Julijonas Urbonas

GRAVITATIONAL AESTHETICS: an exploration of the interplay between gravity, aesthetics and technologies

PhD research project synopsis
Gravity impacts upon us — our physical and intellectual selves — to such an extent that it is unimaginable that we could have evolved the way we have without it. Today, because gravity is no longer inexorably tied to evolution, we create and enjoy a myriad of gravity-related activities. Most of them provide unprecedented forms of perception and accompanying aesthetic qualities due to the fact that today the state of gravity can be altered in unseen ways, for example: robotic roller coasters, powered exoskeletons, orbiting satellites, and even muscular fatigue blockers. They not only give rise to new types of locomotion and perception, but also a wholly original and largely unstudied bodily-perceived aesthetics. 
How might the study of gravity’s impact form an original aesthetic approach?
Responding to gravity’s aesthetic potential, the study aims to construct a specific design paradigm by investigating – through making, experimenting, and writing — gravity’s impact upon our perception, our bodily senses, technological development, and the aesthetic possibilities that gravity allows us to imagine. This project is all the more pressing in a time when the body – the very product of gravity — is under threat from new technologies (e.g. telecommunications cause sedentary lifestyles, while visual technologies replace direct bodily experiences). Although focused on design, due to the pervasiveness of gravity’s impact, the study also informs other creative disciplines, especially those of arts and architecture, or for example, how to negotiate gravity and engage the body in new aesthetic ways.
As to methodology, it is interdisciplinary in order to satisfy the demands of multi-topical nature of the research. Drawing on embodied philosophy, philosophy of technology, choreography, gravitational biology, and physics, the study integrates textual, practical and experiential research processes. Together with traditional methods such as analyzing literature and consulting with experts, alternative approaches are used. For instance: tangible rhetoric (designing physical prototypes) is used for provoking and testing ideas and facilitating communication of research; experiential methods (attending and experiencing “motion-led” activities, e.g., dance performances, thrill rides) are used to inspire and improve tacit knowledge; and choreographic heuristics (performative experiments using one’s own body as a medium, e.g., bodystorming) are being used to sketch and test ideas. Acknowledging the fundamental types of interaction with gravity — resisting, giving in and escaping — the thesis is structured in three parts: Standing, Falling, and Levitating.

Emancipation Kit
Euthanasia Coaster