Ghost in the Machine

Ghost in the Machine

Published on Monday, January 28, 2019. This article appears in the December/January 2019 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Tom Joyce, Tenet

Tom Joyce, Tenet, 2017 installation at the Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe, 3D-printed clear polycarbonate, LED lights, metallurgical coke, 12 x 24 x 20 ft.

Daniel Barsotti

Makers often form a close bond with their tools: hammers that have shaped metal, wood, and stone; knives with handles custom-made to fit their grip; ribs they’ve used since college to trim pots. But what happens when better performing, easier-to-use tools come along? Can the hand, let alone the heart, move on?

With Tenet, Tom Joyce, who trained as a blacksmith, pays tribute to the instruments and equipment that were once indispensable in his daily practice. Once a tool is retired from service, he catalogues it; then it’s scanned, 3D-printed, and added to the ever-growing, glow-in-the-dark assemblage of items (185 at last count), joining “a ghost-like cloud of tool forms, artifacts now sidelined by the diverse technologies I’ve chosen to adopt,” says the artist, a 2003 ACC Fellow.

The installation takes its name from the Latin verb tenere, which means “to hold, grasp, possess, or maintain.” “The tools of my training will always be recognized as foundational for the explicit knowledge they facilitated, but for the moment, these devices are no longer held in the hand,” Joyce explains. “Rather, they float, apparently weightless, as emblematic apparitions of the parts they once played.” These tools may no longer serve their original purpose, the artist says, but their value lingers.