Playing with clay and the uncertainty of agency

a material engagement theory perspective

Paul March

pp. 133-151


I describe how close attention to the process of sculpting clay from the perspective of Material Engagement Theory can create a detailed description of a mutable sense of agency and of self. First, I show that sculpting is associated with a loss of sense of agency and self. Second, that to sense agency as a systemic phenomenon (rather than a personal attribute) creates anxiety. Third, that meaning in an art encounter develops in association with an anterospective viewpoint. Fourth, that within the logic of the extended mind, emergent meaning becomes openly available for further exploration (meta-cognition). Fifth, that artistic creativity is not an opaque process. It proceeds in a similar manner to other forms of human, sense-making activities. Finally, that playing seriously with clay can be used in an investigative manner—as a tool for material conceptualisation.

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