In the 10th of the “Sentences on Conceptual Art”, Sol Lewitt remarks: “Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.” This essay was first published in 0-9 (New York) in 1969 and later in Art-Language (England) in May 1969. It appears here in addition to Lewitt’s “On Walldrawings.” Certainly this “exhibition” exemplifies the idea that the work need not be made physical. The exhibition is also not even in a place. But it does need to be “made.” How we make things and how we think about how they are made is the starting point for this event. The act of touching, the act of making is in flux. We “make” things we do not “touch” every day. We call attention to this here.
The second volume/exhibition orients itself around the utterance—by hand. The works in this group may not fully exemplify the expression but may simply take off from there. In art making the concept may involve the idea of the “hand made” or the work of the hand or may even act as a rejection of that fact. Whose hand does the making reflect? Do we desire the hand of another when we create? How far should we extend our hand to another in the attempt to connect?
It may seem more than contradictory to focus on the work of the hand in an exhibition based in the Internet but that notion may be explored though the various ways that our hands act to control or work with the multiple devices or tools we interact with every day while working digitally. We handle these devices. They serve as tools. We enter into dialogue with their availability.
By being available we are “ready to hand.” We hope to remain present yet occasionally fail to be available in the moment. Distraction comes in many forms. Even when making ourselves available to be touched, we lose sight of that which stands before us. Time enters the perception of the things that surround us.
In the first of the 35 statements in his 1969 text “Sentences on Conceptual Art” Sol LeWitt declares, “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.” Already at the beginning of this “essay” LeWitt throws the reader off by challenging what we believe a concept or an idea to be. Normatively, ideas originate in rational activity. In the activation of our rational selves—thinking itself is not a mystical pursuit. We expect art to “make sense,” to be rational. But, as LeWitt says next, “Rational judgments repeat rational judgments.” Repetition becomes a problem.
Besides reference to hands as intermediary in making–the reach of the exhibition will include thoughts on the hand as guide and as a gestural instrument. The role of the hand as a romantic marker may also be embraced. We still carry on a romance with objects that reveal traces of the artist’s hand. The exhibition includes meditations on the hand as metaphor, as mediator and prosthetic. My own hand in the grouping is felt directly and after the fact. What remains is that which is left after the first sentence was written. We leave this alone. Acting alone yet in concert.
My own thinking about the nature of handwork, of tools, of readiness and acting in hand has been derived from attempts to come to terms with the writing of Martin Heidegger. Heidegger explores the role of human making and the tools we touch in Being in Time and later investigates the idea of technology in ways that would be instructive to us today. Heidegger’s work has undergone various transformations and interpretations. Directing attention to his concepts is itself an extension of that thinking. The path has been cleared by others. We lace this though the words of others. Following is a short selection from Heidegger’s essay “Building Dwelling Thinking” to which I return often:
The Greek for “to bring forth or to produce” is tikto. The word techne, technique, belongs to the-verb’s root tec. To the Greeks techne means neither art nor handicraft but rather: to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way. The Greeks conceive of techne, producing, in terms of letting appear. Techne thus conceived has been concealed in the tectonics of architecture since ancient times. Of late it still remains concealed, and more resolutely, in the technology of power machinery. But the nature of the erecting buildings cannot be understood adequately in terms either of architecture or of engineering construction, nor in terms of a mere combination of the two. The erecting of buildings would not be suitably defined even if we were to think of it in the sense of the original Greek techne as solely a letting-appear, which brings something made, as something present, among the things that are already present.
- Stephen Lapthisophon