Saturday, 14 March 2015

Imprint and Trace: The Pencil

"Even now the pencil is not only used by children in their first year of primary school learning to write by motorically practising the form of letters but it is often within reach along with scrap paper at the side of every keyboard. Its technology consists in the ability to create traces that are as durable as ink and at the same time are until the end not in their final form. At any time and in theory ad infinitum, a pencil line can be rubbed out and corrected, over and over again, until the paper gets too thin or tears. All that remains at most are the smudges, or if the pencil and the rubber are hard, ghostly strokes on or engravings in the paper like palimpsests, vestiges of writing, adopting the form of an imprint and scoring themselves more into the tactile deep structure than onto the visible surface of the written material. 

It is precisely in the age of reproductive writing technologies set to bring writing to a definitive form that the pencil is just coming to the top of its game. Even when it is sharpened over and over again till it is nothing but a stub, and even if the word has been printed for some time, the pencil still has something to say: whenever a reader notes something in the margin of a book."


Sonja Neef, Imprint and Trace Handwriting in the Age of Technology, trans. from German by Anthony Mathews, London 2011, p. 116.

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