tools tools im a tool shout out to ursula k le guin!
For our first class, we were instructed to bring in our favorite tool, which led me to revisit one of my favorite readings, Ursula K Le Guin’s “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.” I was interested in defining what a tool was and exploring my relationship with material.
In “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, Ursula K Le Guin reframes historical narratives by expanding upon technology’s role outside of Cartesian methods of physical domination. Common narratives in history romanticize weapons as tools of advancement, even the depiction of a prehistoric man as a hunter, is the narrative of “hero” that conquers and controls his environment. Ursula K Le Guin asserts that advancements in culture weren’t made through weapons, but the tools utilized for preservation and sustainability, “the carrier bag theory of fiction” states that 'before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home.'
I’ve actively reconsidered my own navigation of tools, and by extension, my relationship to my environment. What tools bring energy home? What tools force energy outward? What is more definitive of this role, physical design or social practice?
The tool that I chose to bring to class was my fountain pen, a small compact Kaweco Sport.
Image Description: A photo of a small, black fountain pen, the Kaweco Sport fountain pen, lying on top of a piece of paper. The paper features an illustration of the fountain pen which describes the physical attributes of its design.
Text blocks in the image:
"Hello! I'm the Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen!"
"I provide nice ink flow and "feedback" (which is a fun way to say that I tell you the texture of the paper)."
"I store ink here [in the barrel of the pen]! I'm eco-friendly!"
"Screw closure insures that I stay closed (and it feels nice too)!"
"My faceted body prevents rolling off the table!"
I’m very interested in talking about writing utensils and their ability to force energy outward or to bring it inward. Especially as an artist, it’s important to practice awareness of the pen’s potential to force energy outward. It’s easy to fall into the patterns of rendering art as a form of domination.
I feel that I have a responsive relationship with my Kaweco Sport, making it one of my favorite pens. This pen tells me when certain gestures cause unnecessary stress in the nib. Each stroke feels more like a collaboration, rather than me solely dominating the tool. The feedback that I get from the pen creates something that is unique to both of us.
One reason for enrolling in ITP was to expand upon my relationship with the material around me. I hope to have this kind of dynamic with all of my personal and creative practices as I consider my role in my environment.