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Black Box — White Clay

I had been working with clay a lot when lockdown started, the ceramics labs shut and the world went online. I felt that the difference between working with the patient,  warm, tactile clay and with the overcrowded, cold cyberspace was jarring. In the contemporary,  technology feels so far away from craft and I intended to bring craft and computing closer.  

Craft, textural, embodied, layered, materialised handicraft.  

Tech, unthinking, unflinching, mechanised technology.  

One was conceived from the other. Technology morphed from tekhnē, the art, skill, craft, or the way, manner, or means by which a thing is gained. The focus had been on the making and the method by which an object is created. The vocabulary spotlights the tinkered tactile tacticality.  

Richard Sennet’s philosophy of the importance of the connection between the head and hand made me realise why I felt disconnected with the computing technologies around me. He said,  “when the head and the hand are separate, it is the head that suffers”. In Karl Marx’s terms, I am estranged and alienated from the act of labour. Making in an ‘unalienated praxis’ is never separate from thinking. In my project I explore the relationship between craft and human labour, algorithms and the people who design them.  

When I am making with the 3DPotter, I de-alienate myself from the act of labour, reclaiming the connection between craft and human labour. When I press start and it starts extruding, we begin our collaboration, but my participation starts at the beginning. Each morning I spend an hour and a half preparing the machine; cleaning, wedging, tightening—a ritual that made me feel at one with it. With my head and hand connected, actively listening and commanding you, I reject the notion of becoming a mere ‘tender of machine’.