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In the chapter “Die Geste des Machens” [The Gesture of Making] from the book Gesten [Gestures] (1991), which is full of wonderful ideas, Vilém Flusser writes a brief exposé about the phenomenology of the hands. Because of their mirroring complementarity, hands are condemned to reect each other forever. However, when confronted with a problem, an obstacle, or an object, they can achieve congruence, whereby the “full” gesture – the gesture of making – emerges, although it is never achieved perfectly. The gesture of making presses an object from both sides so that the two hands can reach each other. However, they never grasp all sides of an object, because it has countless aspects.

The hand is the only tactile organ that has power to act upon the world. This action is multifaceted: caressing, feeling, touching, grasping, grabbing, holding, retaining, manipulating, producing, creating. The hands execute the pragmatics of thinking: In order to understand how we think, we have to look at our hands. “Thanks to the symmetry of our hands that are mirror images of each other, the world for us is ‘dialectic.’” (Gesten, 1991, p. 63; translated from the German) “[T]he power of the hands over thoughts is so strong that we cannot legitimately avoid the sterile dialectic between ‘subject and object,’ ‘reality and value,’ ‘matter and form.’” (ibid., p. 70; translated from German) But fortunately, the gesture of making detects the difference between understanding, investigating, and creating.

Understanding the world implies comparing objects. Investigating means getting to the heart of objects to compare them with our values. Every object requires a different strategy and method. “Some objects need to be brutalized, and others need to be pampered, and other objects need to be deceived.” (ibid., pp. 75–76; translated from the German) Therefore, hands are a means of communication as well as offensive and defensive weapons. “When the object has been investigated and its secret discovered, the hands can comprehend their own secret. Their own dexterity […]. The gesture of making is based on having heard a ‘voice,’ of following a ‘call.’” (ibid., pp. 76–77; translated from the German) Discovering a calling is the result of the struggle of the hands against the perverseness of the object.

Original article by Lucia Santaella

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hand.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by