Form / Matter

The Judeao-Christian account of creation is an account of the origin of form, not of matter. "In the beginning..the earth was without form, and void."... The passage deals at length with the origin of order.

 For Aristotle, the generation of each organism was the result of a male formal cause (conveyed by the semen) and a female material cause (the menstrual blood.)(see epigenesis)  cf body / soul.

 The "hylomorphic" model separates a form that organizes matter and a matter prepared for the form.  Gilbert Simondon bases his critique of the hylomorphic model on "the existence, between form and matter, of a zone of medium and intermediary dimension." 

 A formalist concept presupposes a contrast between form and matter. Indeed, without this distinction the absolutization of form makes no sense. "When we look upon the work of art, the means and the materials are forgotten and it is satisfying in itself as form." (Gottfried Semper)

 In The Life of Forms in Art, Henri Focillon argues against the antithesis of form and matter. For him, art is bound to matter, and "unless and until it actually exists in matter, form is little better than a vista of the mind, a mere speculation on space that has been reduced to geometrical intelligibility." (p95) According to Focillon, "matter, even in its most minute details, is always structure and activity, that is to say, form." (p.96) and each kind of matter has a certain "formal vocation." But the life which inhabits matter undergoes a metamorphosis as it becomes a substance of art, and technique is a "whole poetry of action" as a means to achieve metamorphoses.

 Konrad Fiedler described the achievement of classical Greek architecture as the complete intellectualization of all the material elements of building. "We can speak of understanding a Greek building from the great period only when we perceive how the force that strives for a pure expression of form has taken command of every part of the building." ("Observations on Architecture, in Empathy, Form, and Space, p. 134) Still, Fiedler is careful to note that "Form has no existence except in material, and the material, to the mind, is not only the means by which form expresses itself but the medium in which form achieves existence."

 For Heinrich Wölfflin, the force of form (Formkraft ), the opposition between the tendency of matter towards formless collapse and the opposing force of will, life, or whatever, sets the entire organic world in motion and is the principle theme of architecture. 

 For Ferdinand de Saussure, "language is a form and not a substance." (Cours, p.169)

 For Deleuze and Guattari, the distinction between matter and form is characteristic of "Royal Science", the science of a society divided into governors and governed. For nomad science the relevant distinction is material-forces rather than matter-form. Materials for nomad science are not homogenous, and form is not fixed. The singularities or haecceities are already like implicit forms that are topological rather than geometrical, and that combine with the processes of deformation: for example the variable undulations and torsions of the fibers guiding the operation of splitting wood. "energetic materiality in movement" (see Thousand Plateaus, p 408)

 (see transcendent / immanent) (see also natural form)



hypertext city

hypertext city

As a conceptual framework, Hypertext provides a specific means of configuring issues sourrounding the confrontation of cyberspace and the city. It does so by embracing the advent of the electronic realm and the proliferation of networked links while at the same time interpreting these technological transformations as part of the project of writing. More specifically, studies of hypertext have focussed on the history of writing as technology, on the potential for hypertext to change the relationships between reading and writing, to alter the demarcations between the inside and outside of the text, and to change the nature and role of narrative. For its proponents, hypertext is the mode of writing that articulates the sociality of the network, that promises democratization and the empowerment of the individual, and that rearticulates themes that writing and the city have been seen to share: in the construction of memory, in the relation between movement and the subject, and in the production of space through abstraction and narrative. 

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inside / outside

In the early phase of antique art, the pyramid's clearly recognizable and completely detached exterior form, with its suppression of interior space and entry, serves to illustrate the desire to suppress space. Even when space was more practically necessary than in the tomb, the Egyptians were artistically reluctant to create it. Even vast spaces, such as Karnak, were filled with individual columns, and openings in the exterior walls were kept to the barest minimum. 

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For Marc Augé, a non-place comes into existence when human beings do not recognise themselves in it. (see place / identity) Non-places begin with uprootedeness -- uprooted nineteenth century countrymen, migrants, refugees, etc. They provide the "passive joys of identity loss." While anthropological places create the organically social, so non-places create solitary contractuality. (p.94) Thus a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place, and these non-places are the real measure of our time. (pp.77-79) 

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personal space

Here is where I can write in the first person. So this discursive space, at least, can be thought of as personal, as a place of private defintion, grudgingly aware as I may be that my private sphere is socially formed.

Although Phenomenology holds little intellectual appeal these days (its point of view seems naive, its universalizing subjectivity too suspect) I still feel that there should be a place for reporting and sifting through one's own experience. (getting their feel?)

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perspective / narrative

In his study of the relation between the photographic frame and narrative in film, Steven Heath sees filmic narrative as the fulfilment of the Renaissance impetus for events to have their proper place. He quotes Rosalind Krauss' comments on perspective as "the visual correlate of causality that one thing follows the next in space according to rule...perspective space carried with it the meaning of narrative: a succession of events leading up to and away from this moment; and within that temporal succession--given as spatial analogue--was secreted the "meaning" of both that space and those events". (in "A View of Modernism", Artforum, Sept 1972.) cf. Alois Hildebrand, "The Problem of Form in the Fine Arts" with its stress on the coherence of spatial recession. (see vision)

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phase beauty

"A flowering spray of lily-of-the-valley exemplifies a growth gradient, after a simple fashion of its own. Along the stalk the growth-rate falls away; the florets are of descending age, from flower to bud; their graded differences of age lead to an exquisite gradation of size and form; the time-interval between one and another, or the "space-time relation" between them all, gives a peculiar beauty -- we may call it phase beauty - to the whole." 

(D'Arcy Thompson On Growth and Form, page unknown, quoted in Lindenmayer and Prusinkiewicz, "Developmental Models of Multicellular Organisms", Artificial Life 2, p.230) 

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philosophical space

According to Egyptian myth, space only came into being when the god of air, Shu, parted the earth from the sky by stepping between them. The creation of a vast gap between earth and sky was called chaos in Hesiod's Cosmogony. In the Tao Teh Ching, Lao Tzu addressed the role, in fact the superiority of the contained over the container, of the space within, of the immaterial. 

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place / identity

"Find your place, dig in, and defend it." --Gary Snyde

Oliver Sachs describes how his paralyzed leg had "vanished, taking its place with it...The leg had vanished taking its 'past' away with it. I could no longer remember having a leg." (See Oliver Sachs, A Leg to Stand On, New York, 1984,)

More and more of us live in what Edward Said has called a "general condition of homelessness," a world where identities are coming to be deterritorialized, or differently territorialized. In a world of diaspora, transnational culture flows, and mass movements of populations, in which familiar lines between "here" and "there", center and periphery, colony and metropole become blurred.

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psycho-sexual space

In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud warned the reader against the view of the mind as physically spatial. Such an error would be mistaking "the scaffold" for "the building". Yet his "topographical" accounts of the unconsious are thoroughly spatial.

One of the earliest reflexes of a breast-fed newborn is to turn its head towards the person, male or female, who is holding it in the nursing position (that is, in a horizontal position. Later, the baby will stare at the face of the mother unwaveringly during the act of nursing. During this time she feels the nipple in her mouth while at the same time she sees the mother's face. Ren Spitz describes this experience as the origins of the distinction between contact perception (oral tactile) and distance perception, between haptic and optic perception.

The dyad of reciprocal relations between mother and child, between object and subject, are the first form of "object relations," which later become social relations. Karl Abraham invented the term of "object relations" to describe persons or things which mediate instinctual discharge for a given person. Melanie Klein developed the theory in relation to the mother as principal object and used children's play as a basis for understanding their cognition. D.W. Winnecott describes the holding environment, the "potential space" between the baby and the mother that comes into being during the phase of repudiation, when the baby is at a stage of separating out the mother from the self and the mother is lowering the degree of adaptation to the baby's needs. (He also compares this moment to late stages of psychiatric treatment) Confidence in the mother's reliability, and therefore in that of other people and things, makes possible a separating-out of the not-me from the me. The move from dependence to autonomy is achieved by the filling in of the potential space with creative playing, with the use of symbols, and with all that eventually adds up to a cultural life. (Playing and Reality, pp 107-9)

Jessica Benjamin links the intersubjective realm of the holding environment and transitional experience to the experience of inner self, which she sees as enabling the experience of women's desire. ("A Desire of One's Own, in Teresa de Lauretis, ed. Feminist Studies / Critical Studies) see body.

The analysis of the mirror stage accounts for the child's aquisition of notions of spatiality and temporality. (see also ego)For the first time, the child is not absorbed by its environment (both occupying no space at all and being all-pervasive) but is now part of space, taking up a place or location in space. The "buccal" space of the neonate, the space that can be contained in or exploited by the child's mouth, is replaced with the first notion of a binarized space, capable of being divided into real and virtual planes. The virtual duplication of the subject's body, the creation of a symmetry measured from the picture plane, is necessary for these more sophisticated, abstract, and derivative notions of spatiality. (see body image.)The mirror stage is a link between space and representation.

J.-B. Pontalis observed that Charcot's space at the Salpetri re was a full, theatrical space -- which is, in fact, the space of the hysteric -- which Freud replaced with an empty, purely mental space. The analyst sat out of sight of the patient, who reclined on a couch without the presence of any other spectators. ("Between Freud and Charcot: from One Scene to the Other" , in Frontiers in Psychoanalysis)

In "Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia" (first published in Minotaure in 1935 and playing a crucial role in Jacques Lacan's theory of the mirror stage. published in English in October 31, Winter 1984) Roger Caillois talks about "depersonalization by assimilation into space" in both psychosis and animal mimicry. (see bwo) Schizophrenic thought is "adualistic"; lack of ego boundaries makes it impossible to set limits to the process of identification with the environment.

Surrealism and the city as the place of chance (and magical) encounter. "Ce qui me s duit dans une telle mani re de voir, c'est qu'a perte de vue elle est recr atrice de d sir" (Andr Breton, L'Amour Fou) magnetic fields as the actions of desire.


According to the liberal tradition, the modern individual, at home in its private spaces, regards the public as its outside. The outside is the place proper to politics, where the action of the individual is exposed in the presence of others and there seeks recognition. (This is the notion of the political elaborated by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition, which she calls the space of public appearance 
Public space is civic space. It is the space of civil society, shared by citizens -- individuals who have aquired a public voice and understand themselves to be part of a wider community. 

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scientific space

"I do not believe that there exists anything in external bodies for exciting tastes, smells, and sounds, etc. except size, shape, quantity, and motion." (Galileo Galilei, On Motion, p.48) When Galileo proposed his doctrine of subject and object and the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, he established the scientific prejudgement that the concept of space is of something geometrical and not differentiated qualitatively.

Newtonian "absolute space" was based on a realist conception of mathematics (see Jammer p. 95) To Newton, mathematics, particularly geometry, is not a purely hypothetical system of propositions...instead geometry is nothing but a special branch of mechanics. Newton's first law of motion, which links change in motion with force requires an absolute (or inertial?) framework. It requires a distinction between absolute motion and relative motion and links force to a change in absolute motion. For example, as the train pulls away from the station, the station may appear to be moving and it can be said that the station is in relative motion to the train, but the force is acting upon the train, and it is the train that is accelerating absolutely. Newton tried to establish an absolute frame of reference for the universe defined in relation to its center of gravity. (not necessarily identical with the sun) Absolute spatial movement and position could then be measured in relation to that point.

But is geometry an empirical or ideal activity? For Cassirer, the most radical removal of geometry from experience had already occurred with Euclid, which was already based on figures that are removed from all possibility of experiment. Not only the idealizations of point, line, and plane, but the idea of similar triangles, whose differences are considered inconsequential or fortuitous, and that become identified as "the same" mark an immense step away form ordinary perception.

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simple location

"The characteristic common to both space and time is that material can be said to be here in space and here in time, or here in space-time, in a perfectly definite sense which does not require for its explanation any reference to other regions of space-time." (p.49) 

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In Mille Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari distinguish between two kinds of spaces: smooth space and striated space. This distinction coincides with the distinctions they draw between the nomadic and the sedentary, between the space of the war machine and the space of the state appparatus. According to Deleuze and Guattari, smooth space is occupied by intensities and events. It is haptic rather than optic, a vectorial space rather than a metrical one. Smooth space is characteristic of sea, steppe, ice and desert. It is occupied by packs and nomads. It is a texture of "traits" consisting of continuous variation of free action. The characteristic experience of smooth space is short term, up close, with no visual model for points of reference or invariant distances. Instead of the metrical forms of striated space, smooth space is made up of constantly changing orientation of nomads entertaining tactile relations among themselves.

Smooth does not mean homogeneous, however, but rather amorphous non-formal (cf formless) in fact, striation creates homogeneity. Homogeneity is the limit-form of a space striated everywhere and in all directions. According to Deleuze and Guattari, striation is negatively motivated by anxiety in the face of all that passes, flows, or varies and erects the constancy and eternity of an in-itelf. Thus A Thousand Plateaus recounts an "extended confrontation between the smooth and the striated in which the striated progressively took hold."

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space vs time

If Newton reduced the physical, objective, universe and Kant the metaphysical, subjective universe to the categories of space and time, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing performed the same service for the intermediate word of signs and artistic media. (Mitchell, p. 96) Lessing established a basic distinction between the spatial arts (such as painting.) and the temporal arts (such as poetry)-- the means or signs one"using forms and colors in space, the other articulate sounds in time." (Laocoön p.78) For Lessing, "These signs must indisputably bear a suitable relation to the thing signified.". Thus the true subjects of painting are bodies, i.e. objects or parts of objects that exist in space, and the true subjects of poetry are actions, that follow one another.

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social space

"The paranoid person takes up too much social space" (Donna Haraway)

In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre reclaims space as a primarily social problematic. For Lefebvre, the proliferation of this and/or that space, eg. literary space, ideological space, the space of the dream etc. is a general consequence of of the concept of mental space (p.3) through the epistemologico-philosophical thinking of western Logos (in both science and philosophy). (see philosophical space ) Lefebvre unmasks this mode of thought as a powerful ideological tendency, expressing the dominant ideas of the dominant class, through the concept of abstract space.

The very proliferation of descriptions and sectionings of space is for Lefebvre an example of the endless division of labor within present-day society. Lefebvre sees spatial practice as the projection onto a (spatial) field of all aspects, elements and moments of social practice. (p.8) If he uses terms of language or contemporary theory, he is also at pains to recontextualize them as produced by a social subject. For example, he believes that a coded language (of space) may be said to have existed on the practical basis of a specific relationship between town, country and political territory, a language based on classical perspective and Euclidean space, and that that system collapsed in the twentieth century. But, he adds, if spatial codes have existed, each characterizing a particular spatial/social practice, and if these codifications have been produced along with the space corresponding to them, then the job of theory is to elucidate their rise, their role, and their demise. (p.17)

The task is thus a dialectical one, and both things in space and discourse on space do no more than supply clues to this productive process which subsumes signifying processes without being reducible to them. (p. 37) (see also representation)

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The Greek word topos meant literally a place, and ancient rhetoric used the word to refer to commonplaces, conventional units, or methods of thought. For the Ancients, particularly for Aristotle, topoi were rubrics with a logical or rhetorical value from which the premisses of argument derive. In the Renaissance, topics became headings that could be used to organize any field of knowledge. 

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