From Interaction to Correspondence: An archaeology of visual style
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Material Engagement Theory (MET) (Knappett and Malafouris, 2008; Malafouris, 2013) has become an exemplar for understanding the deeply interactive connection between mind and environment within cognitive archaeology, re-raising many well versed philosophical questions regarding how the material world contributes to the development of the human mind. Where the focus upon the interaction of these domains is of great importance, it is the presupposition of an interaction itself that may restrict the richness of such an endeavour. The ‘radically enactive’ paradigm (Varela et al. 1993; Thompson, 2007) underpinning MET posits that the material world does not so much contribute to human cognition — through the interaction of two independent entities — it is always already of what we might describe as human experience, experience and environment emerge reciprocally. How does this reciprocity change the way we think about the material world? How does it effect how we might approach the archaeological study of material artefacts? The creative intermingling of material world and experience is what Tim Ingold (2013) describes as a correspondence in which we do not so much inter-act with a static world as always correspond with an animate one; properties are more like ‘qualities’ of an emergent whole that take on certain characteristic of what they correspond too. Artefacts such as kites, lasso’s and baskets (Ingold, 2013) express this correspondence of human, environment and material worlds through their formal structures, styles and use, and the changes of these features over time. This paper will focus attention upon the style of human artefacts by borrowing from the phenomenological tradition of painting (Crowther, 2011, 2012; Merleau-Ponty, 1961), describing how the compositional strategies and qualities of line give a visual expression to a particular way of acting in the world. Such an expression is a process of rendering visible the invisible temperament and experience of the artist that are intermingled with the ‘properties’ (or forces) of the environment that emerge in correspondence; the canvas, the brush, the paint, and environmental conditions — offering empirical access to the historical ‘qualities’ of the material world that that practitioners movements corresponds too.
Woodward, M. (2014) 'From Interaction to Correspondance: An Archaeology of Visual Style’, TAG 2014, University of Manchester, Manchester, 17-20 Dec.
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