De-Phasing Infrastructure: On the Techno–Aesthetic Interval in Gilbert Simondon’s Objet Technique


Session Title:

  • Art, Materiality, Space and Time

Presentation Title:

  • De-Phasing Infrastructure: On the Techno–Aesthetic Interval in Gilbert Simondon’s Objet Technique




  • Among the canon of mid-century thinkers concerned with the question of technology, French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924 – 1989) presents a unique body of investigation. His work ruminates through a careful, painstaking, if not obsessive reflection on what he terms as the “technical object”. A broad and complex compilation of the artifacts of technology, that embodies its genealogy of concretization: the moments of clarification or “individuation”, cultural and technical, that allow the object to momentarily define its own world of operation as a unique and authentic artifact. Simondon takes unprecedented care and rigor in unfolding the slow, and often accidental evolution of specific technologies through a philosophical dialogue spoken only through the specific constraints of the corpus of the machine itself. The most notorious is his painstaking and minute description of the material and mechanical transformations in the evolution of the cathode ray tube in his seminal work “Sur la Mode de L’existence de L’object technique”. A radical, technical, hermeneutic, if you will, of the embedded technologies that underpin the infrastructure that surrounds us.   Behind the seemingly disparate collection of highly detailed technical objects that fill the pages of “Sur la Mode de L’existence de L’object Technique”, there is an intentional and profoundly poetic strategy. Each of Simondon’s objects punctuate a dense collective of interconnected technologies, but as well as a specifically targeted philosophical critique of the phenomenological model. The mode of conduct often implies a transformative departure from the discreet physicality of the construct to the energetic flux of the thermal, phasic, electromagnetic, and even the sonic. It is here that Simondon reveals a profound possibility for phenomenological revelation of within the technical domain. To perceive the immaterial, we must introduce an order of technical objects that draw the flux from the perceptual background. The act of distinguishing from the “fond”, and the instruments that allow for this possibility reside in the domain of the techno – aesthetic. A meta static condition where device can be at once a utilitarian tool, or an instrument of creation. Thus opening the possibility of an artistic engagement with the hidden infrastructure that underlies and circumscribes our lived environment. This paper will discuss the phenomenon between Simondon’s technical objects and the opportunity it addresses for both technology and electronic art practices.