Lines and Surfaces

“Evidently it is not enough to regard the surface as a taken-for-granted back-drop for the lines that are inscribed upon it.” Tim Ingold.

Ingold was a Professor of Anthropology at Aberdeen University and delved into the history of the line. He studied the general history however, when he looked at writing in the Western world, in particular the transition from the manuscript of medieval times to modern text, he found that there was so much more about not only the lines, but of the supports and surfaces upon which the lines were placed.

Ingold talks of types of line traces, threads and surfaces and how each surface and application of line is quite different. Speaking also of the Old English term writan where one would write a line by pulling a sharp implement over stone to create runic letters. 

Ingold also writes about another class of line in the cut, the crack and the crease, whereby the line is created not by adding, but by subtracting. For instance, Ingold references here his own study of fieldwork in Lapland and how the Saami people would cut patterns in the ears of their reindeer so they could be easily identified as belonging to a certain family. 

This page is from a book of reindeer earmarks which were collected by the author on a field trip. The pattern was cut into both ears and there are the line patterns along with the written name of the owners.

Due to a dynamic shift in my work for this module, this book on lines and surfaces has been a great help in understanding why these ways of working have always been so important to me. It is about a familial ties, family history, runic and ogham writing and the things that we as migrants, leave behind on the surfaces that we work on.

INGOLD, Tim. 2016. Lines: A Brief History. London ; New York: Routledge.

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