Heidegger, Handlability and Praxical Knowledge

BOLT Barbara
2004 Conference

Theorists or logicians of practice tend to approach the task of theorising practice as a dressmaker approaches the task of making a garment. Using theoretical schemas or patterns, shapes are “cut out” from the continuous flow of practices. These shapes are inverted and then become metonymic for the practices they purport to describe or explain. The part becomes the whole. In the totalisation of theory, Pierre Bourdieu (1990) claims, the “fuzziness” of practice is replaced by the demarcation of semi-academic artefacts.

The focus on artworks, rather than practice, has produced a gap in our understanding of the work of art as process. Working with Martin Heidegger’s notion of “handlability”, I demonstrate how in creative arts practice, “research” commences in practice – in our dealings with the tools and materials of production, rather than a self-conscious attempt at theorisation. By focusing on enunciative practices, that is, the systems of fabrication rather than systems of signification, I argue that there is a possibility of opening up the field of an “art of practice” from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. According to such thinking, such logic of practice follows on from practice rather than prescribing it.

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About the author

Barbara Bolt is a lecturer in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne. She is a practicing artist, writer on art and art critic. Her book ‘Art Beyond Representation: The Performative Power of the Image’ will be published by IBTauris in 2004. In addition she has published a number of chapters in books as well as refereed articles. Her current practice is concerned with the Sublime Techno.