Monday 9 August 2021

Putting Down A Cup

A segment of my 2015 master's thesis about the difficulty in describing actions:
'Let me describe putting down a cup to further demonstrate this difficulty.
First I have to hold the cup and I do this by clamping it between three fingers, little finger excluded, and my thumb. My thumb is near my chest and my arm is bent at the elbow, forming pretty much a straight line. My wrist is turned outward from my body. As I start to move towards the table I must monitor the level of the liquid in the cup, because spilling is unwanted. I have to move slowly, but not too slow, nor too fast. It is vital that I go from balanced standstill to moving in one fluid motion as any hesitation
can cause the unwanted spilling. Assuming I am standing, my upper arm is slightly pointing outward and away from my body at the beginning, moving to a more vertical, downward and forward position when moving the cup from chest to table. My forearm performs the resulting roughly 45 ̊ half-rounded rotating motion without too much deviation from this path, while my wrist compensates through a series of small
movements to keep the cup level. As the cup gets near the table my fingers grip the cup ever so slightly tighter and the movements become just a little bit slower, as to make sure I don't slam the cup down on the table. The actual touching of cup and table almost exclusively happens in two stages. First there is one side of the cup that hits the table, before the whole cup is lowered till it sits flat on the table. *da-dum* I keep on gripping the cup for just a tiny moment until I release and the action is finished.

Putting down a cup is a very simple action yet it takes me almost 300 words to give but the plainest description of the movements it consists of. I believe this is the reason why there hasn’t been a great deal of writing on art in terms of actions and movements. If putting down a cup already requires such a long description, the often novel and complex actions that are used in art surely require pages of tedious text.'