation. Many of the 27 fighters were taught good eating manners long time ago.

V: »You hold the knife in the right hand, the same hand you write with.«

M: »You shall not make sounds or talk while your mouth is full.«

S: »You should inform your host several days before dinner about kinds of food you cannot eat.«

D: »Wait until your host starts eating.«

R: As we are in a war time now, the 27 guests on the dinner table thought it was fine to have their dinner here in the fancy dining room of the castle they are fortified in, trying to sense any move in the surrounding hills around them.

M: Thank you for choosing our service. Your request has been received by the system. Your tarot divination is underway …

S: The view point into the night is located in a dark room with a huge white desk, on which a turtle is huddling up closer to the ceramic statue of a Siamese twin. Behind the desk, the room is full of chairs of all sizes. None of them resembles the other and all of them are unoccupied.

A close-up shows how the turtle’s eyes blink in slow motion, as it feels a magnetic attraction, pulling her closer to the wide-open windows. But the turtle manages to stay put, its eyes reflecting the third-floor silver windows from across the backyard garden. Those windows were recently covered with aluminium curtains. No moon light goes in, no light bulb goes out. It’s impossible to guess if someone is locked inside

M: (perhaps being tortured) …

S: … or if this is all an installation.

M: After World War II stories circulated of Japanese soldiers inflicting »bamboo torture« upon prisoners of war, where the victim was tied securely in place above a young bamboo shoot. Over several days, the sharp, fast growing shoot would first puncture, then completely penetrate the victim’s body, eventually emerging through the other side. Love and disaster in Eastern paradise.

V: It was spring and the blossom leaves were rustling. There was a world drowned in a blossom-leaves sea that swirled up the snow of frozen wartime childhood, that yielded to the brazen gall of adulthood. There was a world drowned in a blossom-leaves sea that bathed the german Post-War-Generation, Nazi-Children, Täterkinder.

And when the blossom leaves still rustled the slowly subsiding billows of smoke from fully burnt ladies’ underwear rose from the kitchen windows of tenements and semis. But when the blossom leaves still rustled also the smoke signals of a caustic virgin had risen unobserved from a nursery window in a modern block of flats. But what burned here was neither strap nor lace but something else: what burned here irrevocably were the red relics of a childhood that had been stripped of out of anger, indifference, and because she, young Hannah, thought it would be a lark.

A lark, a lark, she thought to herself, as the smell of melted patent leather clambered down her food pipe.



a cap

S: Minutes come and go. The shimmering of the aluminium curtains (not to be confused with the calm rustling of autumn leaves on a lonely street) foretells a radioactive experiment.

The turtle’s eyes blink, one after the other.

M: Do animals glow after a radioactive experiment in the forest?

All: Yes.

Dan Boehl & Vanessa Emde
Márió Z. Nemes, Rasha Abbas, Sînziana Păltineanu,