Finally then, armed with these concepts and their temporal relationships, we can return to the phenomenon of long-term anticipating the making of the art installation we introduced in Sect. 2 and of which the above example of going to the store was an inviting part. In Sect. 2 we saw that skilled architects, upon being asked to make an art installation—an installation that will require many months of work by many different participants—are able to anticipate that they can do so. First off, we should note that there is a long history of architectural practices, maintained in academies, buildings, communities and studio’s, and continued in the path of activities of the individual architects (i.e. in their skills and abilities). Thus the abilities of architects have been developed, transformed and passed along to form a history of interactions up to the current situation in which the senior architect was asked whether he could design and make a site-specific architectural art installation.
As we highlighted above, the activities unfolding, although often almost banal (typing words, driving vans, painting wood), are at other times highly exploratory or involve practices that have not been well-trotted (standing on a tilted plank (Fig. 1a), grooming a carpet (Fig. 1d) that has been suspended by wires). Anticipating the making of an art installation thus has a much less stabilized unfolding than some of the everyday examples we used in the previous sections. Indeed, the ‘outcome’ of the affordance of making an art installation (e.g. Fig. 6h) is much less determined in advance than the affordance of, say, making a cup of coffee. But, we can now appreciate that it is anticipated by the participants in much the same way.
Given the history of activities the architects have been developing, in which they have participated in making architectural works many times, making an art installation is an inviting affordance to them. Although a larger scale unfolding process, the making of the art installation, has the same structure as those of Figs. 2 and 4, but now consisting of many more intertwining activities yet again (see Fig. 5). It is an unfolding affordance, and as such it has a past of relevant practices (that we just briefly described), in terms of which a currently affording environment (e.g. Fig. 1a–h) invites continuing it into the future. In Fig. 5 the process of making an art installation is shown schematically.
In Fig. 6 below we have added to the scheme of Fig. 5 the situations of unfolding activities that we introduced in Sect. 2 (but one can also see the situation depicted in Fig. 4 as one of its strands). These different situations can offer a variety in affordances if we take them out of the practical and historical context of the larger scale unfolding possibility of making an art installation (or to individuals with different histories of skill). The built model (Fig. 6e) may for example afford holding, preserving, collecting, or burning; the paper (Fig. 6c, f) may afford folding it into an airplane or writing on, and the wooden beam and the floor (Fig. 6h) may afford a balancing act or a tap-dancing routine respectively. But as part of the large-scale unfolding process of making an art installation, these materials invite very specific people to contribute very specific activities which in turn continue the process of making. Together these inviting affordances can be seen to set up the conditions for continuing from one into the other, thus forming the larger-scale process.
Looking at Fig. 6, early in the process (even before the commissioning by the art fund was known of) many materials invited being explored by the architects such as wood for supporting the feet while standing (Fig. 6a) and suspended carpet for supporting the back and using it to support a laptop to type (Fig. 6b). As the project started, models were built that invited comparison for different design features, such as the effect of lighting and the possibility to suspend carpet in the air on site (Fig. 6e). Situations developed in which images, drawings and other paperwork that had invited storing, could now invite to be checked again (Fig. 6c), but life-size models such as Fig. 6b also invited measurement, which invited making a measured drawing on paper (Fig. 6f) which in turn drew a caring and skilled carpenter into the process. By the drawing on paper he was invited to make wooden beams, which afforded measuring in the context of aligning it with the room where the installation was being built (Fig. 6g). As the process of making the installation, consisting of carpets suspended in the air by steel wires, neared completion (the installation determined as built) (Fig. 6h), to the architects it invited little more but grooming it. The carpet’s edge for instance invited to be cut with a small pair of scissors (Fig. 6d). But of course the installation now also started to invite supported standing to the people working at the art fund.
Considering the process of making the installation we find a large scale affordance unfolding. There is again a directionality and increasing determinacy—possible ways of continuing make way for the actual way it has been continued. In Figs. 5 and 6 looking back on the completed process of unfolding, we see the one actual way in which materials have been coordinated and the large-scale activity has unfolded along with the roles each of the smaller scale activities played in it. Looking forward (from the left of the figure), still in the ongoing process, we see a multitude of possible ways in which a diversity of materials can be coordinated and the activity can continue.
As a highly skilled architect, having dealt with design processes before, when first asked by the Mondriaan Fund to create an ‘End of Sitting’ style art installation for their waiting room the senior architect of this project immediately knew he would be able to do it. He could anticipate that they would be able to make a good installation. To him, the possibility of making an installation was simply an affordance available, one of which the enactment could be anticipated, given the history of earlier artworks realized, finding the right materials, and having caring and skilled people working with him. Although a by-stander might not have been able to anticipate the direction that the process is taking, the architects and the carpenter that have been deeply involved from the start certainly can. The more such participants are invited by the process to contribute their skills to the process, the more direction the process can take, and the more its participants will be able to attune to the direction of its large-scale unfolding (see also Noë 2012, e.g. p. 25 ff.), and thus, the more they will anticipate what needs to be done.
The process invites participants to intertwine with it and contribute their skills. They are invited to act and thus coordinate materials and transform them, so that these organized materials afford new activity to continue the process, the making of the installation. In short, the architects and other skilled individuals, familiar with architectural practices, can be invited to contribute their skills. By doing so, the larger scale process sets up the conditions for its own continuation—it forms the terms in which materials invite activity, from writing a sentence for a wall panel to seeing the opportunity to go to a store to buy carpet. As the large-scale affordance (the new installation as a whole) thus slowly nears enactment, the range of invitations for the architects grows smaller and may become very specialized and only inviting to a very few responsive participants (e.g. the ‘grooming’ in Fig. 6d). By that time, anticipating the large-scale project has long made way for the affordance of looking back on it. For others, participation has however just started, as the installation invites supported standing to the people working at the art fund, invites to be shown to visitors and, like the house we discussed, to be maintained and cared for in order to keep unfolding.
In this way a large-scale unfolding action possibility such as the making of an architectural installation can be anticipated. In fact, the process of making was anticipated both from the start of the project and along the way. However in our story, the attunement to the unfolding situation does not have an ‘object’ to which it refers. Neither is this attunement dealing with some ‘absent’ end-state, because it merely requires the openness and receptivity to the movement of an increasingly determining situation, seeing along the direction in which the situation is unfolding (Ingold 2013). Indeed, to us the phenomena of ‘having an image before one’s mind’, or of ‘knowing exactly what a design should come to look like’ offer a case in point. In our conceptualization, such expressions, sometimes used in situations of anticipating, are not a matter of literally having an image or any other mental content in one’s head. Rather, this phenomenon is an aspect of the skilled and attuned individual taken up in an unfolding and determining process.
As a final thought, the expression that one has the image before one’s mind then can be thought to expresses an openness, an attunement to, the large-scale unfolding affordance that one is contributing to—this goes equally for the design of an architectural installation, the writing of this paper or, say, the renovation of an old house. It should not be taken as prima facie evidence for a detached, isolated, individual mind, but as evidence for the fundamentally situated and relational constitution of the active individual. Indeed, trying to express the ‘image’, by drawing on a piece of paper, by writing or sketching, contributes to the process, which is determined further yet again. Thus, these explicating activities, themselves invited by the pieces of paper and people encountered in the unfolding process, are not merely about the process, but they are of the process—enabling it to continue by contributing new affordances ready to be enacted (Ingold 2011; Dewey 1958; James 1912; Van Dijk 2016).