line as optic-haptic encounter (week 1: testing my boundaries)

optic vs haptic: i have just read Tim Ingold’s text ‘Drawing the Line’ in ‘Making, Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture’ (2013) about the merits of line as a means of telling. according to Ingold, line is an act of telling because it always has a trace of hand and gesture. Ingold describes lines of gestural drawing as coming from something, the body, rather than being about something as seen in measured and technical drawings. Ingold differentiates between these line types, describing technical drawings as predominantly optic lines rather than haptic lines as seen in gestural or sketch drawings – they touch the surface of what is being drawn in some way (2013, p:125).

drawing is not an image: Ingold writes that drawing is not an image that comes from some internal mental picture (p:126). nor is it something that exists only as a completed subject. instead, Ingold argues that drawing is part of something; part of a flow of movement rather than a completed action. this action relates to time and using the analogy of a photograph, a photographic image arrests time whereas a drawing “eddies on the stream of time” like something continuing in time from happened to about to happen (Berger, 2005, in Ingold, 2013, p:128).

drawing as correspondence: discussing Kandinsky’s thoughts on drawing, Ingold describes how the pencil converts the kinesthetic gesture of drawing like an instrument does to music. he goes on to say that this is not a one way process but says that drawing is an act of correspondence where the line is led by the mind and, at the same time, the mind is led by the line. this drawing-thinking extends to those who view the drawings. drawings that are part of a seeing-thinking process that reveals itself to the viewer and are transformative rather than descriptive of this drawing-thinking process.

looking at and looking with: discussing writing as drawing, Ingold suggests that looking at and looking with occur together – as do haptic and optic processes. we see written letters and we see, feel or understand the meaning that the written letters impart, each existing together and each coming in and out of focus at different times – from visibility to invisibility (2013, p:130). Referencing Elkins (1999, in 2013, p:130), Ingold suggests that built into all images is the act of showing, saying or seeing the purely visible and also seeing the abstract and the meaning of signs. this ties in with the recent reading i have been doing in relation to film in The Tactile Eye (Barker, 2009) where the erotic process of yielding and taking control occurs in the act of seeing. or as Derrida describes it simultaneously seeing objectivity and subjectivity (1973, in Ingold, 2013, p:130). Ingold also differentiates between handwriting and typed text. like the drawing and the photograph, typed text corresponds to still moment in time as something finished while hand-written text corresponds to something flowing and ongoing which is haptically connected to the written subject. later in the chapter, using Levi-Strauss stories to demonstrate his point, Ingold goes on to say that all hand-writing is drawing and it therefore leads to the conclusion that all architecture is drawing also (p:139).

haptic and optic line: similar to the arguments that i have been reading in Mark’s ‘Touch’ (2002), Ingold discusses the distant optic with the closer haptic encounters or as Deleuze and Guattari name it – the smooth and the striated. Ingold suggests that the geometric line has its origins in the haptic as these lines originate as threads or ropes between points corresponding to water levels – taught or capable of being slack. organic lines are also haptic in quality; separators between surfaces of objects or cuts rather than things in themselves – supporting the notion that there are therefore no lines in nature only lines as signifiers of something else or as separators between surfaces. but Ingold goes on to say that while these lines are signifiers of something, lines can also exist in themselves such as the trail a snail leaves from its movement.

the straight line versus the meandering line: discussing Le Corbusier’s argument that straight lines are the remit of modern thinking man and the meandering line is that of the animal or native man, Ingold suggests that the straight line is finite where as the meandering and organic line possesses further potential – a trajectory rather than an A to B capacity (p:140)

knowledge versus information: and in conclusion of the difference between straight-line people and people who follow ‘by way of the donkey’ line (p:140), Ingold suggest that straight line mentality has man rushing about from point to point rather than seeing what is happening along the way. in extending this point, Ingold says that knowledge has been forsaken for information in the modern straight-line world. and as i suspect, rational optic encounters have been forsaken for the subjective haptic encounters, encounters that go at their own pace and cannot be rushed or indeed ever truly finished.

a call for action: this text throws up many things in relation to my own work, mainly in terms of the digital and analogue processes that i engage in and have begun to examine more consciously in my lens based work. as i recently posted about last week relating to negative images, my process of screen printing using a photo-stencil method is a curious mix of digital and analogue processes much like the photograph and drawing analogy or the straight versus meandering line – handpulled processes of digital information. and as i also suggested in a recent post, i am curious about how gathering photographic images relates to the real or actual experience of the landscape and have already suggested combining hand drawing with photographic images, perhaps to create a fuller idea of my optic and haptic experience and perhaps to create a mixture of optic and haptic encounters for the audience. so as a response to this text, i propose to mix some hand-drawn images or lines with photographic bit-map images in relation to my landscape, body and gender work. i also propose to make this available to an audience and so be part of testing my practice – i guess that’s the point in all my work anyway.

testing my practice: (week 1) i have done some online research about open call opportunities for print editions. taking part in print exchanges is something i do throughout the year for lots of reasons – it gives a purpose (and deadline) to my exploration, it gives an opportunity to exhibit and share my work to a national and international audience, it gives me publicity and a profile online on print studio web sites for a duration. there may be an opportunity to sell one of the edition. it means i don’t have to store editions in the studio. the down side is that i have to work to a dictated size or format, however this is usually small (for posting) which is a scale i like to work to anyway. it usually means filling in forms, bios etc and there is usually a small application fee. in terms of feed back from an audience, a short thank you email is usually all you get with maybe a line telling you how much they like your work so there is no real way of knowing how anyone responds, but this can happen anyway. as one off editions, there is no scope for developing a cohesive body of work, but i guess you could be doing that anyway. so that said, i feel the pros outweigh the cons so i will include a print exchange as part of my ‘testing my practice’ task.


Barker, J.M. (2009) The Tactile Eye, Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley: University Press of California Press.

Ingold, T. (2013) ‘Drawing the Line’ in Making, Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. London: Routhledge. Available at: Making – EVA…/Making%20Anthropology%2C%20Archaeology%2C%20Ar…

Marks, L. U. (2002) Touch, Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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