Bringing Things Back to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials

Ingold, Tim (2010) Bringing Things Back to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials. NCRM Working Paper. Realities / Morgan Centre, University of Manchester. (Unpublished)

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The creation of things, according to Aristotle, involves a bringing together of form (morphe) and matter (hyle). In the subsequent history of western thought, the hylomorphic model of creation has become ever more deeply embedded. Contemporary discussions in fields ranging from anthropology and archaeology to art history and material culture studies continue to reproduce its underlying assumptions.

The aim of this paper is both to expose these assumptions and to replace the model with an ontology that assigns primacy to processes of formation as against their final products, and to the flows and transmutations of materials as against states of matter. The argument has five components.

First, the inhabited world consists not of objects, considered as bounded, self-contained entities, but of things, each a particular gathering of the threads of life.

Secondly, life has to be understood not as an interior animating force but as the generative capacity of that encompassing field of forces and materials wherein forms arise and are held in place. This notion of ‘life’ should not be confused with the concept of ‘agency’, which is a product of the same reduction that reduces things to objects.

Thirdly, a focus on life-processes required us to attend not to materiality as such, but to the fluxes and flows of materials. We have to follow these flows, tracing the paths of form-generation.

Fourthly, to understand how these paths are creative, we must read creativity ‘forwards’, as an improvisatory joining in with formative processes, rather than ‘backwards’ as an abduction from a finished object to an idea in the mind of an agent.

Finally, the pathways along which improvisatory practice unfolds are not connections between one thing and another but lines along which they continually come into being. Thus the entanglement of things has to be understood literally and precisely, not as a network of connections but as a meshwork of interwoven lines of growth and movement.

Item Type: Working Paper (NCRM Working Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: realities, vital signs
Subjects: 1. Frameworks for Research and Research Designs > 1.1 Epistemology
Depositing User: Realities user
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2010 13:36
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 13:52

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