Hand & Mind

Speaking to a fellow artist and lecturer recently, we unanimously agreed on tacit knowledge disappearing, skills where hand and mind are one.

Could it be that too much emphasis is placed on academic qualifications? Do we have a future where everybody knows how to do stuff but very few can actually make things?

Hand & Mind are one.

I like to cook, especially to braai. There is a sequence to preparing the food. From marinading meat to chopping wood and making fire; Each step adds to the result.

Through all the screw-ups I have made over the years, I can confidently say I now know how to braai now. It is important to let go of the fear and just do things.

Academia evaluates your knowledge, which is important. One must know facts and understand how to apply them. There is much to be learned from books and reading is of utmost importance!

No book or podcast can replace the real thing though. When the shit hits the fan theories give guidance but action solves the problem.

Hand & mind are one.

In the beautifully conceived and illustrated book “Carlo Scarpa – Glass of an Architect” by Marino Barovier, Scarpa’s son, Tobia, exalts about his father’s exquisite glass work:

”The glass objects which he created, with the help of closely supervised master-craftsmen, today are unimaginable. They can no longer be made because of a lessened if not extinguished manual ability …”

Our age, the Anthropocene, is changing established norms at an ever rapid pace. We are glued to digital portals, absorbed in algorithmically curated bubbles. Knowledge is widely available, at a swipe and tap of the finger.

It’s all there, the theories, manuals and explanations. Everything, all knowledge. At our fingertips. We know more about the world around us than ever before and ironically these portals are learning from us too – our predilections, movement and more.

Before I stumble into a cynical diatribe about the past, present and future let me conclude: Our time now is very special. Machines are enhancing human capabilities, human thought and global interactions. We are very fortunate.

Yet, in this globally digitised cacophony something is getting lost!

I work with my hands. I love to bring that ephemeral moment of an idea into physical reality. It’s not always easy but years of experience, mistakes and successes embody my being. Often the result is quite different from the dream. And that is a clue…

Tobia Scarpa above, alludes, for me, to an age predating this cornucopia of digital knowledge and poignantly acknowledges the “melodies” of yore are being drowned our by the cacophony of the present. Those skills are vanishing…

Hand and mind are one.

I come from a family of craftsmen. My father was a carpenter. He built his life with his hands, and mind. I deeply respect that.

I am Homo Faber!

In his book, The Craftsman, Richard Sennett talks about Stradivari:

“Missing in these analyses is a reconstruction of the workshop of the master – more precisely, one element that has irretrievably gone missing. This is the absorption into Tacit Knowledge, unspoken and un-codified in words, that occurred there and became a matter of habit, the thousand little everyday moves that add up in sum to practice.”

Let me get back to the studio. There is work to be done. I need to apply a thousand little everyday moves with my hand, mind and heart to give life to my dreams.

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