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Week 6: From Form to Formlessness (ART718)

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Week Beginning 9th November 2023

This week i explored the terms form and formless and how these terms are used within an art context.

Form refers to:

- Form ● n .1 visible shape or configuration ‣ style, design and arrangement in an artistic work as distinct from

its content.

2.a way in which a thing exists or appears.

philosophy the essential nature of a species of thing, especially (in Plato’s thought) regarded as an abstract ideal which the real things imitate or participate in.

In relation to art the term FORM has two meanings: it can refer to the overall form taken by the work, its physical nature.


A work of art it can refer to the element of shape among the various elements that make up a work.


- Formalism ● n. 1 excessive adherence to prescribed forms.

2 concern or excessive concern with form rather than content in artistic creation.

- FORMALISM refers to the study of art based solely on an analysis of its form, the way it is made and what it looks like being important. Taking colour, texture, line, form, tone and composition into account when analyzing.



1.Having no definite form; shapeless: a formless unicellular organism.

2.Lacking order: formless activity.

3.Having no material existence: a formless void.

Formlessness is a concept, first introduced by French writer- philosopher Georges Bataille, who argued that art should be brought ‘down in the world’ from its elevated status to its base materialism – and that this debased state should be celebrated as a tool for creativity.

"A dictionary begins when it no longer give the meaning of works, but their task. Thus formlessness is not only a adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or earthworm. In fact, for academic men to be happy, the universe would have to take shape. All of philosophy has no other goal: it is a matter of giving a frock coat to what is a mathematical frock coat. On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit"

- Georges Bataille

Bois and Krauss summed up artistic “informe” as comprised of the following four key features: “base materialism”(the work’s material nature- mostly “low” materials ,refuse, or waste– as its

prime identity);“Horizontality”(as the opposition to principles of hierarchy);“pulse”(an imperceptibly slow shake-up of the surface of the work producing an uncanny, even disturbing effect of change);and “entropy”(the degradation of energy leading to disorder and to the disintegration of matter).

Athanassoglou-Kallmyer (2003) “Ugliness”, in Nelson, Shiff (Eds) Critical Terms for Art History, The University of Chicago Press, (p.291)

JeanDubuffet, Olympia, 1950


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