Unreal Nature

July 8, 2017

Their Calling

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… When hands find no object on which to impress a form, impose a value, the world literally has no value for these hands.

This is from the chapter on ‘Making’ in Gestures by Vilém Flusser (2014):

… we can make a gesture through which the two hands reach agreement. … [W]e can try to make the two hands converge on an obstacle, a problem, or an object. This “full” gesture is the gesture of making. This gesture presses from two sides on an object so that the two hands can meet. Under this pressure, the object changes form, and the new form, this “information” impressed on the objective world, is one of the ways of getting beyond our basic human constitution. For it is a method of bringing two hands together in an object.

The words we use to describe this movement of our hands — take, grasp, get, hold, handle, bring forth, produce — have become abstract concepts, and we forget that the meaning of these concepts was abstracted from the concrete movement of our hands. That lets us see to what extent our thinking is shaped by our hands, by way of the gesture of making, and by the pressure the two hands exert on objects to meet. If we imagine a being that is just as capable of thinking as we are but that has no hands, we are imagining a way of thinking completely different from our own.

… Perception is not immaculate conception. It is a powerful, active gesture. It exerts force in the world, for it divides the world into an area between the hands’ two surfaces (that it takes in) and an area outside of this (that it turns back). It has an effect on the future, because it opens a channel through which certain things flow and others are excluded. It is a gesture of division.

… after they have understood the object, the hands seem to know how the object should be. That is not a very satisfactory sentence. Every word raises doubts. Who is this mysterious being that “knows”? What does it mean to “know” in this context, or indeed to “have understood”?

… If the object has been evaluated, the hands begin to “inform” it to change its form. They violate it, they do not allow it to be as it is. They deny the object. They affirm themselves with respect to the object. That denial and this affirmation of the hands in relation to the object is the “gesture of producing.” It tears the object from its surroundings. “To produce” means to take the object out of one and into another context, to ontologically change it. It means taking it out of a denied context (a world that is not as it should be) and putting it into an affirmed context (a world that is as it should be).

… In all the phases of the gesture of making that precede the gesture of producing, the object was just there, passive, quiet, mute, stupid, and “available to be grasped.” This passivity and stupidity is just the way the objective world is there: it is the way it is as an object. But suddenly under the pressure of producing, the object begins to react. It defends itself against being transformed into a product, it resists its own violation. It gets pesky. A “raw” material.

[ … ]

… The discovery of a calling is the result of the hands’ struggle against the idiosyncrasies of the object — any object. It is simply the discovery that each pair of hands is different from any other and that some hands are more capable of fabricating shoes, others of fabricating poetry …

… When hands find no object on which to impress a form, impose a value, the world literally has no value for these hands. … But at the moment the hands find their object, their movement becomes meaningful, a gesture of fabricating. From now on, the hands are engaged in realizing a value. They have found their calling.

My most recent previous post from Flusser’s book is here.

-Julie

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