Archives For David Levi Strauss


A Review of

From Head to Hand:
Art and the Manual
David Levi Strauss.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
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Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

FROM HEAD TO HAND - David Levi StraussIt’s hard to describe exactly the scope of David Levi Strauss’ new book From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual; it begins where I might expect, with several essays narrating the physical materialization of ideas in the work of hands-on, process-oriented artists. Continuing through this book, though, the focus broadens to include larger social contexts, the cultural tradition of art, and artists and writers influential for Strauss as a writer. Very early on, anyway, Strauss introduces “making things by hand” as a radical act in our disconnected age, in that “it puts human beings in a direct, rather than hidden, relation to labor” (2); stated more broadly, “ ‘to utter that which is unutterable, to render audible that which is ineffable, to render visible that which is hidden’ ” (159) is the translation ‘from head to hand’ by which all human art is performed. The Word becoming Flesh is an irresistible metaphor (and partially the subject of the final chapter), an ultimate creative act by which separations such as mind and body and spirit become much more fluid. Human work, then, that deals directly with the transformation of materials, and specifically visual or textual art, is also bound up in the reciprocal process between ideas and materials.

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