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Emotional Outreach Project, 5.0: Emotional Exercises


by John Keene


(January-February 2014)






















Dear Collaborator:


Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in the “Emotional Outreach Project, 5.0: Emotional Exercises.”  Previous versions of the “Emotional Outreach Project” have comprised a series of business card-sized vouchers, which we originally distributed in 2002-2003 (in New York, Jersey City and Chicago), 2007 (in New York, Jersey City and Chicago), 2009 (in Cuba, in Spanish), and 2013 (in New York, and for the 4.0 version, in Germany, in English, German and Yiddish). The cards have been distributed free of charge and with disinterest to individuals, under various performative and temporal controls and using specified variables.


This 5.0 version of the “Emotional Outreach Project” marks a change in approach. While maintaining a focus on the emotions and affect, this new version proceeds along the axis of a different but linked conceptual approach, that of the “instruction,” a perennial of conceptual and performance art, here mobilized toward the practice and goal of an “emotional exercise,” similar in concept but different and distinct in its underlying ideological and belief system from the “spiritual exercises” of ancient Greek philosophers (cf. Hadot), those of the Church, particularly those of St. Ignatius Loyola, or more contemporary versions (cf. Foucault, etc.).  As with the previous versions of the “Emotional Outreach Project,” this version is electively participatory; the unspoken assumption is that taking a card enters one into the process of participation and engagement.


On one side of the cards, in bold black ink, we list a series of discrete, simple, perhaps banal instructions, one per card (the total exceeding 100), which range from “Spend most of one day asking questions. Remain silent, and avoid positive or negative assertions of any sort, unless absolutely necessary (with family members, for your job, etc.). Briefly write up the experience,” to “Create an imaginary word that means love, and teach it to someone else. Urge them to teach it and continue the process.” Each of the instructions is simple and self-explanatory. Rather than identifying an emotion or emotions in an a priori fashion as the prior cards did, these allow the necessary emotions to arise from the performance of the instructions, and any subsequent actions the participant engages in linked to them.




On the flip side the cards now read:



Dear friend, thank you for participating in this emotional exercise. When you have satisfied the instructions on this card, please enclose the card or attach it to a postcard & mail it to: John Keene, Rutgers-Newark, Conklin 321, 175 University Avenue, Newark, NJ 07102


You may also email a copy of the card to:


Thus, participants, having fulfilled the instructions, should return the used cards, either by US Postal service to the name and address–or photographed/scanned to the email address–listed above.


We greatly appreciate your collaboration and participation in this project.


Sincerely, thanks so much, and best wishes for the holidays and New Year,





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