As felt as if

  • Anna Barham

  • Presented by — Arcade

  • Anna Barham, As Felt as If, 2021, for Arcade part of Performance Exchange London, 9th July 2021. Image Courtesy Performance Exchange and Arcade. Photo: Damian Griffiths.

As felt as if is a text developed from Vilém Flusser’s Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (vampire squid), through human readings and computer transcriptions in repeated cycles of performance, documentation and recombination. In the performance Barham inserts herself into the material through a live vocalisation that momentarily articulates some of the possibilities and images within it.

As felt as if is written from material Barham has generated collaboratively with groups of readers and speech2text software. In her work with speech2text software, Barham is interested in how the particularities of each individual reader’s voice - their tone, accent, cadence, intonation, the mistakes they might make as well as the acoustics of the room, get captured by the software and transformed into new meanings. She sees these interventions in the software as poetic acts of resistance: asserting the sensibility of the individual readers and the texts, and generating a collective authorship between reading, voicing and listening, and between human and machine.

Barham makes scores from all the different versions of the text that are generated to chart the ways that sounds changed into different words. The linear time of the reading becomes a grid of text, opening a space that can be read in multiple ways.

As felt as if is written from a score called Knives (2017) which tracks over 100 versions of a short passage from Vampyroteuthis Infernalis by the Brazilian Czech-born philosopher, writer and journalist, Vilém Flusser. The book presents a speculative investigation of the vampire squid to consider human and non-human life and in the passage Barham has extracted, Flusser uses the knife as a metaphor to describe how human reason cuts through the world.

Conditions of Production

The title As felt as if refers to the speculation inherent in reading a text — feeling around for what it might mean. This method of reading is at the forefront of the method of working with the speech2text software where the output from the computer is unpunctuated and each reader must re-interpret the text, deciding where to pause for breath, and which meanings to draw out.

As such, the work can be performed by any confident performer. Each reader re-authors the unpunctuated script. It is through the act of reading aloud that it comes to have meaning. Subsequent performances of the script become part of the work itself and are collected in the work’s archive.

There are no specific requirements for the type of venue in which the work can be performed. Although initially performed in a gallery space with an intimate audience, the performance could also be delivered as, for example, a live radio broadcast or a reading on stage.

Rules of Documentation

An audio recording (.wav) and photographic image (.jpg, maximum 2MB) should be made of subsequent readings and added to the memory stick in a folder along with a text document indicating the sequential order of the reading (i.e. ‘Reading 2’ etc), name of the reader along with the time, date and location of the performance.

Ie. Folder “Reading”
Contents: “”, “”, “”, “”

Such documentation should be periodically updated into new formats as these ones become obsolete.

Instructions to future readers

The absence of punctuation in the script is an invitation to the reader to decide for themselves how to interpret the text. Fundamentally it requires the reader to decide how and where to pause for breath; to decide whether a word is still part of the idea behind it or whether it is the start of a new thought.

The text will inevitably be delivered differently each time it is read aloud, even by the same reader.

The reader should manipulate the syntax, exploit homonyms, exchange parts of speech, ‘break up’ common phrases, to explore the semantic possibilities of the text.

For example these words: “objects that appear in fields yellow object of appeals night reveals the outlines appear without hearing out what is going on revolving” Could be read in many ways:

Objects (pl. noun) that appear in fields. Yellow object of appeals. Night reveals the outlines. Appear without hearing out. What is going on revolving

Objects (pl. noun) that appear. In fields yellow objects of appeals, night reveals. The outlines appear without hearing. Out. What is going on? Revolving…

…objects (verb) that. Appear in fields. Yellow object. Of appeals night reveals the outlines. Appear without hearing out what is going on. Revolving…

Some sections might be approached more for sound and rhythm than for the meaning of the words.

The effect should be incantatory, mesmeric, tumbling


as felt as if as felt as if as felt as if as felt as the mindset would on lines that would feel as lines that would fell as if the ruins of objects what event has felt flight’s jackdaw that without the minds of objects what even has but without the aim of the mind objects that you use of the object produced according to lines of the way whether the rhymes of objects that you felt as if they were mitred fatalistic don’t mind objects waiting felt filtered if they don’t read outlines of objects objects what then objects he objects he objects even hands after all what you’ve inherited objects that he bent same faith if they were right of it felt as if they were injuries felt focus flights I type lines that would feel lines that would feel as if they were rooms lines current line laying lines that were felt as if they were rinds the horizon rises as if they went to the weather minds he’s a few times felt as if they were rhymes if you transfer as if it were the lines writing outlines line declines pools of the outlines outline alkaline ampules transferred times

— (excerpt)


  • Archival presentation box (acid free board covered in black non-woven material 310 × 225 × 15 mm) containing a printed copy of As felt as if script. (120 gsm acid free paper)

  • Vacuum formed clear plastic holding memory stick which contains digital components:

  • Script as PDF
  • Audio recording from performance at Chelsea Space, 09.07.21 (Reading 1)
  • Images from performance at Chelsea Space, 09.07.21
  • Instructions on how another reader should approach reading the script (as above)
  • Audio and photographic recordings of future performances should also be added to this memory stick and become part of the work and its archive.
  • Certificate of Authenticity signed by the artist.