My good friend gave me a lovely, but curious gift for the holidays: a slightly smaller, far daintier-than-most hammer. The head of the hammer is a glossy white, green, red and black floral pattern that vaguely references no specific South Asian or East Asian art (my best guess would be that it draws from Indonesia’s lyrical floral patterns). The metal base of the hammer unscrews to reveal a Phillips head screwdriver that has other attachments screwed into its own base. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hammer so specifically designed for women before, the hammer itself has a certain feminine quality, not because of the pattern but most importantly because of it’s slender frame and delicate head. This object has self-awareness and a very direct way of addressing women, specifically. I like looking at it, but I am also adamantly refusing to use it for some reason (probably because I don’t want to be who it says I am), instead it is an object that rests on my dresser to be admired. My strange relationship with this hammer is even further complicated by the fact that I often have a hard time finding tools that suite my body. Last summer, my studio-mates and I built partitions, which involved drilling hundreds of aluminum screws. Every third screw would present itself as impossible, I just couldn’t find the right leverage, is what I’ve decided. I’ve also noticed that when holding many of my tools, my fingers are sticking out all over the place, on the verge of a pinky-out look. I just can’t seem to get a good grip on most tools like hammers, wrenches, chop-saws, jig-saws, tin snips etc. My relationship to building with tools, then, is an issue of bodily proportion, scale, gravity and grip. I’d like to propose to start imagining what an ideal tool might look like, one that suits all body sizes and finger lengths. The first thought is how to make a tool more flexible; how to give a tool the characteristics that enable it to be sensitive and respond to the individual needs of its user. I’d like to meet a tool that can self-customize. I used to embrace my role as a pre-teen consumer and would obsess over and crave things like beanie babies, Lisa Frank stickers and, the most expensive of all: the Sensa Pen. This pen has a gel like substance around the area where your fingers would go: it squishes and molds to your grip. Would it not be wonderful to have a transformational soft material that can create an individualized, renewed grip each and every time it is held? Obviously this would mean a serious upgrade to the Sensa gel: it would need to be thicker and I’d want it to have a skin-like quality, transforming the tool into an extension of one’s own body. It would be the definition of flexibility, accommodation and acceptance. My other thought is that I wish tools were more like exercise machines. I might just be missing the daily access to a free gym that I had at school, but I always loved punching my personal information into that giant, robotic elliptical machine. That ritual action created a kind of ambivalent trust and it enabled a feeling that your accomplishment was somehow unique and perfectly designed for your specific body. Imagine if your tool knew exactly how strong you were, how big you were and could reorient your body’s center of gravity to give you optimum leverage. Tools, I suppose would become a main feature of contemporary art following in the steps of Mark Bradford and his sander, (I wonder if he feels one with his sander). So, in conclusion, anthropomorphic gel plus personalized technology equals a big bright new world of building for me and those like me. Until then, I’ll let my Indonesian flower hammer continue to mock me.
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