LINES AND THE WEATHER

Professor Tim Ingold

Wednesday 16 October 6.00 pm
The University of Queensland Art Museum

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According to the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, one can only be sentient in a sentient world. We see with eyes that already know moonlight and sunlight, hear with ears already accustomed to the sonorities of wind and weather, feel with hands that are already familiar with the roughness and smoothness of wood, stone, clay and other materials. Neither sun and moon, nor wind and weather, nor wood, stone and clay are themselves sentient. But immersed in sentience – by invading the awareness of sentient bodies – they can, so to speak, double over and see, hear and touch themselves. This is possible, Merleau-Ponty contended, because they are of the same ‘flesh’ as the bodies that we are. Both we and they are irrevocably stitched into the fabric of the world. Yet the way we launch ourselves into the world, in perception and action, is not the precise reverse of the way we gather the world into ourselves. We could liken the difference to that between exhalation and inhalation. In breathing out, we issue forth along lines of growth and movement. These lines, taken together, weave a dense tangle comparable to the tangle of root systems underground or of vegetation above it. I call this tangle the meshwork. In breathing in, by contrast, the world surrounds us and invades us as an atmosphere of light, sound and feeling. Is the flesh of the world, then, meshwork or atmosphere? Are we stitched into the meshwork or bathed in the atmosphere? I argue that we are alternately both, and that each is prerequisite for the other, just as breathing in is prerequisite for breathing out and vice versa. Indeed their rhythmic alternation is fundamental for animate life. Herein, I contend, lies the relation between the meshwork and the atmosphere, or, more simply, between lines and the weather.

Professor Tim Ingold is the 2013 Daphne Mayo Visiting Professor in Visual Culture at The University of Queensland, and Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He has carried out ethnographic fieldwork among Saami and Finnish people in Lapland, and has written on comparative questions of environment, technology and social organisation in the circumpolar North, on the role of animals in human society, and on human ecology and evolutionary theory in anthropology, biology and history. More recently, he has explored the links between environmental perception and skilled practice. Ingold is currently writing and teaching on issues on the interface between anthropology, archaeology, art, and architecture. His publications include: The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, (Routledge, 2000), Lines: A Brief History (Routledge, 2007), Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description (Routledge, 2011). His latest book, Making, was published in 2013. 

Professor Tim Ingold