This workshop intends to start a critical dialog between the Study of Cultural Techniques and the Anthropology of Technologies, Skills, and Materials. Though coming from rather different traditions, both disciplines share a strong interest in an approach to things not as stable end products (i.e. objects) but as temporary convergences wherein open- ended practices produce moments of stability in a basically unstable world. The idea that practices precede the concepts and distinctions that are generated by them, which is crucial to the theory of cultural techniques, questions not only the hierarchical relations between form and matter, subjects and practices, objects and operations, but also the causal relations between subjects and practices, objects and operations. Are we the cause of practices, and practices the cause of objects? Or are we, the things, plus the distinction between us and them, immersed in practices and operations? Are practices of becoming subject and becoming object not embedded in an ontogeny of things?
Moves in Anthropology and the Study of Cultural Techniques towards an ontogeny of things will lead us towards a mode of thinking that questions the distinction between subject and object as a differentiation that is always already settled. This is also to question our knowledge about what skills and techniques are, and about what it means to be immersed in practices that have first to come to terms with distinctions between inside and outside, figure and ground, active and passive, flat and spatial, line, surface and volume.
The workshop will focus especially on transitional states between dimensions which, according to the Platonic tradition, belong to separate realms of being. Thus it will address the interconvertibility of lines and threads and of drawing and sewing, the formation of surfaces from textile patterns and folds, and the relation between the meshwork spaces so constituted and the smooth spaces of atmospheric immersion.