1. As a question of surprise, it is also clear that exhibiting humanness must be different from exhibiting the hand of a specific human, since at a certain level surprise lurks even in the difference between humans. The alien is not contrasted with a human, but with humanness, so it should not be the individuality of a particular hand that makes a work human. At the same time, the measure cannot be “handsyness” in general, since the alien showed up long after the hand had abandoned the leadholder. Clearly there is no point in insisting on the visibility of the marks of production, the chisel cuts and guidelines, either—and not only because these are easily replicable by the machine as mentioned above. Yet, it cannot be far from the truth to believe that at some level humanness is related to the sense that there is, finally, a living, breathing human somewhere behind the thing, the author of the microsurprises by which the thing deviates from perfection. And that the thing itself, produced by this live human, would somehow also be alive in some way because of that relationship. 

The surprise that may be encountered during the production of a work, and the artist’s reaction to it, can be conceptualized as a conversation. In discussing art, this conversation is viewed as a way in for the artist and ultimately the viewer. The artistic handwriting discussed by Anton Ehrenzweig as a source of the plasticity or brilliance in a work is also a version of this conversation. It is often a by-product of the fact that the work does not emerge whole from the creator’s mind, but must be discovered, found, worked, refined and drawn out through an extended process of searching creation, which the artist might describe as a sort of conversation between the artist and the work. A conversation requires an interlocutor, a conversation ensures that we are drawn out of ourselves, that we extend ourselves to meet the other. That work is involved; this involvement is interpreted by the brain as life. 

  1. The stuff was not alien because it had removed the hand and eliminated all agency, but the opposite: the parametric leads to surprise because of our presently imperfect vocational skills, our lack of mastery/knowledge, not its access to hidden realms beyond our ken. 
  2. As we get better at it we can begin to imagine a time where the distance between the intending mind and the effect disappears entirely. The conversation ceases because the object has no independence.
  3. In fact, at that point the use of these tools will stamp out truly “other” possibilities; they are the design generation face of the general trend towards the quantification of EVERYTHING, that Heidegger warned about when he coined the term ENFRAMING. When this singularity is reached, all of possibility will stand in reserve, limited to what will fit those toggles and sliders.  
  4. So: the alien is not alien because it is “other,” but because it is not “other” enough. It has no Being of its own, it is itself sterile. It is not autonomous, but too completely slaved to the author, to the script, with no will of its own. 
  5. Thus, finally maybe not alien after all, because it is too human. But yet it is also dead in itself. I think you know where this is going: having no life of its own it is not an alien, but a zombie.