01 April 2007

maybe i should write things down here

Thoughts on Geertz's Local Knowledge: "Art as a Cultural System"

If art is, as Geertz says, something that must be viewed within a cultural framework, if "to study an art form is to explore a sensibility," if art "materialize[s] a way of experiencing, [and] bring[s] a particular cast of mind out into the world of objects, where men can look at it," (Geertz, p. 99), then art, as such, goes hand in hand with engineering, with science, at least if one is to follow a more critical theory of technology. As Feenberg says in The Critical Theory of Technology, "[m]odern technology is no more neutral than medieval cathedrals or The Great Wall of China; it embodies the values of a particular industrial civilization and especially of its elites, which rest their claims to hegemony on technical mastery." Engineering... conceiving of and making an object... is a way to bring an internal experience, an internal knowledge, "out into the world of objects." David Nye in Technology Matters discusses the history of technology and story, saying the two are inextricably intertwined to the point where it's impossible to know which came first. Story is intrinsic to technology, and also to art. If we had no reason to make something, we would not make it. Whether that reason is "expression" or "to do such and such" is immaterial. A rudimentary story is the drive, at least to the point of "I will use this material and that material and possibly this other one, go through this process, and come out with something that (hopefully) resembles my conception." These stories are influenced by the values of culture that one comes from (to influence what seems "worthwhile"), by the perceived affordances of the materials, by the personal experiences of the maker, etc. and, as such, engineering, technology, and art are should be viewed within and understood through the cultural framework of the maker.

And, really, if you look at it as such, art and engineering aren't so different, after all. One just pretends to be objective (to the point where some people believe technology to be deterministic), where the other admits its subjectivity outright. But both are the using of materials to make a final thing... only the story, the process, are different.

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