Research - 'Strange Tools' - Chapter 2 / by Ally McGinn

Noe, A (2016) ‘Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.’ Narrated by Tom Perkins. Avaliable at: (Downloaded: 24/10/17).

I'm finding I'm writing more notes listening, as opposed to when I read a text. When reading I make annotations (occasionally long ones) and highlight but while listening my thought have been going a bit deeper. When reading this tends to only happen in reflections on the text or when trying to apply that knowledge elsewhere - to this blog for example.

Of course it could simply be that I am finding this text very aligned with my interests in the function of art, although it discusses that function from the perspective of it's process, rather than the function of the art object. This text is one that fits very well with what I am thinking about at the moment.


Notes from chapter 2

In this chapter the author continues to compare aspects of art to other activities, in a very interesting way. This time, dancing and choreography. Where the artist is the choreographer.

  • we act out of habit but we are often unaware of those habitual activities.

  • The exploration of dancing as an organised activity is interesting for me after a visit to the museum in Exeter two weeks ago where I saw an unexpected traditional gypsy dance, which was unchoreographed and more akin to a conversation than a predictable routine the dancers followed.

  • “If you can read you will read, the sign almost reads you” interesting in term of semiotics. A literal statement that I cannot deny, and I doubt anyone else would. When we see language we read it, and our minds often create words when there are none (number plates that look like other words or names are a good example of this) so desperate is the act of reading when seeing. Once a language is learned it becomes, at some basic level, an automatic activity.

  • If we take the metaphor for art, that the author has encouraged, then he suggests here that art is an organised activity that we participate in but do not create. This would seem to align with Barthes, Derrida and Danto (to varying degrees). Artists nominate and show art, they explore it's possibilities and represent it.

  • A staged activity - one undertaken for a purpose that is supposed to be read, interpreted or enjoyed. An exhibit.

  • The artist's desires and intentions are not the same as the intentions of the activity of art. (The choreographer and someone dancing in a club, have different aims)

  • We are artists, it is an organised activity of which we all undertake. Artists expose that activity and use it to communicate some idea or emotion.

  • We are unknowing artists by nature. Art gives us the opportunity to examine further the depth of art and the implications on the way we use it.

  • Natural/cultural

  • Re-organisational practices.

  • Art is philosophy, revealing something Heidegger called something concealed hidden, implicit or left in the background.

  • Plato - recollection - the author sees this not as a sign that we once knew more than we know now, but a reorganisation of what we already know, including things we don't know we know.

  • Wittgenstein suggested that philosophy is a question saying, “I don't know where I am” basically, “I'm lost”.

  • Different neighbourhoods of consciousness - a nice way to describe the relationship between art, philosophy and other organised activities.

  • Choreographing is the philosophy of movement…..this would imply that art is the philosophy of...something.

    • Not that the two are related, but they are similar activities in purpose and method (to an extent)

  • “They are practices, not activities, methods of research”