Virna Koutla – Emergent Materiality

Emergent Materiality: the Self and the Other in Material

Abstract:
The paper revolves around the notion of matter at the intersection of the physical and the digital and investigates potential ways through which materiality can be enacted and performed. By putting forward a speculative approach towards design, the essay explores the use of digital media for the emergence of matter’s unexpected compositional capacities and focuses on the degree of affect between subjects and objects as part of the process. As in the case of Flusser’s and Bec’s vampyroteuthis infernalis fable, the paper provides the groundwork for a material dialogue between the self and the other and serves as a framework for thinking about the dialectics of the actual (real),the virtual (also real, but not necessarily actual), and the space of possibilities that their interaction opens up. In the form of the ‘what if’ scenario of a conversation with a giant terracotta vase, the paper addresses space as an expanded field of propagation and effects in which materiality emerges as an assemblage of active forces. In particular, the scenario proposes ‘Synthetic Materiality’ as a new way of understanding and, further, formulating the hybrid relations between subjects and objects as well as the environments in which they reside. Deriving from the greek word synthesis (which means bringing different parts together into a composite whole), ‘synthetic materiality’ expresses the merging process that gives shape to the interaction of the hybrid actants and advocates for an understanding of matter as a substance in flux. If, then, materiality is always becoming what are our potentialities in the inexhaustible “game of life”?

Virna Koutla is a Post-graduate Student at the Royal College of Art

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