Unreal Nature

August 17, 2019

Prising an Opening

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… we were all agreed that the quality of the discussions we had while doing things was quite unlike anything …

This is from Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture by Tim Ingold (2013):

… Here, every work is an experiment: not in the natural scientific sense of testing a preconceived hypothesis, or in engineering a confrontation between ideas ‘in the head’ and facts ‘on the ground,’ but in the sense of prising an opening and following where it leads. You try things out and see what happens.

… To practice this method is not to describe the world, or to represent it, but to open up our perception to what is going on there so that we, in turn, can respond to it. That is to say, it is to set up a relation with the world that I shall henceforth call correspondence.

… Obviously, without the benefit of prior training (which some of us had), we anthropologists cannot snap our fingers and, as if by magic, turn ourselves instantly into artists or architects. But we could at least try to ground our discussions in something practical so as to give the ideas we came up with some foundation in experience. And we did all manner of things!

[line break added] We wound string and wove baskets, made pots and fired them on a home-made kiln, we practiced the Alexander technique and discovered how heavy a head or limb can be when it is completely relaxed. We helped a farmer rebuild a drystone wall, held a workshop on polyphonic singing, tried our hand at architectural drawing, visited artists’ studios and exhibitions, and so on. Some of the things we did were a bit mad, and they did not always lead anywhere. We never had a coherent agenda.

[line break added] However, we were all agreed that the quality of the discussions we had while doing things was quite unlike anything experienced in an ordinary seminar, and that they were tremendously productive of new insights. But while this is undoubtedly the case, it was not so clear why this should be so. The question is: what difference does it make if discussion is grounded in a context of practical activity?

My previous post from Ingold’s book is here.

-Julie

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