Reading the Room
Leave home. Pick up that cup of coffee that the school won’t include in their student expenses budget. Walk in the door, walk in the next door, walk up the stairs. Say hi to a friend passing by. Put things down and get settled. Tap the keys of the keyboard. The chattering clicks reach towards the nearest person. Working time passes, concentration eases, a slight hunger sets in. Make eye contact with that person walking by. As they pass out of vision, lock eyes with a classmate across the room for a mutual pause. Stand up and walk down the stairs, walk out the door, walk out the next door. Say hi to a friend passing by. Go down the street to that café and order lunch. Walk back towards the studio or sit outside if it’s nice out. Wonder when was the last time you ate outside. Walk in the door, walk in the next door. Walk up the stairs while someone walks down, stopping in the middle to intertwine in conversation before launching in two directions at once. Plastic snaps and a loud rolling announce that the printer paper is being refilled. The crunch of a pastry wrapper disappears from a desk. A phone vibrates from a text. Sit down again as the afternoon rolls towards fading streaks of light. Take a break and chat with a friend. Remember that there’s one more important thing to do. Focus. The atmosphere rings in all directions of contemplation and activity.
When walking into a room, what do we read? When we read the room, do we read the content or the page itself? If we read the room, then our interactions and movements are the text and the private conversations and group chats are the background of the page. They are the sediment that holds the text of our activity legible to its readers. With personal conversations on screen or off, we paint the tone of the room on its walls, we mill the texture of the paper. This resonance is similar to an uncited source that’s clearly influential to a text and just as apparent to its readers. But the inertia of a private conversation creates a transference of movement back into the public. A swift walk, a hurried glance, a gathering for momentary comfort, a few fingers nimbly typing messages to someone across the room, down the street, or across the globe. This is the spatial language of a place. And even if you walk out of that place, down the street, does that background really ever let you leave? Perhaps it joins you in your pocket or mind, lingering like residue while you move towards what’s ahead.
Mike Tully is a Graphic Design MFA candidate at the Yale School of Art. He lives and works between New Haven, CT and New York, NY.