Lazy Reading Clubs: Prototyping the Idiotic City in Cushioned Infrastructures

by Uriel Fogué, elil, UEM


This paper was presented by Uriel Fogué at the workshop: 'Prototyping The Idiotic City' that took place at the Centre for Invention and Social Process, Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, 5th June 2018. Organising committee: M. Guggenheim, M. Tironi, L. Healy, F. Namberger.

1. Welcome to the Lazy Reading Club

You open the front door to an old house on a picturesque canal, at 6 Broelkaai Street in the city of Kortrijk. Beyond the threshold, you are received by two songbirds fluttering inside an enormous metal and wooden cage at the back of the hall, standing on a marble floor laid out in geometric patterns. A discreet host asks you to hang your rain-soaked coat on a coatrack and to read the instructions framed on the wall, which say:

"You can leave your coat and bag at the reception. Please remove your shoes, choose a pair of slippers and silently come in. Please choose a place to lie down and relax. You can have some tea if you like. You can walk out any time you like. Please enjoy".

You sit down on a wooden bench and remove your shoes. The host waits while you put on some white slippers before he turns the golden door handle to open the door and let you into the huge living room of this traditional Belgian home. Right away you hear the sound of a voice. It gives you confidence. It seems to be in the middle of some deep reflection: 'forms of resistance...', the voice slowly intones, 'moral consideration of laziness...', 'economic deviation...'. A line of cots flanks both sides of the room. Several people lounge quietly. Some stare vacuously up at the ceiling while others lie on their side under a bedsheet. The reclining figures contrast with the space that seems designed for some other kind of social event. Your gaze lands on the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It is unlit. However, there are some candles burning on the mantelpiece. For a moment, you hesitate, unsure if you should go sit in the little tearoom in the corner, where people appear to be resting from their rest. But, as there are no seats left, you tiptoe along the row of cots, trying to keep your footsteps from making the wooden floorboards creak.

You turn left into the next room. There you find the speaker sitting in a corner amidst more cots. His figure is silhouetted against the window. Has the sun come out? It was raining when you entered. Your feet are still damp. You lie down on a cot across from the speaker. You look at the walls and their blue and gold moulding with discreet patterns of plants and pilasters. The speaking comes to an end, there is a pause and then a different voice announces a new reading: 'Now we will go on to read a text by Schumpeter titled "In Praise of Laziness", published in The Economist on August 17, 2017'. You try to sneak a peek of the other people present. You try to remember where you read a reference to that author. You try to figure out the speaker's nationality from his accent. You try...

'As if the "lazy" unemployed have to be sacrificed to prevent the collapse of "our" world'. A new voice is now embodying Isabelle Stengers. Her words are interspersed with the song of some birds. You think you are dreaming. You open an eye to make sure it's not a dream. Suddenly, it dawns on you that the birds singing along with Isabelle Stengers are the very same songbirds in the front hall. You recall seeing some wires coming out of the cage: they were for microphones. You peer around you. Almost all the 'patients' have changed. You look at your watch. Two hours have gone by.