The Media Ecology of the Feather Born Brush
When a reporter asked Marilyn Monroe if she had anything on during her nude photo sessions for Playboy, she famously said “the radio.”
While this was a funny rejoinder it speaks to the way that a media environment covers and informs us. Shape us. But also how easy it is to be immersed in them. Marilyn Monroe was, functionally, wearing the radio in the sense that the perceptions of her were shaped by the dominant media environment of the time. Radio, television, podcasts, the internet, all of these bombard the literate Westerner with information. And due to that information the clothes we wear and buy and the way a home is furnished is deeply informed by this media ecology. There is hardly a choice in the matter. In the preliterate world, broadly speaking, spirit possession was possible but wasn’t the norm but under circumstances of mystery and danger. But here in the west due to the speed and force of our media ecology, functional possession happens as screens screen and wonder and examination wither. There is no castigation in this, this is observational.
The indigenous person who makes headdresses from flowers and weaves clothing from fibers or transforms the skin of animals into coverings or wraps has been shaped by their ecology, their media (and media is an environment) in a different way and at a different pace while gaining or earning or maintaining a relationship with their environment. Much less so than in the literate west. Marshall McLuhan famously said “The medium is the message” which means that the media ecology you are does more to impact you and your relationship to the world than the content of the media itself.
So it is with that as a prologue that I share with you this video of the old craft of making a paintbrush out of a feather.
Perhaps a few things to wonder about before you watch…
This craft and skill hearkens to a time where making beauty in the world was bound up with a relationality to and with animals.
That the feathers for quills for writing and painting came from the wing of the bird which is their arm and hand and humans need to mirror the usage of the tool with our hands and arms and in so doing writing and adornment is an extension of the sense of touch as much as it is a mark of recognition by the eye.
Considering these old crafts as fundaments of culture is an invitation to create new media ecologies that are slower and allow the user to create a paced relationship with their environment. My wish is that the craft of Primal Derma is in the same realm as these old and well walked trails but also that these missives encourage you towards the same.
Now take two minutes and enjoy the cleverness of this craft and the media ecology the user must have been immersed in.