A PRIMARY TECHNOLOGY IS…Posted: November 1, 2011
…the means by which we explore the essence or root of how things are and how they work. It is to investigate without physical or mechanical tools or secondary intellectual intervention, and hence to appreciate the way such elemental understandings allow us to interact sensually through our immediate environment. To engage by such tactile sensory means allows us to more directly and honestly evaluate the animate nature of the world and the relationships active within it. Through immersion in such intimate experience over longer periods of time we may begin to appreciate the dynamics and interdependence of nature, the limits of our resources and the behaviour we might choose to live responsibly within our finite and fragile environment.
If I were to pick up a stone and hold it in my hand, feel its weight, its texture, look at its colour or colours; feel whether it becomes hot or cold; see whether it changes colour in my hand; whether it calms or agitates me; what images or sounds or sensations come to mind or body? Then if I touched it to another stone, the same kind or a different kind; what noise is produced? Does one scratch the other? If I drop it does it break or bounce? Do I know where the rock was found? Is it the same as other rocks in its vicinity? Does it absorb moisture? Does it feel heavier or lighter than it looks? Do I like it? Is it beautiful? Do I want to hold it for longer or put it back where I took it from, or throw it or skim it across the water? In these ways I begin to understand and know and appreciate this stone, this one stone and I begin to know my place relative to it. This, for me, is primary technology; it is animate experience through practice.
“Perception of the inner substance of things can only be acquired through practice.” Joseph Beuys
In this age of technological idolization and the dominance of disembodied thought and understanding, further promoted and sustained by the prevalence of technological ‘advances’, we have become more and more likely to distrust our abilities to perceive the world to which we respond – we would often rather depend on a machine or another’s opinion or experience than our own instincts and intuition. This contemporary circumstance has maybe been created through our desire or tendency toward material comfort and security, and our fears and non-acceptance of the human, and more-than-human, conditions of pain, vulnerability and suffering, as well as joy, resourcefulness and strength intrinsic to our existence. The perpetuation and maintenance of such conditions is merely serving to further detach us, as a race, from the very means of our evolution and survival.
“If everyone were to work with their hands there would be no need for nuclear power.” Satish Kumar
So many of our contemporary vocations and technological applications, often deemed ‘necesssary’ or ‘essential’ by the mainstream, are, when seen from a perspective based in the implied responsibility of ecological reality, utterly superfluous and wasteful of both animate resource and human intelligence. The fundamental means by which we sustain our bodies and relationships relative to our immanent environment are in essence highly efficient and sensitive systems honed through our emergent evolution as a species. To look again at our behavioural choices as a society in the light of contemporary ecozoic understanding only serves to render the majority of our actions either implicitly destructive or at the very least totally futile. Secondary and Tertiary technologies – tools and machines – have created an over-dependence upon both natural resources and the services and power of specialist institutions beyond the immediate control and understanding of the individual and localised community. Through the direct experiences of collecting and making we may create a sense of personal power based in resourcefulness and the embodied understanding of our local environment intrinsic to indigenous cultures from the beginning of the human race.
So how might we move toward behaviour befitting of our contemporary ecological circumstance and how might art serve such purposes? Furthermore how might we accurately judge our actions in the light of their implications towards our animate relations and ourselves? And is it ultimately necessary to adopt a totally utilitarian stance bereft of frivolity and pleasure for its own sake, or does circumstance merely demand that we alter our perception of such mundane and physical labours?
“Countering technology through a practice is to take account of our susceptibility to technological distraction, and it is also to engage the peculiarly human strength of comprehension, i.e. the power to take in the world in its extent and significance and to respond through an enduring commitment.” Albert Borgmann
Through art and the acts of learning and making with our hands we might encourage and reinstate such holistically embodied experience and action, while also cultivating the manual dexterity and physical ingenuity which has allowed us to evolve this far, which in turn will help bring about the sense of empowerment necessary to allow us to evolve further. As artists, through the promotion of tactile and exploratory sensual and manual processes with the materials and resources available/present within our immanent environment, we are creating an intentional and perfectly appropriate response to the current global ecological crisis.