Staff, C. and Cureton, P. (2009) Of blood, of trade, authority, agency: sought after forms and drawing today. Paper presented to: Association of Art Historians (AAH) 35th Annual Conference and Bookfair, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2-4 April 2009.
It is in the city of Ersilia, according to Italo Calvino, that the inhabitants establish relationships by stretching lengths of string from the corners of their houses. As the relationships accrue, so the strings increase in volume. Eventually, when the inhabitants are no longer able to walk amongst the houses, they move on, leaving, as Calvino relates, ‘spider-webs of intricate relationships seeking a form.’ Using this statement by Calvino as a basis by which both the production and reception of ‘drawing’ might be understood, the paper will use Calvino’s four categories of relationships, namely ‘blood,’ ‘trade,’ ‘authority’ and ‘agency’ as a means of organising the various examples of ‘drawing’ which will be marshalled. Within the context of the first category, ‘blood,’ the paper will seek to determine the extent at which drawing remains cognisant of its received understanding as a fundamentally expressive tool, indexically connected to if not more broadly bound up with issues centering upon notions of authorship. By analysing examples of ‘drawing’ which fall beyond the purview of ‘art’, the interdisciplinary dimension of drawing will be considered through the interpretive framework of the second category, namely ‘trade.’ The category of ‘authority’ will briefly consider the problematics that adhere to the dissemination of drawing within certain pedagogical contexts. As the name of the final category implies, ‘agency’ will consider the various processes artists have recently adopted in order to examine and extend the received vocabulary of drawing. Taken together, these four vectors will provide the basis by which the activity of drawing today will be defined