Material, shape and spaghetti

Since Aristotle, the possibility of knowledge is determined by the relationship between matter (hylê) and form (morphê). This hylemorphic theory responds to Platonic idealism and the metaphysics of eleates (Parmenides). With hylemorphism, knowledge becomes possible in the material world through form and becoming intelligible through the possible state of matter which is a form not yet realized.

The consequences of hylemorphism, as the separation of form and matter, have been widely criticized by Gilbert Simondon in the first chapter of individuation in the light of notions of form and information by exploring the taking of form in a mold. It is important to stress here that traditionally matter appears to have to be formed. If it is formless then it is unintelligible and appears as a frightening power, because overflowing (the flow as matter prior to the stabilized form). The form, which can be natural or technical, allows perception and differs from a background and is in this sense recognizable. On the one hand matter appears as something potentially chaotic on the other hand the form makes it possible to understand natural laws or human intentions. The passage from one to the other seems assured in advance, because there would be no matter without form. Their distinction would therefore be more theoretical than empirical.

For 46 hours, the machine had been printing. I open the door of my workshop, one of the arms has fallen off, the white material flows along the platform, the print head has fallen. We call spaghetti (, those filaments that have not been properly deposited to create a shape. We expected a form, we have something unusable, but what is remarkable with these spaghetti is their very great homogeneity as if the formless was similar and therefore was a certain form that we will name the detritus. A phenomenological analysis of how 3D printing works shows that it is in fact a drawing machine whose accumulation of drawings produces a three-dimensional shape. It is this leafing of drawings that gives the definition to the form. What’s going on with this incident? Are spaghetti just another form? The recognition of form is overdetermined by an expectation which, in the technical framework, resides in its function, that is, in the adequacy between the material, formal, final and efficient causes. It is the intention that coordinates the other 3 causes by bringing them together in a coherent project.

If matter does not take shape according to will, then detritus appears. This is not a particular case of our world, it is omnipresent because it is what any technical form becomes as it is thrown away (and they all are at one time or another). The detritus then returns to the Earth, it is buried and by this very means it returns to the material: the PLA used in 3D printing, before being formed as a wire, comes from a long process of geological formation. It is polylactic acid, most often derived from corn starch.

Behind the technical formation that tries to conceal matter, lies matter that continues in an underlying way to develop: the more stable forms we produce, the more detritus we produce. Form is a temporary state of matter insofar as it is subordinated to instrumentality which embodies a formative will. Matter persists, from form to form, and transcends human apprehension while implicitly structuring it through and through. It is perhaps to this other acquaintance, who would neither repress the foolish nor inform him, to whom the works of art invite us.