Finitude, Possibility, Dimensionality: Aesthetics After Complexity

Paganelli, Mattia (2017) Finitude, Possibility, Dimensionality: Aesthetics After Complexity. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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This thesis proposes a reconceptualisation of aesthetics moving from the irreversibility of emergence as described by the theory of complexity. Existing aesthetic platforms reflect a binary ontology that perpetuates the oppositions of concept and object or discourse and practice, thus projecting aesthetics as a contingent surface. The metaphysical split of material and immaterial is therefore maintained as the ultimate structure of sense and the sensual is still represented as the other of reason. This produces a dichotomy where art is either identified with a medium or a technology or is approached as a hermeneutical exercise that anesthetises its poetic modes of operation, thereby drifting towards visual communication.

The thesis turns to complexity theory for an alternative ontological approach that can overcome the need for such metaphysical a priori structures. Indeed, complexity offers forms of coherence that install sense locally and heterogeneously, without the possibility of universalisation. This recasts aesthetics as a cohesive surface or genetic logic, rather than mere phenomenological appearance as the image of an object or the body of a concept.

Thus, the thesis exhorts not to seek or think the ultimate, but to dwell in the finite pattern of possibility laid out by the radical irreducibility of the processes of emergence. In this light, the relation of concept and object can be re-thought as a continuum; a rhizomatic pattern of organisation that, however, no longer relies on the transcendental move adopted by Deleuze, or on Heidegger’s infamous leap out of metaphysics. In fact, the thesis shows that metaphysics is not the purveyor of dimensions, but is itself a dimension of thought.

Hence, the move towards Prigogine, Stengers, Barad, and Golding in order to re-articulate the structure that supports sense as the local interference of continua, or ontological segments, rather than external coordinates. This radical materialism or dimensionality names a regime beyond transcendence and immanence where aesthetics is inseparable from ontology and offers a wholly different way to think and practice art - one best understood as diffraction.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: This thesis would never have happened without the support of my director of studies, Professor Johnny Golding, who not only trusted that my initial curiosity could develop into an analytical argument but also taught me how rigour and imagination are equally necessary for thinking. She is a generous teacher who offers intellectual stimulation as well as human encouragement. I would also like to thank Dr Steve Kennedy and David Cheeseman, my second supervisors, for their suggestions and insightful comments during the research. I owe a great deal to Ajamu, Alberto, Barnaby, Dane, Emily, Grace, Guy, Jakub, Lauren, Mark, Sarah, Simon, Stuart and the other researchers at the Centre for Fine Art Research at the Birmingham School of Art, with whom I shared this journey, for their friendship and essential dose of humour. They helped to create a place where the most daring questions could feel at home. I am particularly indebted to Tabitha for her patience during the long months of writing the thesis and for her invaluable help with proofreading the manuscript. Lastly, this research would not have been possible without the funding provided by the Art and Humanities Research Council to whom I am very grateful.
5 June 2017Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aesthetics, Complexity, Finitude, Matter, Roughness
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2019 13:41
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:50

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