“Transverse Temporal Gyrus” by Animal Collective and Danny Perez

"Tranverse Temporal Gyrus" performance

“Neither live concert nor art exhibit, Transverse Temporal Gyrus is a site-specific sonic installation featuring Baltimore-hailing band Animal Collective and experimental artist Danny Perez as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Through sound and video projection, the environment of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building becomes psychedelic, distorted and luminous, all designed to pique the senses. Band members and performers used props and costumes to add to the ambiance of the looping pre-recorded music. “The core elements and colors are worked into the piece in order to unite this room of sound with the inside of your brain,” asserted Animal Collective.” 1.

“This performance piece transformed the museum’s rotunda into a kinetic, psycheVisitirs exploring the space, letting 
themselves immergedelic environment. Transverse Temporal Gyrus featured original recorded music composed specifically for the event along with video projections, costumes, and props, rendering the band members and performers into intense, visual abstractions. During the evening, guests were invited to freely explore the space in order to fully immerse themselves in the environment created by Animal Collective and Danny Perez.” (2.) As in The Weather Project, the audience allowed themselves to be immersed, fully surrendering to the psychedelic environment.

This work shows resemblence to Beatles Electroniques in conjuntion of pop music with art and video. Laurie Anderson’s performances like Mister Heartbreak resemble Tranverse Temporal Gyrus even more, as the actual band or artist joins sonic, visual, and performative elements into a unified, integrated whole. Both Animal Collective and Laurie Anderson succesfully combined art and avant-garde pop music in a way that appealed to a relatively broad audience.

The collaboration between musician and artist bridges the communication gap that exists between art and its potential audience. In Toward a Third Culture: Being in Between, Victoria Vesna argues that artists, natural scientists and literary intellectuals should work together to gain an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect that facilitates development (AEM 275). However, the problem of scarcely reaching a broader audience is overlooked in Vesna’s writing. Luckily, Animal Collective and Danny Perez provide us with a solution; experimental electronic visual art and pop musical artists can successfully join forces to significant acclaim in both large concert halls and museums.

Another band that is linked to the New York art-scene is Yeasayer, their video for Ambling Alp shows us where Animal Collective and Danny Perez got some of their inspiration. Yeasayer also performed at the Gugenheim NY.

1. Source: www.coolhunting.com

2. Source: www.guggenheim.org/new-york

‘The Race’ – Ryerson University Film Festival (RUFF)

The Ryerson University Film Festival (“RUFF”) is an annual public showcase of thesis works produced by graduating film students at the School of Image Arts in Toronto. RUFF gains momentum every year, selling out seats and propelling student films to festivals all over the country and the world. The event is truly becoming a hallmark of Toronto’s film community. (http://www.ryerson.ca/)

Kenneth Knowlton’s essay, “Computeranimated movies” (1984, AEM, p 202) applies to this video: ‘Computer produced movies are playing an increasing role in technical education and research.’

“The Race,” part of RUFF 2009, is an example of a computer-produced movie. The differences between the ‘real world’ and the computer-animated are hard to get. There is a convergence world of the pfotogrphic image and the computer-animated world going on.

Also we read on the same page ‘Geoffrey Batchen’ Phantasm-Digital Language and the death of photography:

‘The first is an effect of the widespread introduction of computerdriven imaging processes that allow ‘fake’ photographs to be pased off ass real ones.’

We are entering a new revolution in image, with the remediation of the photographic and cinematic image.


Since January 1990, ArtFutura, the festival of Digital Culture and Creativity of reference in Spain, has explored the most interesting projects and ideas that have come up on the international panorama of new media, interactive design, videogames and digital animation.

Its activities include conferences, workshops, interactive installations, exhibitions and live performances.

Among the festival’s participants in previous editions: William Gibson, Theo Jansen, Toshio IwaiLaurie Anderson, Hiroshi Ishii, Paul Friedlander, Moebius, David Byrne, Masaya Matsuura, Howard Rheingold, Timothy Leary, Tomato, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Rebecca Allen, Ryota Kuwakubo, Mariscal, Orlan, Stelarc, Yoichiro Kawaguchi, Brian Eno, Karl Sims, Marcel.lí Antúnez, Arthur Kroker, Xeni Jardin and many others.
Also, organizations and companies such as Ars Electronica, Blast Theory, UVA, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Digital Domain, SAT Montreal, Amorphic Robot Works or the MIT Media Lab.

What is more, the GaleríaFutura division is promoting the more exhibitable aspects of new digital creativity. Among its projects there’s the large-scale exhibition “SoulsandMachines” at the Museo Nacional Reina Sofía in 2008.

Throughout these years, ArtFutura has shown how, at the beginning of this new millennium, art and science are following parallel paths more than ever. It is now impossible to understand art separated from new media, Internet and digital technology.


Cybernetic Serendipity – Press Release and Poster


Press Release for the exhibit curated by Jasia Reichardt at the ICA London August 2nd to October 20th, 1968:

«Cybernetics – derives from the Greek «kybernetes» meaning «steersman»; our word «governor» comes from the Latin version of the same word. The term cybernetics was first used by Norbert Wiener around 1948. In 1948 his book «Cybernetics» was subtitled «communication and control in animal and machine.» The term today refers to systems of communication and control in complex electronic devices like computers, which have very definite similarities with the processes of communication and control in the human nervous system. A cybernetic device responds to stimulus from outside and in turn affects external environment, like a thermostat which responds to the coldness of a room by switching on the heating and thereby altering the temperature. This process is called feedback. Exhibits in the show are either produced with a cybernetic device (computer) or are cybernetic devices in themselves. They react to something in the environment, either human or machine, and in response produce either sound, light or movement. Serendipity – was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. There was a legend about three princes of Serendip (old name for Ceylon) who used to travel throughout the world and whatever was their aim or whatever they looked for, they always found something very much better. Walpole used the term serendipity to describe the faculty of making happy chance discoveries. Through the use of cybernetic devides to make graphics, film and poems, as well as other randomising machines which interactc with the spectator, many happy discoveries were made. Hence the title of this show.»

Retrospective statement by the curator, Jasia Reichardt, 2005:

«One of the journals dealing with the Computer and the Arts in the mid-sixties, was Computers and the Humanities. In September 1967, Leslie Mezei of the University of Toronto, opened his article on «Computers and the Visual Arts» in the September issue, as follows: «Although there is much interest in applying the computer to various areas of the visual arts, few real accomplishments have been recorded so far. Two of the causes for this lack of progress are technical difficulty of processing two-dimensional images and the complexity and expense of the equipment and the software. Still the current explosive growth in computer graphics and automatic picture processing technology are likely to have dramatic effects in this area in the next few years.» The development of picture processing technology took longer than Mezei had anticipated, partly because both the hardware and the software continued to be expensive. He also pointed out that most of the pictures in existence in 1967 were produced mainly as a hobby and he discussed the work of Michael Noll, Charles Csuri, Jack Citron, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, and H.P. Paterson. All these names are familiar to us today as the pioneers of computer art history. Mezei himself too was a computer artist and produced series of images using maple leaf design and other national Canadian themes. Most of the computer art in 1967 was made with mechanical computer plotters, on CRT displays with a light pen or from scanned photographs. Mathematical equations that produced curves, lines or dots, and techniques to introduce randomness, all played their part in those early pictures. Art made with these techniques was instantaneously recognisable as having been produced either by mechanical means or with a program. It didn't actually look as if it had been done by hand. Then, and even now, most art made with the computer carries an indelible computer signature. The possibility of computer poetry and art was first mentioned in 1949. By the beginning of the 1950s it was a topic of conversation at universities and scientific establishments, and by the time computer graphics arrived on the scene, the artists were scientists, engineers, architects. Computer graphics were exhibited for the first time in 1965 in Germany and in America. 1965 was also the year when plans were laid for a show that later came to be called «Cybernetic Serendipity,» and presented at the ICA in London in 1968. It was the first exhibition to attempt to demonstrate all aspects of computer-aided creative activity: art, music, poetry, dance, sculpture, animation. The principal idea was to examine the role of cybernetics in contemporary arts. The exhibition included robots, poetry, music and painting machines, as well as all sorts of works where chance was an important ingredient. It was an intellectual exercise that became a spectacular exhibition in the summer of 1968.

[…]Cybernetic Serendipity has a reputation as being the first computer art exhibition. It was not. There had been computer art exhibitions earlier in Germany and America. More crucially perhaps, Cybernetic Serendipity was, just as its title suggests, about cybernetics – ‘control and communication in the animal and machine’.[…]

‘Cybernetic Serendipity deals with possibilities rather than achievements, and in this sense it is prematurely optimistic. There are no heroic claims to be made because computers have so far neither revolutionized music, nor art, nor poetry, in the same way that they have revolutionized science’.

Download the complete document

Source: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/exhibitions/serendipity/images/4/


Ecce Homology

ecce homology [1]

“The art was created by in silico v1.0 —a group of molecular biologists, software developers, computer graphics designers, and visual artists. Ruth West, a lecturer and media artist at the University of California, Los Angeles, led the team

Inspired by the sequencing of the human genome and the rice genome, artists and scientists have created Ecce Homology, an interactive art installation that transforms genomic data into unique visual compositions. The work is on display at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles, California.

Visitors to the work become part of a huge projection. By moving their bodies slowly in the gallery, they create visual projections, or “pictograms,” that represent either a human gene or a rice gene that helps break starch down into carbon dioxide.

The pictograms are metaphors for the cycling of energy and the unity of life, according to the artists. The work represents artistically the process by which scientists search DNA databases to find similar genes in different species. The search tool is called “BLAST” (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool).” [2]

[1] http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/gnn_images/news_content/11_03/homology/ecce_homology_2_420kb_400.jpg

[2] http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/11_03/genomic_pictograms.shtml

To watch the video and for more information please visit  http://www.viewingspace.com/eccehomology.html


Noplace In September 2008 Tate launched Noplace Online as a part of Tate’s Intermedia series. Noplace Online is a companion piece of Noplace the net art installation produced by Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg who work together since 1997 under the name MW2MW. Noplace is a sequence of physical and online art installations that explore utopian visions. The museum installation includes several screens of different utopian visions, while the Internet version offers viewers the chance to create content online. Online, individuals get the opportunity to generate personalized visions of utopia by reusing uploaded raw material from the Internet, like images, sounds and text. With the Noplace creation software viewers can input a desire or goal by filling in a few words about a place that has not yet exist. Subsequently images are taken from Flickr.com, that have been tagged by the visitor’s words, and are placed together in a video that afterwards can be played an embedded on the web. In order to create new works Noplace reuses material uploaded under the Creative Commons licence.

Noplace installation Noplace online consists out of a remix culture, through its interactive webpage, different individuals from around the world get the chance to create and share videos. Lessig refers to the artists as creative commons. Noplace is linked to Flickr; viewers fill in words and these words are linked to the tagged pictures. Subsequently these pictures are turned into a video. But how interactive does this make Noplace? Compared to the subjects on Youtube, who create their video from beginning till end, the subject on Noplace only has to fill in words. Why is Noplace considered net.art in contrast to a site like Youtube?  For that matter, doesn’t this site – the Art and Electronic Media Online Companion – offer users more opportunities to create their own content than Noplace?  Does that make it art, too?



WGBH, Fred Barzyk/New Television Workshop

“The New Television Workshop originated at WGBH, a public broadcasting station in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1974 to support the creation and development of experimental video art. This experimental programming included dance, drama, music, performance and visual arts on video and
film. As early as 1968, WGBH was committed to the development of video art through residency programs, with artists such as Nam June Paik. Many of these early works (pre-1974) were broadcast both locally and nationally.” [1]

[1] http://main.wgbh.org/wgbh/NTW/FA/COLL/New1.HTML

The Art and Technology programme (A&T)


“In 1966, Maurice Tuchman, curator of modern art at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California, introduced the
Art and Technology (A&T) program. The mandate of this project,
which was peripheral to the museum’s activities, was to promote an
exchange between artists and the corporate world.

Tuchman and his colleague, curator Jane Livingston, set out to pair
artists and companies in the most advantageous manner. After overseeing
the project’s logistics, they supervised its material achievement. In
addition, certain works produced in conjunction with the program were
presented at the American pavilion during the 1970 Osaka World
Exposition and at LACMA the same year.Tuchman and his colleague, curator Jane Livingston, set out to pair
artists and companies in the most advantageous manner. After overseeing
the project’s logistics, they supervised its material achievement. In
addition, certain works produced in conjunction with the program were
presented at the American pavilion during the 1970 Osaka World
Exposition and at LACMA the same year.” [1]

[1] http://www.fondation-langlois.org/html/e/page.php?NumPage=706

Tony de Peltrie

Tony de Peltrie[1]

“In the mid 80’s, four kids barely out of school directed Tony de Peltrie, a computer-animated short that took the animation world by storm and revolutionized the film industry.

Produced by Pierre Lachapelle, and directed by Lachapelle, Philippe Bergeron, Pierre Robidoux and Daniel Langlois, Tony de Peltrie premiered as the closing film of Siggraph’85 – the largest computer animation festival in the world.

the lights dimmed, and Tony’s wonderfully sad eyes first appeared on
the screen, the stunned audience fell silent. They were witnessing
history. For the first time, a computer-animated human character was
expressing emotions.” [2]

[1] http://sophia.javeriana.edu.co/~ochavarr/computer_graphics_history/historia/images/image039.jpg

[2] http://www.adventuresinanimation.com/TonydePeltrie_.htm

Daniel Langlois Foundation


“The Daniel Langlois
Foundation (established in 1997) is a private non-profit organisation
whose purpose is to further artistic and scientific knowledge by
fostering the meeting of art and science in the field of technologies.
The Foundation seeks to nurture a critical awareness of technology’s
implications for human beings and their natural and cultural
environments, and to promote the exploration of aesthetics suited to
evolving human environments.

The Daniel Langlois Foundation is interested in contemporary artistic practices that use
digital technologies to express aesthetic and critical forms of discourse. The Foundation also encourages interdisciplinary research and, in general, sustains the development of projects calling for co-operation between people from a variety of fields, such as artists, scientists, technologists and engineers. It also renders public the results of research supported by its programs.” [2]


[1]: http://www.canadacouncil.ca/NR/rdonlyres/1817B437-7E08-4E2E-8D50-0D76347D2BCF/0/MontrealMuseum_vig.jpg

[2]: http://www.incca.org/links/77-media-art/146-daniel-langlois-foundation



“ISEA is a non-profit international organization whose membership and
collaborators consists of a wide range of individuals and institutions
involved in the creative, theoretical and technological aspects of
electronic arts.

The series of symposia known as the International Symposium on Electronic
Art was initiated in 1988 in order to support the founding and maintenance
of an international network of organizations and individuals active
in the field of the electronic arts.
This network has taken the shape of an association, founded in 1990
in The Netherlands, called the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts

The Board and membership of ISEA have always been international, bringing
together individuals and organizations from around the world. From
the founding of ISEA until 1996, the organization was based in the
Netherlands. From 1996 to 2001, ISEA moved the headquarters to Montréal,
Quebec, Canada. Since 2001 it is once again headquartered in The Netherlands.

The Inter-Society has as part of its mandate the obligation to oversee
the organization of the symposia in each selected city. It assures
the continuity of symposia identity and quality, and works closely
with the Host Organization.The symposia have been held as both a
and annual event. In 1998, the symposium returned to the biennial
format for ten years. It is now held annually. In 2009 ISEA was changed
from an association to a foundation in order to better serve its
mission. It is currently seeking to establish a headquarters at the
University of Brighton in the U.K.”[2]

[1] http://www.isea2010ruhr.org/files/img/mediaart/akzente_2.jpg

[2] http://www.isea-web.org/eng/about.html



a cultural institution, the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe
holds a unique position worldwide. It responds to the rapid
developments in information technology as well as the changing social
structures. Production and research, exhibitions, symposia, concerts
and events as well as documentation all take place in one place. Thus,
the ZKM is regarded as a leading center linking art and digital
Founded in 1989 the ZKM moved in the impressive building of a former
ammunition factory by 1997.

ZKM | Institute for Music und Acoustics combines artistic work with
research and development and is therefore an international forum for
international discourse and exchange. By holding concerts, symposia and
festivals on a regular basis it brings together composers, musicians,
musicologists, music software developers and listeners interested in
contemporary music.” [2]

[1] http://container.zkm.de/musik/bilder/kubus_nachts_seite.jpg

[2] http://on1.zkm.de/zkm/e/institute/musik/Institut

The Friendly Grey Computer-Star Gauge Model 54

“Edward Kienholz makes an irreverent visual joke out of his Friendly Grey Computer. The instructions read: “If you know your computer well, you can tell when it’s tired and blue. Turn rocker switch on for ten or 20 minutes. Your computer will love it and work all the harder for you.” [1]

Included in the exhibition, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, curated by Pontus Hultén at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968. 

Aluminum painted rocking chair, metal case, instrument boxes with
dials, plastic case containing yellow and blue lights, panel with
numbers, bell, “rocker switch”, pack of index cards, directions for
operation, light switch, telephone receiver, motor, and doll’s legs, 40
x 39 1/8 x 24 1/2″ (101.3 x 99.2 x 62.1 cm), on aluminum sheet 48 1/8 x
36″ (122 x 91.5 cm).

[1] “Love, Hate & the Machine,” Time Magazine (review of The Machine exhibition), 1968.  Link in AEM Companion.

Love, Hate & The Machine (Review of Machine exhibition at MOMA, 1968)

“To the ancients, wind and sun, sea and forest grove seemed to be informed by inscrutable spirits to whom, in awe and propitiation, they gave human personality and shape. To modern man, the mechanized gadgets that his own brain has spawned also seem to have cantankerous lives of their own. What adult American has not swatted a flickering TV set? Or made an uneasy joke about the day when the computer tries to take over?”

Last week “The Machine,” a ten-week-long exhibit of 220 works detailing the myriad ways in which artists have viewed the mysterious powers that inhabit cogs, gears and transistors, opened at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art.* The exhibit (see color pages) was put together by K. G. Pontus Hulten, 44, who as director of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet staged one of the first kinetic art shows back in 1961.

Hulten’s exhibit has plenty of jiggling junk sculptures and blithely bleeping electronic marvels. But it also demonstrates that the artist’s love-hate relationship with the machine has a long history. Oldest items on display are Leonardo’s drawings for a helicopter and a parachute. Newest are nine works selected by Hulten from entries to a contest sponsored by Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), an organization that strives to bring artists and technologists together.”

Excerpt from TIME Magazine staff review of the exhibition, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, curated by K.G. Pontus Hultén at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MOMA) in 1968. Image is the metal cover to the exhibition catalog.

Full article: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,844659-1,00.html

Interview with Charlotte Moormann

Charlotte Moorman talks about how she met her long time artistic partner Nam June Paik. The details of the establishment and presentation of the 1964 premier performance of Stockhausen’s “Originale” in New York is described in very funny detail. She tells about George Maciunas (Fluxus) picketing the performance. Filmed in 1980 under a grant from the National Endowment for the arts. It is an excerpt from the work Charlotte Moorman and the New York Avant Garde.

Software exhibition documentation

 Information technology: its new meaning for art
  • [img src]:Edward A. Shanken, “Art and Electronic Media”,p.185 
“In 1970, artist and writer Jack Burnham curated the exhibition ‘Software – Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art’ at the Jewish Museum in New York. The first major US art and technology exhibition that attempted to utilize a computer in a museum context, ‘Software’ expressed technological ambitions that were matched by Burnham’s conceptually sophisticated vision.”[1]
  • Jack Burnham, Curator’s statement from Software exhibition catalog,Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art,New York: Jewish Museum, 1970.
  • The publication of the catalogue followed the presentation of the exhibition at the Jewish Museum, which is organised by Jack Burnham.
  • Link to documentation of selected projects in Software (.pdf)

[1] Edward A. Shanken, “Art and Electronic Media”,p.185 

Systems Esthetics

“In 1970, artist and writer Jack Burnham curated the exhibition ‘Software – Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art‘ at the Jewish Museum in New York. The first major US art and technology exhibition that attempted to utilize a computer in a museum context, ‘Software’ expressed technological ambitions that were matched by Burnham’s conceptually sophisticated vision. Building on ideas the curator developed in essays such as ‘Systems Esthetics’ (1968) and ‘The Aesthetics of Intelligent Systems’ (1970).”

– Edward A. Shanken, Art and Electronic Media, p.185.

Full essay, reprinted from Artforum 7(September, 1968), copied from http://www.arts.ucsb.edu/faculty/jevbratt/readings/burnham_se.html

 Systems Esthetics

A polarity is presently developing between the finite, unique work of high art, that is, painting or sculpture, and conceptions that can loosely be termed unobjects, these being either environments or artifacts that resist prevailing critical analysis. This includes works by some primary sculptors (though 0 some may reject the charge of creating environments), some gallery kinetic and luminous art, some outdoor works, happenings, and mixed media presentations. Looming below the surface of this dichotomy is a sense of radical evolution that seems to run counter to the waning revolution of abstract and nonobjective art. The evolution embraces a series of absolutely logical and incremental changes, wholly devoid of the fevered iconoclasm that accompanied the heroic period from 1907 to 1925. As yet the evolving esthetic has no critical vocabulary so necessary for its defense, nor for that matter a name or explicit cause.

In a way this situation might be likened to the “morphological development” of a prime scientific concept-as described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Kuhn sees science at any given period dominated by a single “major paradigm”; that is, a scientific conception of the natural order so pervasive and intellectually powerful that it dominates all ensuing scientific discovery. Inconsistent facts arising through experimentation are invariably labeled as bogus or trivial-until the emergence of a new and more encompassing general theory. Transition between major paradigms may best express the state of present art. Reasons for it lie in the nature of current technological shifts.

The economist, J. K. Galbraith, has rightly insisted that until recently the needs of the modern industrial state were never served by complete expression of the esthetic impulse. Power and expansion were its primary aims.

Special attention should be paid to Galbraith’s observation. As an arbiter of impending socio-technical changes his position is pivotal. For the Left he represents America’s most articulate apologist for Monopoly Capitalism; for the Right he is the socialist eminence grise of the Democratic Party. In The New Industrial State (1967) he challenges both Marxist orthodoxies and American mythologies premised upon laissez-faire capitalism. For them he substitutes an incipient technocracy shaped by the evolving technostructure. Such a drift away from ideology has been anticipated for at least fifty years. Already in California think-tanks and in the central planning committees of each soviet, futurologists are concentrating on the role of the technocracy, that is, its decision-making autonomy, how it handles the central storage of information, and the techniques used for smoothly implementing social change. In the automated state power resides less in the control of the traditional symbols of wealth than in information.

In the emergent “superscientific culture” long-range decision-making and its implementation become more difficult and more necessary. Judgment demands precise socio-technical models. Earlier the industrial state evolved by filling consumer needs on a piecemeal basis. The kind of product design that once produced “better living” precipitates vast crises in human ecology In the 1960s. A striking parallel exists between the “new” car of the automobile stylist and the syndrome of formalist invention in art, where “discoveries” are made through visual manipulation. Increasingly “products”-either in art or life-become irrelevant and a different set of needs arise: these t revolve around such concerns as maintaining the biological livability of the earth, producing more accurate models of social interaction, understanding [ the growing symbiosis in man-machine relationships, establishing priorities for the usage and conservation of natural resources, and defining alternate patterns of education, productivity, and leisure. In the past our technologically-conceived artifacts structured living patterns. We are now in transition M from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented culture. Here change emanates, not from things, but from the way things are done.

The priorities of the present age revolve around the problems of organization. A systems viewpoint is focused on the creation of stable, on-going relationships between organic and nonorganic systems, be these neighbor hoods, industrial complexes, farms, transportation systems, information 0 centers, recreation centers, or any of the other matrices of human activity. All living situations must be treated in the context of a systems hierarchy of values. Intuitively many artists have already grasped these relatively recent distinctions, and if their “environments” are on the unsophisticated side, this will change with time and experience.

The major tool for professionally defining these concerns is systems analysis. This is best known through its usage by the Pentagon and has more to do with the expense and complexity of modern warfare, than with any innate relation between the two. Systems analysts are not cold-blooded logicians; the best have an ever-expanding grasp of human needs and limitations. One of the pioneers of systems applications, E. S. Quade, has stated that “Systems analysis, particularly the type required for military decisions, is still largely a form of art. Art can be taught in part, but not by the means of fixed rules…. ” ‘ Thus “The Further Dimensions” elaborated upon by Galbraith in his book are esthetic criteria. Where for some these become the means for tidying up a derelict technology, for Galbraith esthetic decision-making becomes an integral part of any future technocracy. As yet few governments fully appreciate that the alternative is biological self-destruction.

Situated between aggressive electronic media and two hundred years of industrial vandalism, the long held idea that a tiny output of art objects could somehow “beautify” or even significantly modify the environment was naive. A parallel illusion existed in that artistic influence prevails by a psychic osmosis given off by such objects. Accordingly lip service to public beauty remains the province of well-guarded museums. Through the early stages of industrialism it remained possible for decorative media, including painting and sculpture, to embody the esthetic impulse; but as technology progresses this impulse must identify itself with the means of research and production. Obviously nothing could be less true for the present situation. In a society thus estranged only the didactic function of art continues to have meaning. The artist operates as a quasipolitical provocateur, though in no concrete sense is he an ideologist or a moralist. L’art pour l’art and a century’s resistance to the vulgarities of moral uplift have insured that.

The specific function of modern didactic art has been to show that art does not reside in material entities, but in relations between people and between people and the components of their environment. This accounts for the radicality of Duchamp and his enduring influence. It throws light on Picasso’s lesser position as a seminal force. As with all succeeding formalist art, cubism followed the tradition of circumscribing art value wholly within finite objects.

In an advanced technological culture the most important artist best succeeds by liquidating his position as artist vis-a-vis society. Artistic nihilism established itself through this condition. At the outset the artist refused to participate in idealism through craft. “Craft-fetishism,” as termed by the critic Christopher Caudwell, remains the basis of modern formalism. Instead the significant artist strives to reduce the technical and psychical distance between his artistic output and the productive means of society. Duchamp, Warhol, and Robert Morris are similarly directed in this respect. Gradually this strategy transforms artistic and technological decision-making into a single activity-at least it presents that alternative in inescapable terms. Scientists and technicians are not converted into “artists,” rather the artist becomes a symptom of the schism between art and technics. Progressively the need to make ultrasensitive judgments as to the uses of technology and scientific information becomes “art” in the most literal sense. As yet the implication that art contains survival value is nearly as suspect as attaching any moral significance to it. Though with the demise of literary content, the theory that art is a form of psychic preparedness has gained articulate supporters.

Art, as an adaptive mechanism, is reinforcement of the ability to be aware of the disparity between behavioral pattern and the demands consequent upon the interaction with the environment. Art is rehearsal for those real situations in which it is vital for our survival to endure cognitive tension, to refuse the comforts of validation by affective congruence when such validation Is inappropriate because too vital interests are at stake….

The post-formalist sensibility naturally responds to stimuli both within and outside the proposed art format. To this extent some of it does begin to resemble “theater,” as imputed by Michael Fried. More likely though, the label of theatricality is a red herring disguising the real nature of the shift in priorities. In respect to Mr. Fried’s argument, the theater was never a purist medium, but a conglomerate of arts. In itself this never prevented the theater from achieving “high art.” For clearer reading, rather than maintaining Mr. Fried’s adjectives, theatrical or literalist art, or the phrase used until now in this essay, post-formalist esthetic, the term systems esthetic seems to encompass the present situation more fully.

The systems approach goes beyond a concern with staged environments and happenings; it deals in a revolutionary fashion with the larger problem of boundary concepts. In systems perspective there are no contrived confines such as the theater proscenium or picture frame. Conceptual focus rather than material limits define the system. Thus any situation, either in or outside the context of art, may be designed and judged as a system. Inasmuch as a system may contain people, ideas, messages, atmospheric conditions, power sources, and so on, a system is, to quote the systems biologist, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, a “complex of components in interaction,” comprised of material, energy, and information in various degrees of organization. In evaluating systems the artist is a perspectivist considering goals, boundaries, structure, input, output, and related activity inside and outside the system. Where the object almost always has a fixed shape and boundaries, the consistency of a system may be altered in time and space, its behavior determined both by external conditions and its mechanisms of control.

In his book, The New Vision, Moholy-Nagy described fabricating a set of enamel on metal paintings. These were executed by telephoning precise: instructions to a manufacturer. An elaboration of this was projected recently by the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Jan van der Marck, in a tentative exhibition, “Art by Telephone.” In this instance the recorded conversation between artist and manufacturer was to become part of the displayed work of art. For systems, information, in whatever form conveyed, becomes a viable esthetic consideration.

Fifteen years ago Victor Vasarely suggested mass art as a legitimate function of industrial society. For angry critics there existed the fear of undermining art’s fetish aura, of shattering the mystique of craft and private creation. If some forays have been made into serially produced art, these remain on the periphery of the industrial system. Yet the entire phenomenon of reproducing an art object ad infinitum is absurd; rather than making quality available to a large number of people, it signals the end of concrete objects embodying visual metaphor. Such demythification is the Kantian Imperative applied esthetically. On the other hand, a system esthetic is literal in that all phases of the life cycle of a system are relevant. There is no end product that is primarily visual, nor does such an esthetic rely on a “visual” syntax. It resists functioning as an applied esthetic, but is revealed in the principles underlying the progressive reorganization of the natural environment.

Various postures implicit in formalist art were consistently attacked in the later writings of Ad Reinhardt. His black paintings were hardly rhetorical devices (nor were his writings) masking Zen obscurities; rather they were the means of discarding formalist mannerism and all the latent illusionism connected with postrealistic art. His own contribution he described as:

The one work for the fine artist, tile one painting, is the painting of the onesized canvas… The single theme, one formal device, one color-monochrome one linear division in each direction, one symmetry, one texture, one free-hand brushing, one rhythm, one working everything into dissolution and one indivisibility, each painting into one overall uniformity and nonirregularity.

Even before the emergence of the anti-formalist “specific object” there appeared an oblique type of criticism, resisting emotive and literary associations. Pioneered between 1962 and 1965 in the writings of Donald Judd, it resembles what a computer programmer would call an entity’s list structure, or all the enumerated properties needed to physically rebuild an object. Earlier the phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, asserted the impossibility of conceptually reconstructing an object from such a procedure. Modified to include a number of perceptual insights not included in a “list structure,” such a technique has been used to real advantage by the antinovelist, Alain Robbe-Crillet. A web of sensorial descriptions is spun around the central images of a plot. The point is not to internalize scrutiny in the Freudian sense, but to infer the essence of a situation through detailed examination of surface effects. Similar attitudes were adopted by Judd for the purpose of critical examination. More than simply an art object’s list structure, Judd included phenomenal qualities which would have never shown up in a fabricator’s plans, but which proved necessary for the “seeing” of the object. This cleared the air of much criticism centered around meaning and private intention.

It would be misleading to interpret Judd’s concept of “specific objects” as the embodiment of a systems esthetic. Rather object art has become a stage towards further rationalization of the esthetic process in general-both by reducing the iconic content of art objects and by Judd’s candidness about their conceptual origins. However, even in 1965 he gave indications of looking beyond these finite limits.

A few of the more general aspects may persist, such as the work’s being like an object or even being specific, but other characteristics are bound to develop. Since its range is wide, three-dimensional work will probably divide into a number of forms. At any rate, it will be larger than painting and much larger than sculpture, which, compared to painting, is fairly particular…. Because the nature of three dimension isn’t set, given beforehand, something credible can be made, almost anything.

In the 1966 “68th American Show” at the Chicago Art Institute, the sculptor, Robert Morris, was represented by two large, L-shaped forms which were shown the previous year in New York. Morris sent plans of the pieces to the carpenters at the Chicago museum where they were assembled for less than the cost of shipping the originals from New York. In the context of a systems esthetic, possession of a privately fabricated work is no longer important. Accurate information takes priority over history and geographical location.

Morris was the first essayist to precisely describe the relation between sculpture style and the progressively more sophisticated use of industry by artists. He has lately focused upon material-forming techniques and me arrangement of these results so that they no longer form specific objects but remain uncomposed. In such handling of materials the idea of process takes precedence over end results: “Disengagement with preconceived enduring forms and orders of things is a positive assertion.” Such loose assemblies of materials encompass concerns that resemble the cycles of industrial processing. Here the traditional priority of end results over technique breaks down; in a systems context both may share equal importance, remaining essential parts of the esthetic.

Already Morris has proposed systems that move beyond the confines of the minimal object. One work proposed to the City of New York last fall was later included in Willoughby Sharp’s “Air Art” show in a YMHA gallery in Philadelphia. In its first state Morris’s piece involved capturing steam from the pipes in the city streets, projecting this from nozzles on a platform. In Philadelphia such a system took its energy from the steam-bath room. Since 1966 Morris’s interests have included designs for low relief earth sculptures consisting of abutments, hedges, and sodded mounds, visible from the air and not unlike Indian burial mounds. “Transporting” one of these would be a matter of cutting and filling earth and resodding. Morris is presently at work on one such project and unlike past sculptural concerns, it involves precise information from surveyors, landscape gardeners, civil engineering contractors, and geologists. In the older context, such as Isamu Noguchi’s sunken garden at Yale University’s Rare Book Library, sculpture defined the environment; with Morris’s approach the environment defines what is sculptural.

More radical for the gallery are the constructions of Carl Andre. His assemblies of modular, unattached forms stand out from the works of artists who have comprised unit assembly with the totality of fixed objects. The mundane origins of Andre’s units are not “hidden” within the art work as in he technique of collage. Andre’s floor reliefs are architectural modifications -though they are not subliminal since they visually disengage from their surroundings. One of Andre’s subtler shows took place in New York last year. 8 The viewer was encouraged to walk stocking-footed across three areas. each 12 by 12 feet and composed by 144 one-foot-square metal plates. One was not only invited to see each of these “rugs” as a grid arrangement in various | metals, but each metal grid’s thermal conductivity was registered through the [ soles of the feet. Sight analysis diminishes in importance for some of the best new work; the other senses and especially kinesthesis makes “viewing” a more integrated experience. The scope of a systems esthetic presumes that problems cannot be solved by a single technical solution, but must be attacked on a multileveled, interdisciplinary basis. Consequently some of the more aware sculptors no longer think like sculptors, but they assume a span of problems more natural to architects, urban planners, civil engineers, electronic technicians, and cultural anthropologists. This is not as pretentious as some critics have insisted. It is a legitimate extension of McLuhan’s remark about Pop Art when he said that it was an announcement that the entire environment was ready to become a work of art.

As a direct descendant of the “found object,” Robert Smithson’s identifying mammoth engineering projects as works of art (“Site-Selections”) makes eminent sense. Refocusing the esthetic away from the preciousness of the work of art is in the present age no less than a survival mechanism. If Smithson’s “Site-Selections” are didactic exercises, they show ; a desperate need for environmental sensibility on a larger than room scale. Sigfried Giedion pointed to specific engineering feats as objets d’art thirty years ago. Smithson has transcended this by putting engineering works into their natural settings and treating the whole as a time-bound web of man nature interactions.

Methodologically Les Levine is possibly the most consistent exponent of a systems esthetic. His environments of vacuum-formed, modular plastic units are never static; by means of experiencing ambulation through them, they consistently alter their own degree of space-surface penetrability. Levine’s Clean Machine has no ideal vantage points, no “pieces” to recognize, as are implicit in formalist art. One is processed as in driving through the Holland Tunnel. Certainly this echoes Michael Fried’s reference to Tony Smith’s night time drive along the uncompleted New Jersey Turnpike” Yet if this is theater, as Fried insists, it is not the stage concerned with focused upon events. That has more to do with the boundary definitions that have traditionally circumscribed classical and post-classical art. In a recent environment by Levine rows of live electric wires emitted small shocks to passersby. Here behavior is controlled in an esthetic situation with no primary reference to visual circumstances. As Levine insists, “What I am after here is physical reaction, not visual concern.”

This brings to mind some of the original intentions of the “Group de Recherches d’Art Visuel” in the early 1960s. The Paris-based group had sought to engage viewers kinesthetically, triggering involuntary responses through ambient-propelled “surprises.” Levine’s emphasis on visual disengagement is much more assured and iconoclastic; unlike the labyrinths of the GRAV, his possesses no individual work of art deflecting attention from the environment as a concerted experience.

Questions have been raised concerning the implicit anti-art position connected with Levine’s disposable and infinite series. These hardly qualify as anti-art as John Perreault has pointed out. Besides emphasizing that the context of art is fluid, they are a reductio ad absurdum of the entire market mechanism that controls art through the fiction of “high art.” They do not deny art, they deny scarcity as a legitimate correlative of art.

The components of systems-whether these are artistic or functional- have no higher meaning or value. Systems components derive their value solely through their assigned context. Therefore it would be impossible to regard a fragment of an art system as a work of art in itself-as say, one might treasure a fragment of one of the Parthenon friezes. This became evident in j December 1967 when Dan Flavin designed six walls with the same alternate pattern of “rose” and “gold” eight-foot fluorescent lamps. This “Broad Bright Gaudy Vulgar System,” as Flavin called it, was installed in the new ; Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The catalog accompanying the exhibition scrupulously resolves some of the important esthetic implications for modular systems

The components of a particular exhibition upon its termination are replaced in another situation. Perhaps put into non-art as part of a different whole in a different future. Individual units possess no intrinsic significance beyond their concrete utility. It is difficult either to project into them extraneous qualities, a spurious insight, or for them to be appropriated for fulfillment or personal inner needs. The lights are untransformed. There are no symbolic transcendental redeeming or monetary added values present. .

Flavin’s work has progressed in the past six years from light sources mounted on flat reliefs, to compositions in fluorescent fixtures mounted directly on walls and floors, and recently to totalities such as his Chicago “walk-in” environment. While the majority of other light artists have continued to fabricate “light sculpture”-as if sculpture were the primary concern-Flavin has pioneered articulated illumination systems for given spaces.

By the fact that most systems move or are in some way dynamic, kinetic art should be one of the more radical alternatives to the prevailing formalist esthetic. Yet this has hardly been the case. The best publicized kinetic sculpture is mainly a modification of static formalist sculpture composition. In most instances these have only the added bonus of motion, as in the case of Tinguely, Calder, Bury, and Rickey. Only Duchamp’s kinetic output managed to reach beyond formalism. Rather than visual appearance there is an entirely different concern which makes kinetic art unique. This is the peripheral perception of sound and movement in space filled with activity. All too often gallery kinetic art has trivialized the more graspable aspect of motion: – this is motion internalized and experienced kinesthetically.

There are a few important exceptions to the above. These include Otto Piene’s early “Light Ballets” (1958-1962), the early (1956) water hammocks and informal on-going environments of Japan’s Gutai group, some works by Len Lye, Bob Breer’s first show of “Floats” (1965), Robert Whitman’s laser show of “Dark” (1967), and most recently, Boyd Mefferd’s “Strobe-Light Floor” (1968).

Formalist art embodies the idea of deterministic relations between a composition’s visible elements. But since the early 1960s Hans Haacke has depended upon the invisible components of systems. In a systems context, invisibility, or invisible parts, share equal importance with things seen. Thus air, water, steam, and ice have become major elements in his work. On both coasts this has precipitated interest in “invisible art” among a number of young artists. Some of the best of Haacke’s efforts are shown outside the gallery. These include his Rain Tree, a tree dripping patterns of water; Sky Line, a nylon line kept aloft by hundreds of helium-filled white balloons; a weather balloon balanced over a jet of air; and a large-scale nylon tent with air pockets designed to remain in balance one foot off the ground.

Haacke’s systems have a limited life as an art experience, though some are quite durable. He insists that the need for empathy does not make his work function as with older art. Systems exist as on-going independent entities away from the viewer. In the systems hierarchy of control, interaction and autonomy become desirable values. In this respect Haacke’s Photo-Electric Viewer Programmed Coordinate System is probably one of the most elegant, responsive environments made to date by an artist (certainly more sophisticated ones have been conceived for scientific and technical purposes). Boundary situations are central to his thinking.

A “sculpture” that physically reacts to its environment is no longer to be regarded as an object. The range of outside factors affecting it, as well as its own radius of action, reach beyond the space it materially occupies. It thus merges with the environment in a relationship that is better understood as a “system” of interdependent processes. These processes evolve without the viewer’s empathy. He becomes a witness. A system is not imagined, it is real.

Tangential to this systems approach is Allan Kaprow’s very unique ,concept of the Happening. In the past ten years Kaprow has moved the Happening from a rather self-conscious and stagy event to a strict and elegant procedure. The Happening now has a sense of internal logic which was lacking before. It seems to arise naturally from those same considerations that have crystallized the systems approach to environmental situations. As described by their chief inventor, the Happenings establish an indivisibility between themselves and everyday affairs; they consciously avoid materials and procedures identified with art; they allow for geographical expansiveness and mobility; they include experience and duration as part of their esthetic format; and they emphasize practical activities as the most meangingful mode of procedure. . . As structured events the Happenings are usually reversible. Alterations in the environment may be “erased” after the Happening, or as a part of the Happening’s conclusion. While they may involve large areas of place, the format of the Happening is kept relatively simple, with the emphasis on establishing a participatory esthetic.

The emergence of a “post-formalist esthetic” may seem to some to embody a kind of absolute philosophy, something which, through the nature of concerns cannot be transcended. Yet it is more likely that a “systems esthetic” will become the dominant approach to a maze of socio-technical conditions rooted only in the present. New circumstances will with time generate other major paradigms for the arts.

For some readers these pages will echo feelings of the past. It may be remembered that in the fall of 1920 an ideological schism ruptured two factions of the Moscow Constructivists. The radical Marxists, led by Vladimir Tatlin, proclaimed their rejection of art’s false idealisms. Establishing ourselves as “Productivists,” one of their slogans became: “Down with guarding the traditions of art. Long live the constructivist technician.” As a group dedicated to historical materialism and the scientific ethos, most of its members were quickly subsumed by the technological needs of Soviet Russia. As artists they ceased to exist. While the program might have d some basis as a utilitarian esthetic, it was crushed amid the Stalinist anti-intellectualism that followed.

The reasons are almost self-apparent. Industrially underdeveloped, food and heavy industry remained the prime needs of the Soviet Union for the next forty years. Conditions and structural interdependencies that naturally develop in an advanced industrial state were then only latent. In retrospect it is doubtful if any group of artists had either the knowledge or political strength to meaningfully affect Soviet industrial policies. What emerged was another vein of formalist innovation based on scientific idealism; this manifested itself in the West under the leadership of the Constructivist emigres, Gabo and Pevsner.

But for our time the emerging major paradigm in art is neither an ism nor a collection of styles. Rather than a novel way of rearranging surfaces and spaces, it is fundamentally concerned with the implementation of the art impulse in an advanced technological society. As a culture producer, man has traditionally claimed the title, Homo Faber: man the maker (of tools and images). With continued advances in the industrial revolution, he assumes a new and more critical function. As Homo Arbiter Formae his prime role becomes that of man the maker of esthetic decisions. These decisions- whether they are made concertedly or not-control the quality of all future life on the earth. Moreover these are value judgments dictating the direction of technological endeavor. Quite plainly such a vision extends beyond politlcal realities of the present. This cannot remain the case for long.

The World’s First Collaborative Sentence

In 1995, the Whitney Museum acquired its first work of Internet art, Douglas Davis’ The World’s First Collaborative Sentence. Commissioned by the Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, New York, in conjunction with “Interactions,” its 1994 survey exhibition of the artist’s work, Sentence is an ongoing textual and graphic performance on the World Wide Web that is owned by the Whitney Museum but was maintained on the Lehman website from 1994 – 2005.

“The Sentence owes its life to the Lehman College Art Gallery, which commmissioned it in the fall of 1994. Susan Hoeltzel, the director, saw it as a logical if not necessary step out of “interactions,” the exhibition she had just organized at the college. Suddenly the college got access to a server, rare in those days, making a new website possible. When she asked me to do this my first thought was: the keyboard. As my first thought about video had been the gently rounded screen. The sentence and everything about it spun out of that moment; it is still spinning. When Eugene and Barbara Schwartz bought the sentence for their collection and later gave it to the Whitney (during David Ross’ tenure), the work gained an even larger audience. Museums and universities and art galleries make audiences not merely possible but probable.”


[1] http://www.afsnitp.dk/udefra/1/dd/museum.html

[2] http://www.whitney.org/arport/collection/index.shtml

[3] http://artport.whitney.org/collection/davis/