Form & Formlessness : Questioning aesthetic abstractions through art projects, cross-disciplinary studies and product design education

Abstract: This research is based on empirical, embodied studies aimed to generate and regenerate aesthetic reasoning through three approaches:an educational approach concerned with developing an aesthetic discipline, supporting a formgiving process aimed to create tangible art-based approach supporting an open exploration of distortion and formlessnessa multi-disciplinary exploratory approach concerned with aesthetic experiences shared in laborations demonstrating complexity and transformation. The overall aim of the thesis is to explore different types of aesthetic abstractions that elaborate aesthetic reasoning about form and formlessness. The thesis develops methods and models for aesthetic investigation that support, challenge and go beyond the normative conceptions of beauty, with high relevance for teaching 3-D formgiving aesthetics and research by design methodologies. A central method applied throughout the entire research project is a cooperative inquiry method engaging students and experienced professionals as co-researchers in embodied/ interactive physical form studies and laborations. The content of the thesis is presented in three parts relating to the approaches above: -Part 1 defines an aesthetic nomenclature organized within a taxonomy of form in space. This aesthetic taxonomy is outlined in five levels based on essential aesthetic abstractions, emphasizing structure and inner movement in relation to the intention for the development of a gestalt. It originates from the educational program of Alexander Kostellow and Rowena Reed and has been further developed through an iterative educational process using a Concept-translation-form method, resulting in the Evolution of Form (EoF)-model. This EoF-model reciprocally weaves together geometric structures and organic principles into a sequence of seven-stages. To question the normative principles of beauty inherent in the EoF-model, a bipolar +/- spectrum was introduced at each stage to expand the model, aiming for a more inclusive approach to aesthetics. -Part 2, both challenges and expands the aesthetic reasoning in part 1 through i) solo sculptural exhibitions exploring properties of distortion and transparency in a constructivist art community ii) collaborative projects with physicists concerning infinity and studies of continuous complex curvatures and iii) explorative studies of material breakdown and non-visual studies with ID masters students at Konstfack. - Part 3 problematizes the taxonomy of form by applying methods and results from a cross-disciplinary study of complexity and transformation involving artists, physicists, designers and architects. The three year study explored temporal events of changing phenomena and formlessness that did not comply with any traditional aesthetic norms. Based on the experience from 12 laborations, three models were developed: The Transformation-model and Framing the dialogue-model were developed to physically interact with as well as to document and discuss change and transformation through bipolar reasoning. The Aesthetic phase transition-model was developed to capture the particular properties expressed in a transformation and unify stable objects with changing events.   In conclusion, the thesis claims the value of an inclusive aesthetic mode of abstract reasoning in the scientific and design communities.  A provisional 3 modes of abstraction-model is presented placing numeric, linguistic and aesthetic modes of abstraction as interdependent within a spectrum from separation to contextualization.