Doctoral thesis defense of Ianis Lallemand

Matière en acte : les rapports entre conception et matérialité dans la production matérielle numérique

Thesis presented by Ianis Lallemand (SACRe – PSL / EnsadLab).
Directed by Antoine Picon and Samuel Bianchini.

December 5, 2017

Thesis summary

Recent developments in digital fabrication practices across the fields of art, architecture and design have inspired the notion of a “new materiality” — a rethinking of our relationship to the physical world in light of the ever-increasing convergence between robotics, computation and materials science. Yet, the very use of computer-controlled machinery remains, more often than not, envisioned in terms of a passive understanding of matter. This thesis aims at offering an updated vision of the relationship between materiality and design, by developing new production schemes allowing for an expression of material agency. Criticizing the traditional idea of a prescriptive, deterministic link between design and fabrication, the proposed argument reframes authority as a shared resource, spread through a network of productive and autonomous agents. The thesis’ main outcomes consist in a set of practical methodologies as well as an encompassing conceptual framework, which may both be reinvested by other practitioners. Informed by and grounded in practice, the research builds on five experiments, adopting a prospective approach towards programming and digital fabrication. Drawing on authors like Gilbert Simondon and Andrew Pickering, the accompanying conceptualization allows for a reflexive discussion of the thesis’ practical developments, while situating them in respect to such historical precedents as non standard production and cybernetics.