Making and Thinking


I always attributed this piece to sol lewitt. Imagine my surprise when this morning, after googling for an image I discovered this was by Lamont Young! C’est la vie.

This morning I finished reading Making by Tim Ingold.  I’m not sure if this is the best book to read by him, but I found it thought provoking as an exploration into anthropology and tool-thought (this is my neologism).  A lot has been made of the idea of embodied thought.  I ‘see’ that, or even embodied knowledge – like I cannot type my password unless I am at my keyboard. The locus of knowledge is in the movement of my fingers not in my mind.

How are tools created? How are objects created? How is art created?

Ingold is interested about the locus of knowledge in craft objects as they are used.  We cannot divide this into a hylomorphic discussion of form and matter.  Like a brick is clay plus a mould.  With Ingold it is a dialetic (he says dance) between the user, the tool, time, and decay.

He talks about the four A’s. Archaeology, which exists as the time dimension of a tool/artifact, as a tool changes over time in its ability to produce, with the user, some sort of understanding (knowledge).  Architecture, which is the physical location of tool, is anchored in tethered to the dimension of space. Anthropology is the ontological world view that the tool is embedded with in and which the tool expresses. Art is the on going unfolding or changing of the tool. The tool gives us one pieces of information today and another piece in the future that we cannot predict.

The most ephemeral, or rather, immaterial, of all tools, is software. It is also the tool that, perhaps unexpectedly, is most art like. We only understand or glean information from software when it is executed. And it often runs in ways we cannot predict.   Similar to the creation of a piece of pottery or a painting.

So why begin with the idea of drawing a line and following it – a piece of conceptual art similar in form to a computer algorithm? Ingold is obsessed with the hand, the physical creation of things. And for him everything goes back to drawing and the line. This is the basis for all creations, artifacts, objects, tools, buildings, etc.

He says “I am interested in drawing as a way of telling”  (p.125).   And then goes on to discuss all the drawings that do not tell but explain – like technical drawings or data visualizations (not drawings but you get the idea).  There is the drawing that is the expression of the line, of the idiosyncracy of the line, and the drawing where the line is commodified in order to communicate something else. The line is communication or the line services communication.

How does this fit with a computer, even with this wordpress text editor that I am using? There is no further way to commodify writing or gesture than to structure it as a series of binary digit.  Even Ingold wants his students to write by hand instead of with the computer. But is there a remnant of gesture in writing a computer program. Is there a statement that is pure communication instead of a conduit for communicating something else?

Software is gestural. It obliquely attempts to communicate its purpose and must be translated at least once if not more (in the case of virtual machines and bytecode) into machine language.  What would a physical relationship to writing software look like? A somatic programming language. Would this communicate something differently, more meaningful, more original about the universal experience?

Ingold’s idea about the co-creation of objects in time and space through the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, art, and architecture are computational processes. Our gestures allow us only one slice in this computational process but in writing a program we can control the entire process.  What would this look like as an embodied practice and decommodified.


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