“Agency and technē in creative practice” – Dr. Jason Tuckwell (Western Sydney University)
In this presentation, I argue for a method of distinguishing between creation and production to provide resources for understanding contemporary, interdisciplinary art-making practice by clarifying the sort of work agents perform. Here, technē identifies the centrality of agents in the performance of an intentional work that deviates repetitious or productive processes as the basic structure of technique: from the mastery of traditional (sculpting or musical performance) to contemporary art practices (machines and computing devices).
In order to do so, I will characterize the problem by contrasting the dominant modes of conceiving art: poiesis, which understands art as a generic ontological problem and technē, which treats art as a particular kind of work—a skillful, intentional practice to deviate processes of becoming. Arguably, this distinction leads to very different procedures for determining the ‘work of art’; poiesis considers artistic praxis as resolved into an artefact or art object, while technē considers it as a problem in itself. This tension is evident in the generic designation of the ‘work of art’ which tends to conflate process with what this process produces. This conflation about the work of art, which is especially provoked by the contemporary emphasis upon process, can be illuminated via a return to Aristotle’s concept of technē. This is because technē (the kind of work art performs) remains irreducible to poiesis (to make); the general or indiscriminate sense of production. Rather, within poiesis, technē remains a more foundational power that is causally distinct: it is this distinction that allows us to identify a genuine creative principle that differs from production. As such, what Aristotle’s distinctions clarify is that the work of art is not resolvable into the terms of productions (poiesis), rather explaining that artworks by deviating productive processes in the midst of their becoming. It is in this sense that creative processes cause unprecedented differences to come into being. As such, the work of art apprehended by Aristotelian technē is not reducible to any poiesis; it works upon and divides poiesis into another workflow—a creative poiesis. I argue this provides a method for determining the centrality and structure of agency in technique, one that affirms the distinction and importance of creative work.
Dr. Jason Tuckwell teaches aesthetics and literary theory at Western Sydney University. His research interests include Aristotle, Simondon and Continental Philosophy with a particular focus upon problems of creative and technical praxes. His recent book, Creation and the Function of Art: Technē, Poiesis and the Problem of Aesthetics is available from Bloomsbury Studies in Continental Philosophy.
*Image credits: Ben Denham. Drawing Song (2017-2019)