We started this session by carrying out an experiment, to answer the deceivingly simple question of who draws a shape on paper. We began by drawing a circle on paper on a desk, then we got someone to hold up the paper by one corner and we tried to draw the circle again with the paper in mid air. It was much harder if not almost impossible. The experiment demonstrated the answer to who drew the circle; is not just you but also the pen and the desk because with out them the circle wouldn’t have been drawn.
This experiment brought us onto the topic of thinking though and with materials not just with the body. Materials are restrictive, we have to work with them. However, we don’t usually think about the tools or materials that we use to create. The hand tool relationship is a hybrid relationship; the materials of a hammer shapes what the hand can do with it as much as what the hand does with the hammer. We are so unaware of these things, that it is only when they break do we realise their materiality. This shows how tools become a part of the hand when one is working confidently with them. Instruments are the same; when you become confident they become a part of you until you make a mistake and then you become aware that they are something external that you are using. “Tools are not innocent; they expand our faculties and guide our actions and thought in specific ways. To argue that for the purpose of drawing an architectural project the charcoal, pencil, ink, pen and computer mouse are equal and exchangeable is to misunderstand completely the essence of the union of the hand tool and mind” (Pallassmaa, 2009). This is something I have never really thought about. Being a maker I am familiar with the concept of working with the material and letting the material speak to help shape your final outcome. However, I have never relised how much the tools are an extension to our body when we are using them, so much so I am unaware it is actually there until it isn’t.
This union of the hand tool and mind shows a ecology of the mind. As Bateson (1973) said ‘The mental world – the mind – the world of information processing – is not limited by the skin’. Bateson also pointed out that activity is a self corrective process which I think is a really interesting point and once again is something we don’t relise is going on when we are carrying out a task. If you take a man cutting down a tree with an axe. “Each stroke of the axe is modified or corrected, according to the shape of the cut face of the tree left by the previous stroke. his self corrective (i.e., mental) process is brought about by a total system, tree-eyes- brain muscles-axe-stroke-tree; and it is this total system that has the characteristics of immanent mind.” (Bateson, 2000 , p. 317). Another example of this union between hand and tool is a bind mans stick, where does the blind mans stick begin and end? The stick becomes part of the mind and body. The majority of the world that the blind man experiences is through and down to the stick, which is amazing thought.
So two main points to take forward are 1) creativity is a self corrective process. As a piece of work is being created it is the tensions of what has been done and what might have been done as wells as improvements that could be made at end, that keeps the artist going. 2) We should not overlook the materiality of materials (the hand of the craftsman). We should listen to materials; one cant make out of marble what you would out of wood and achieve the same effect. Each material has it own unique life which shapes how we work with them. We need to understand how materials work, and be able to understand the lives and languages of materials.
We moved on to look a bit further in the the lives and language of materials. A seed creates an environment around itself as it get nourishment from the ground, this changes as it grows. Its the same for us, the shape and size of our lungs depend on atmosphere which they breath in. Every aspect of human body must form themselves by the environment it is in. If one stopped just representing human as a outline of body, but included all that is within the materiality of the body there would be far too many lines. Creativity comes as much from world as much as from us.
Just like seeds are grown though complex interactions from the seed to the environment and environment back to seed, lines to grow in a similar manner. Lines don’t render the visible, they render visible, reveal world and its languages. I have never thought about lines like this before. One doesn’t relise that when you are drawing a simple line that that line is actually revealing many things that would otherwise be unseen, such as the hardness of the table, the resistance of the pen, the control of the person holding the pen and many more. Below is an experiment where a line was drawn whilst driving over speed bumps at different speeds. You can see how the line shows the different forces at work at different speeds.
One shouldn’t simply study something purely from what it is in existence, one needs to consider how it came into existence, considering its form giving. Forces shape our movements and can be registered in the things we make. We looked at the phenomenology of painting. Phenomenology is too do with how we experience the world; a study a lived experience of the world rather than a scientific explanation. Visual experience lives not just in body but in the world, we do not perceive by taking in we are already in it. lets paint do what it wants, only intervention is the flick of his wrist. He is demonstrating forces on paint and then shows the impact of paint on paper. He is not trying to depict world though human experience but as material experience, letting materials live. I found it really interesting to look at Pollock in this way. I have never really liked his work but now that I understand what he is doing it find it really interesting what he is demonstrating.
We tend to forget materials have their own chemistry and physical existence in the world. Materials have their own forces, tensions, due to their chemistry. Magnets for instance, how they repel or attract each other restricts what one can do with them.
We continued to looked at forces focusing on contextual forces. Environments affect how me make and create, how we act and what we do. Light is a force, it has a language. We need to control our environments to be able to work. If one was to walk into a room with a light and desk and chair in a dark comer away from the light, and you were asked to draw something you would most likely move desk into light and get a chair and draw. We need to create correct environment to draw.
So some of the languages of the environment are the resistance of paper, brittleness of graphite, softness of chalk, temperature of the room, strength of wind, hardness of table, smell of paint. We finished on a quote from (Pallassmaa, 2009); “All materials have their own unwritten laws. You should never violate the material your’e working with. The designer’s purpose is to be in harmony with the material. […] in industry, the material is constantly subordinate to some preplanned law and machinery and once the job has begun it’s difficult to make changes.
All these things that we discussed to day are things I would never really think about or consider, they are things that are just instinct and I do without relising. But when you sit down and think about these things you relise how much the body is doing without you even relising it, or having real control over it, until of course, you become aware of it through thinking. It make me wonder how much of our life are we actually living and experiencing, and how much is our body ding for us and we don’t have control over?
Following this session we had the task to analyse our shape that we drew at the beginning based upon the language of materials, including as many forces as possible, focusing on describing the tension and synergy between the materials and the materials and hand.
When I drew my circle the desk was pushing up on the paper to stop gravity pulling the paper down, the ball in the end of the ballpoint pen was turning around to let the ink flow and friction was acting on that ball creating a resistance which I would feel in my hand as I held the pen, the paper was also resisting that ball making me have to push against in whilst drawing the circle, the hardness of the metal in the pen caused me to push a little harder than I might when using graphite for instance, the table felt quite rough underneath the paper causing me to push against some of the bumps and irregularities, the feel of the pen in the hand was hard and a little uncomfortable, causing me to clutch at the pen harder. All these thing I wouldn’t have even considered when drawing a simple circle, but they are all going on in the background and my body has to adjust to them accordingly to be able to carry out the task.