The past few mornings and nights I have been writing an essay for a forthcoming ILSSA publication. The essay is about “hand/mind.” (This is a part of a small series of essays by multiple people—the other subjects are “old/new,” “work/play,” and “time/money.”) Below is the opening paragraph (as it stands, here, now, this morning):
Look hard was the dictum of the class. We were attempting to make accurate, representational, still-life paintings of white on white tableaus—eggs and white ceramic ware against white backgrounds. One thing that became almost immediately clear was that the idea of white—pure, bright, disembodied, unmodulated—did not map well against white-in-the-world—never pure, wrapped around objects and/or embodied in pigments, and always appearing in shades of gray mixed with reflected and projected color. This fact became apparent to this group of struggling students very soon, but it became apparent not in the abstract of language (as it does in this essay) but in the actual practice of painting that we were engaged in. The linked act(s) of looking and making were de-verbalized, connected in the building of moments, and existed as concrete moves and the testing of procedures. We were studying representational painting. We were studying the mechanics of representational painting, and the knowledge that we were developing existed in the circuits between hand and mind. Only later, during class discussions, did we attempt to represent that knowledge in language; but our understanding of each other’s comments was always filtered through the work of our own hands. Knowledge is always connected to practice.