A ball of wool, two knitting needles, a circle of chairs, several bodies, some pens, cups of coffee, and some loose knit instructions. Last week Anne Pirie of UWS (University of the West of Scotland) came to play here at ESRI, putting into practice the materiality of her talk on ‘Lost bodies in the Academy’
Anne explained that her work had recently been concerned with unpicking, and knitting with, the work of Anthropologist Tim Ingold. Here notions of wayfaring, sketching, temporality and nimbleness were, for her, in the process of becoming an alternative epistemological and ontological passage which sat in, with, and of the vulnerability of thought rather than on it, stifling it with a formally written and repeated paper.
As Anne held both our attention, and a ball of wool, she took what at first sight appeared to be a unified thread. Holding it out in front of her Anne pulled at the wool, inviting us to do the same. In the activity of pulling, layers and textures previously hidden became apparent. To pull, not simply the words, the infinitive verb form, but the activity also. To pull, to be materially in and of the process . And then she uttered the words I had feared since childhood: “hand-eye-co-ordination”.
Anne wanted to ‘throw back’, and have us join her, the narrow vision of the academic, or humanistic, intellectual whose becoming emerges only from dry or sensible activities. With this Anne looked for ‘the nod’ from a member of the circle so she might have a consenting and co-ordinated pair of hands and eyes to catch the wool. Eyes to the floor, this was my first instinct. Eyes to the floor would infer a lack of consent and therefore a lack of participation. My eyes to the floor coordination would help me in avoiding the inevitable crash position my body assumes when an object moves towards it, even if my hand-eye-co-ordination would not.
Before long a web intra actively emerged; spun of hands, eyes, coordination, techniques, gravity, wool and any other number of human and non-human actants which comprised the becoming agentic assemblage. Some of us who consciously attempted to avoid playing, becoming agentic through non participation, had the myth of human intentionality bust open before our very eyes. Having chosen not to be chosen as one of the catchers, I became aware, in that way that a body makes you aware, that I was picking up the wool from the floor behind me. I was colluding at the interstice of intent and accident in the interpellative force of the human and non human. The agentic assemblage of a human arm throwing, affects, the diameter of the circle, the infinitive to throw, a ball of wool, velocity, and gravity were no match for my, or any other shoe gazers, eye-floor coordination.
Once the web was woven the discussion began, not so much ‘stitch and bitch’, as throw and think, but perhaps throwing and thinking differently, a little untethered and undone from the idea that it is only the autonomous ‘I’ which is the agent of either to think, or to throw.