HERE. is a collaborative text-based project inspired by Toni Morrison’s book Playing in the Dark, Whiteness and the Literary Imagination and Claudia Rankine’s book, Don’t Let Me be Lonely–An American Lyric. As participants, we employed a reading method that prioritized slowness. In an attempt to explore how we read/learn we focused on documenting our affective responses to the content of both texts by writing, drawing, cooking, resting, talking, crying, sleeping, and more. Over the course of a few months this practice allowed us to explore expanded ways of learning and to value learning that included intellectual rigor while prioritizing our embodied experiences. We met weekly to discuss our findings. Our goal was to understand how expectations around reading practices might also reflect colonial influences worthy of critical exploration. If we explored another way of reading, could we also understand the ethics of learning in new ways? Which codes and conventions structured our learning experiences? How are these codes reproduced over the course of one’s life? What is knowledge? How do we care for ourselves when we learn? How are we becoming aware of something that is not happening in our direct surroundings? What do we wish we’d thought about sooner? What are we left with?
The six-part presentation created for the The City Billboard is a sampling of our work and time together. Each phrase documents a specific participant’s response to a selected passage from Morrison’s Playing in the Dark. We each chose an excerpt from the collection of essays that shifted our awareness as readers–passages that seemed to function viscerally and offered different ways of building knowledge. In sequence the phrases suggest an imaginary dialogue, posing open-ended questions and offering unexpected answers that we are still exploring.