Manual Inscription and the Digital
In the past decade, digital devices including as the smartphone have become ubiquitous, impacting how art is created, circulated and engaged. Within contemporary art discourse there is a tendency to conceptualize the digital using terms such as “virtual” or “immaterial”, structuring the digital is a realm or space. This results in a bifurcation of the digital, separating out ‘digital’ space from ‘real’ space. This thesis argues that as a consequence there is a conceptual lack in thinking through the utterly bodily conditions of digitality. This in turn replicates a gendered binary structure of modern Western thought in terms of subject/object, and active/passive. To address this, in other words, to understand the ways that digital devices act as material systems which impact bodies not just socially but at the level of the real, we must seek theorizations that overcome the bifurcation of the digital. To this end, the thesis recalls that “digital” also refers to the digits of the hand. Shifting terms to work through a concept of manual inscription, the text examines the habits of the digital using notions of embodiment from Judith Butler and Alfred North Whitehead. Through interpretations of the artistic practice of Tino Sehgal and Laura Owens, the thesis proposes one way to think through how we inhabit manual inscription, in order to understand what happens to gesture and authorship within a pervasive digital sensorium.