Postanthropocentric Practices – Materials or Materiality?

In this session, we discussed materials – how they are wild and how we control them. An example of this is water: it becomes domesticated in the home, controlled by us via taps. It becomes wild again when we make a mistake, e.g if the tap is left on slightly, or if a glass of water gets knocked over.

“Material things, like people, are processes, and that their real agency lies precisely in the fact that ‘they cannot always be captured and contained” (Ingold, 2010, p. 8)

We always think of making as a project that we use materials for our own purposes, rather than working alongside them, which is known as hylomorphism. However when you consider the making process, most practices involve input from the material itself; not just the person who decided what to do with the materials. For example, in my own subject area (Textiles), I cannot think of a process that only involves the material itself. In stitch, a sewing machine is used most of the time, and even when it isn’t, a needle is still used. In dye and print, some sort of machine/apparatus is used in every process.

“I want to think of making, instead, as a process of growth. This is to place the maker from the outset as a participant in amongst a world of active materials. These materials are what he has to work with, and in the process of making he ‘joins forces’ with them, bringing them together or splitting them apart, synthesising and distilling, in anticipation of what might emerge. […] Far from standing aloof, imposing his designs on a world that is ready and waiting to receive them, the most he can do is to intervene in worldly processes that are already going on, and which give rise to the forms of the living world that we see all around us – in plants and animals, in waves of water, snow and sand, in rocks and clouds – adding his own impetus to the forces and energies in play.” (Ingold, 2010, p.21)

I think this quote relates to my practice a lot, as I said previously; it relies on a lot of machinery to achieve the outcomes intended. I have to work with a sewing machine to create patterns on materials, which would not be possible without the machine and threads I co-operate with while making. Any form of printing involves another material, even if it is just basic potato prints made by children. They join forces with the potato, using it’s structure to hold the shape they want to print with.

Postanthropocentric Practices – Air, Wind and Dust

The first session of this study group introduced us to the concept that we live in a ‘more than human’ world and gave us a initial understanding of the word ‘Postanthropocentric’. Anthropocentrism means that as humans, we are selfish and only focus on ourselves, ignoring the other creatures and the planet we live on. This is apparently particularly true of ‘Generation Me’, those born after 1992. However I think that this a huge generalisation, as not every single person born after that date can be completely self obsessed and not care about everything going on around them.

We looked at three texts, each respectively looking at the human concepts of air, wind and dust. The first was Abram’s ‘Remembering’ (1996) where he says “the air has indeed become the most-taken-for granted of phenomena” which is very true, because until you make yourself think about it, we just breathe the air without taking any notice of it. The second text was Hippocrates’ ‘Breaths’ (370 BC), where he states that without wind, we could not live. We wouldn’t be able to breath, which is the one thing we cannot live without. We can go without food or drink for a few days, but as soon as we are deprived of the air our lungs need, we die.  The third text we read was Wallace’s ‘The Importance of Dust’ (1898). The two main points from this text are that without dust, there would be much more darkness in the world, as dust reflects light. It also gives us things we don’t necessarily like, but are essential to us, such as “dirt, discomfort and even disease”.

Towards the end of the session, we got into groups and wrote a piece focussing on one of the three elements we studied, and applied it to an object. Our object was a lighthouse and we focussed on dust, here is the outcome:

I’m not saying I want to feel special, but without me, you are nothing. You may have colour, you may have stripes, but without me, you’re basically a pointy block of concrete.

You’re so naive, you think it’s you that guides all the ships in. You take all the credit, when in fact it’s me. Dust.

So what if you’ve got a big flashing light, it’s my particles that make it visible.

You started as dust, you’re now a lighthouse, but soon you’ll rejoin me. But that’s besides the point. I’m sick of all the respect you get for saving all those lives. Did you not know your light has to pass through me?

You think it’s just you and those sailors out here? I hold back the torrent of the tide, if it weren’t for my presence in the atmosphere, the rains would be murderous.

Ok, so fair enough, you’re a pretty handsome lighthouse. But if it weren’t for my particles trapping the sun’s sassy rays, you would be invisible, like me, and I would probably abandon you.

You know, there are other houses, houses that would have little light if it weren’t for me, if I was not here, the sun would shine directly into them but then every spot out of its direct rays would be completely dark. Except for the light reflecting off the walls.

You think the sun is great? I disperse it’s light to make you sexy by day and a hero by night. You think that stupid spinning light on your head has all the power? I HAVE ALL THE POWER.

I give you the pure blue of the sky, the glories of the sunset and the sunrise, the dusk and the dawn of your heroics. It’s not all about you, half the beauty of the world would vanish without me. You self centred prick.

You should be called the dust house.