…form is death, form giving is life…Art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible
Ingold, T. (2011) Being alive: essays on movement, knowledge and description. London: Routledge.
Tsing, A.L. (2015) The mushroom at the end of the world: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
by Katalina Caliendo
Anthropologist Tim Ingold uses textility to describe processes of inscriptions or tracings in the production of material artworks, goods, or things. This excerpt from my recent BA dissertation applies this theory to explore the variety of ways one can concieve of matter and form.
…In positing [this] process-centred ontology, Ingold dismantles and challenges well entrenched Aristotelian constructs, particularly those that highlight the union of “matter” and “form” as the basis of making (Ingold, 2011). Contending these relations are not between matter and form, but between materials and forces, Ingold suggests it is a “question not of imposing preconceived forms on inert matter but intervening in the fields of force and currents of material wherein forms are generated,” (Ingold, 2011, pp. 210-11). Ingold introduces the notion of textility (see above) as a means to describe the terms of negotiation makers use when navigating heterogeneous materials, forces, and tensions ( Ingold, 2011). Here the carpenter is portrayed more like a weaver, responding to the undulations and densities of the fibre’s material. As such, it is the way heterogenous materials, enlivened by forces of tension and compression, mix with one another that “things” are made:
forms of objects are not imposed from above but grow from the mutual involvement of people and materials in an environment. The surface of nature is thus an illusion: we work from within the world, not upon it. There are surfaces of course, but these divide states of matter, not matter from mind. And they emerge within the form-generating process, rather than pre-existing as a condition for it (Ingold, 2000, p.165).
Specifically looking to more-than-human makers helps illustrate this contention. Human and more-than human making are both cultivated from the world and craft the world. Materials generate form through the negotiations of force between actants-—between carpenter and wood, between weaverbird and beak, between the mud, willow, water, and beaver. A process-centred ontological restructuring, derived from both Ingold and Bennett, helps re-position more-than-human actants as catalysts for world-making. Furthermore, framing more-than-human actants as world-makers presents an opportunity to more meaningfully reflect on how our human making practices are integrally linked to larger ecologies and assemblages. In anthropologist Anna Tsing’s recent polemic, Mushroom at the End of the World (2015), making processes across multiple species are presented as a means to strategise and plan for collaborative survival:
making worlds is not limited to humans. We know that beavers shape streams as they make dams, canals and lodges; in fact, all organisms make ecological living places, altering earth, air, and water. Without the ability to make workable living arrangements, species would die out. In the process each organism changes everyone’s world, bacteria made our oxygen atmosphere, and plants help to maintain it. Plants live on land because fungi made soil by digesting rocks. As these examples suggest, world-making projects can overlap, allowing room for more than one species. Humans, too, have always been involved in multi species world making. (Tsing, 2015, p22).