Products of Reflection: a practice that discloses the design potential of circumstantial phenomena by Jason Parmington

Examination via exhibit and dissertation

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This research project elaborates my creative interest in circumstantial phenomenal form generated through the design and use of objects. These phenomena are extraneous or incidental qualities generated in an object or product’s interaction with its circumstance; they don’t appear to belong or align to the object. Such circumstantial phenomena are frequently extraordinary in their form and complexity, but their subtle and contingent character push them to the periphery of awareness and design consideration. If acknowledged, they are deemed inconsequential, either out of practical necessity or due to (pre)conceptions of what constitutes and distinguishes the designed object. The project sets aside assumptions of extraneity and treats circumstantial phenomena as objects of investigation and design. It addresses the question of how consideration of these phenomena might expand a design practice. It speculates that unrealized creative dimensions can be derived from attending to circumstantial effects: unacknowledged dimensions of the objects that populate the designed environment, and unrealized capacities of a design practice that is drawn to these phenomena.

The research examines and elaborates form produced by refraction and reflection phenomena. These are explored in a process of making and generative experimentation, which increasingly pursues subsequent circumstantial results. The experiments comprise a series of installation works and design propositions that use reflection effects as a medium of design and construction. Together, they reveal the phenomenal form-making potential of mirror polished materials, objects, and products.

An alternative way of interpreting and expanding my design practice develops. Circumstance emerges as an autopoietic resource. Circumstantial phenomena, rather than extraneous and inconsequential, are revealed as expressing immanent capacities of objects in their engagement with their surrounds and other objects. They thereby offer new perspectives on the products of experimentation and design intentions. Consideration of these phenomena extends an inclination in my design practice to activate new possibilities with materials at-hand, by including the circumstantial phenomena at-hand. Acknowledging and activating circumstantial phenomena provides a means to generate unanticipated and innovative outcomes.


Examiners: Dr Leslie Eastman, Prof Lawrence Wallen Supervisors: Dr Malte Wagenfeld, Dr Ross McLeod

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