Sunday, January 13, 2008

Observing Systems-Art from a Systems-Theoretical Perspective, Francis Halsall


In the May 2005 issue of The Art Book Charlie Gere makes the following claim:

'If new media art wishes to be taken seriously then it is necessary to start to develop appropriately robust and convincing means by which it can be examined critically. He continues that a potential problem facing the discourse concerning so-called new media art was one of ghetto-isation; in other words, as Gere claims, 'not that there is no critical discourse, but rather that it remains the preserve of those involved, with little or no connection or engagement with outsiders.' 1

This is a claim that I, as an art historian, want to take very seriously. However in doing so a central problem needs to be overcome. This problem concerns the traditional art historical pre-occupation with specificity of media and how this may be reconciled with the proliferation of differing media employed in new media art. W.J.T Mitchell has diagnosed the problem in the following terms:

'In the field of art history, with its obsessive concern for the materiality and ‘specificity' of media, the supposedly ‘dematerialized' realm of virtual and digital media, as well as the whole sphere of mass media, are commonly seen either as beyond the pale or as a threatening invader, gathering at the gates of the aesthetic and artistic citadel.2

My main argument in this paper is that systems theory, and in particular the sociological systems theory of Niklas Luhmann, provides the basis for such an 'appropriately robust and convincing' theory of new media art. It does so by providing the basis for systems aesthetics in a manner that expands the discourse on new media beyond a discussion of a narrow set of art practices corresponding to a limited set of media into a discussion about systems art more generally. It does so in three important ways. First, by situating a discussion of art within the context of its relationship to the operation of social systems (of which, Luhmann argues, the art-system is a sub-system). Second, by situating a discussion of new media art within a discussion concerning more diverse practices occurring after modernism, practices that we might refer to as systems art. And thirdly, by providing a definition of artistic media that is not materially specific and is thus flexible enough to account for proliferation of different artistic media in new media and systems art. It is to this third issue that this paper is primarily addressed.

What is argued here is grounded upon two premises. First, whilst the problems of critical purchase are undoubtedly fore-grounded by new media art they are not unique to it. This is deliberate. It is my argument that if there is to be a convincing theoretical model for new media art, then it should not be tied to a specifically narrow set of artistic practices, because this will rapidly commit it to charges of anachronism or lack of relevance. Today's ‘new' media, quickly becomes defunct, and the object of nostalgia and aestheticisation. For example the pioneering computer art of Ben Laposky and his Electronic Abstractions (from 1956 onwards) is a world away from the complex and aesthetically involving environments of contemporary popular video and computer games such as Tetsuya Mizuguchi's astonishing Rez (for Sony Playstation and Sega Dreamcast) or Valve Software's Half-Life I & II. Equally, given that they are all constituted by particular historical and technological social variants, the early video art of Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci from the early 1970s has a clearly different aesthetic to that of the Gesamtkunstwerk film projects of Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle. As W.J.T. Mitchell has recently claimed in his discussion on a theory of media, What Do Pictures Want? (2005), the first two of his ‘Ten Thesis on media' are that: '1 – Media are a modern invention that has been around since the beginning [sic!]. 2 – The shock of new media is as old as the hills.'3

The corollary position is that discourse can also become defunct and redundant if it is tied too closely to restrictively narrow objects of observation.

My second premise concerns the position that the concept of system occupies within the discourse of systems theory, and more specifically within Luhmann's work. In fact, the early systems art of the 1960s took a version of systems theory that emerged from Cybernetics, Communication Theory and technology discourse as its theoretical model. The more specifically sociological configuration of social systems was investigated by Luhmann from the 1970s onwards. In this sense, ‘system' and ‘systems theory' are operating here within what Peter Osborne calls a 'retrospective critical discourse'.4 By acknowledging this I mean to recognise the relationship between the discursive position of systems theory and the historical phenomenon that it both observes and constitutes by virtue of that observation.5 Systems and systems art, should be identified as a function of the discursive system from which they are constituted into a coherent historical and sociological narrative. As Osborne claims: 'A retrospective critical discourse does not need to discover its terms literally or empirically within the discourse of the period under discussion, and that any attempt to do that is a…phantasmatic illusion'. This is because, argues Osborne, the 'criteria of validity for critical discourse are different from those of empiricist historiography'. 6

In what follows I will give a description of the historical conditions of systems art and relate this to its reconstruction within the critical discourse of systems theory. In doing so a definition begins to emerge that is suitably flexible and robust enough to include new media art alongside a variety of other artistic practices (such as minimalism and institutional critique). These are practices that are not, necessarily, concerned purely with the effects of a new technology7 although may include practices which do explore the aesthetic implication of new media. I will then briefly survey Niklas Luhmann's systems theoretical conception of distinction medium/form (as it appears in Art as a Social System ) and argue that it provides a framework for theorising new media and systems art. It does so by recasting the issue of media specificity to one in which the observation of media becomes contingent upon the process of its differentiation via observation. My concluding examples of work by Jeffrey Shaw, and Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, will demonstrate how Luhmann's ideas may be applied to an understanding of new media and systems art.

Systems Art

At the Tate Modern show, Open Systems: Rethinking Art. 1970, 8 the curator Donna de Salvo used the concept of ‘system' as an organising principle trying to cluster a variety of artistic practice from the years bracketing 1970. In the catalogue essay which accompanies the exhibition De Salvo claims that these practices may all be linked by a common interest in the ‘systems' which the work exploits and within which they are situated. To reflect this shared interest in system, structure and series De Salvo explained the inclusion of works in the exhibition that 'are linked by their use of a generative or repetitive system as a way of redefining the work of art, the self and the nature of representation.” 9

The theme of system, when employed specifically as a means of critical retrospection, is especially appropriate in accounting for artistic practice at the extended end of the 1960s. There are two reasons for this. First, the 1960s artistic discourse was turning its attentions away from specific objects onto various systems within which they were embedded. This makes it particularly receptive to a ‘retrospective critical discourse' framed by the position of systems theory. Second, much of the artistic and critical discourse of the time reflected an interest in the emergent discourses of systems thinking, cybernetics and information/communication theory.

For example, looking back on the immediate past, in 1973, Lucy Lippard observed that the six years following from 1966 had been characterised by what she termed, 'the dematerialisation of the art object'. An interest in singular objects was replaced by work which explored its relationship with its various systemic environments. Her micro-history of the six years at the end of the 1960s focused, in her terms:

'on so-called conceptual or information or idea art with mentions of such vaguely designated areas as minimal, anti-form, systems, earth or process art, occurring now in the Americas, Europe, England, Australia, and Asia, (with occasional political overtones).' 10

At the heart of these activities lay a series of practices which radically challenged a cosy belief in an ontologically stable art object. In doing so it operated according to a self-aware artistic practice that placed the questioning of the relationship between a work of art and its various environments at the very centre of the work's meaning. In short, this was work which explored aesthetics of systems and thereby functioned by investigating the ways in which it was embedded in various networks of display, representation, meaning and control.

Jack Burnham, who was instrumental in theorising systems art at the moment of its inception, was more specific in his linking the post-formalist artistic attitude described by Lippard to the contemporary discourse of systems theory. In 1968 he wrote that:

'The post-formalist sensibility naturally responds to stimuli both within and outside the proposed art format… [but] the term systems esthetic seems to encompass the present situation more fully.'

He continued, more prophetically, that 'A systems esthetic will become the dominant approach to a maze of socio-technical conditions rooted only in the present.” 11 Burnham's coining of the term ‘systems-aesthetic' in this context was an attempt to bring together artistic, technological and social conditions under the rubric of systems and a concern in them shared by a variety of groups including artists, scientists and social theorists. It was, in part, an account of artistic responses to new technologies that was manifested in early computer and video art. But Burnham also noted that such an artistic turn to systems-thinking was a reflection of a growing interest in systems that had permeated from biological and cybernetic interest in open systems and communication networks found in the writings Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Norbert Weiner, Claude Shannon, Ervin Laszlo (amongst others) into society at large. 12 This included the famous interest in systems analysis that President Kennedy and Robert McNamara brought into the United States government in the 1960s13 largely through its use as a strategy for modern warfare. In turn this was reflected in a proliferation of exhibitions with titles such as ‘ Information', ‘Software' and ‘Systems', around the time that took the concepts of system and structure, broadly understood, as their raison d'être. 14

The following examples, from the time and the Tate show, exhibit characteristics which may be taken to be illustrative of systems art:

(1) An interest in networks, structures and systems of measurement, such as is seen in the work of Mel Bochner, Measurement: Room, (1969);

(2) An engagement (often politicised) with the institutional systems of support (such as the gallery, discourse, or the market) within which it occurs, such as is seen in the work of Dan Graham, Time Delay Room (1974), and the varied work of Hans Haacke;

(3) The prioritising of non-visual aspects of the work, such as in Martha Rosler's Bowery in Two Inadequate Systems (1974-75);

(4) The interest in unstable or de-materialised physicality as we see in Haacke's Condensation Cube (1965), or land art;

(5) The exploration of new technology and new media, such as in Bruce Nauman's video installations, for example: Going Around the Corner Piece, (1970).

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does demonstrate the vast stylistic and material differences exhibited by work that may be collected within the description of systems art. The central difficulty that such work presents to art historical method lies in precisely this diversity of media exploited by systems art, from technological apparatuses such as closed-circuit video systems to gallery systems. Writing in 1966 Dick Higgins used the term ‘intermedia' to describe a situation that he identified as: 'much of the best work being produced today seems to fall between media. This is no accident'. 15 He also believed that the use of a wide variety of media in the Conceptual Art, Mail Art, Performance Art (and so forth) was a means by which art of the age (which he called the 'third industrial revolution') would identify its distinction from that of the art of the Renaissance.

Given its plurality, intermedia art, which includes systems art, is resistant to a Modernist account which requires the material specificity. Rosalind Krauss engaged specifically with this problem in her discussion of the specific historical role that the technological development of photography played in post-war artistic practice, and in particular in the convergence of art and photography in the 1960s. Photography, she argues with Benjamin, has brought about a challenge to the unique status of art. Krauss argues that this challenge plays out in a lack faith concerning medium specificity and a ‘re-invention' of the conceptual coupling between modes of artistic production and its media. As Krauss argues:

'This time, however, photography functions against the grain of its earlier destruction of the medium, becoming, under precisely the guise of its own obsolescence, a means of what has to be called an act of reinventing the medium. The medium in question here is not any of the traditional media – painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture – that include photography. So the reinvention in question does not imply the restoration of any of those earlier forms of support that the ‘age of mechanical reproduction' had rendered thoroughly dysfunctional through their own assimilation to the commodity form. Rather, it concerns the idea of a medium as such, a medium as a set of conventions derived from (but not identical with) the material conditions of a given technical support, conventions out of which to develop a form of expressiveness that can be both projective and mnemonic. And if photography has a role to play at this juncture, which is to say at this moment of postconceptual, ‘postmedium' production, Benjamin may have already signalled to us that this is due to its very passage from mass use to obsolescence.' 16

Niklas Luhmann's discussion on medium in art provides a theoretical description of the postconceptual, or ‘postmedium' production of intermedia, new-media and systems art.

Luhmann and the Medium of Art

Luhmann's systems-theory is an attempt to apply a systems analysis within a sociological framework. Society, Luhmann argues, is a system comprised of a variety of sub-systems. These are operatively closed and functionally distinct from one another. Each system operates according to its own internal and self-defined rules. These systems include economic, political, legal, scientific, religious and educational systems. Like these, the art system functions according to an intrinsic set of processes. For Luhmann both art and media are not only contingent upon the systems of their institutional and discursive situation but actually constituted by them. In other words, without an art system to observe it, art would not exist; and without art there would be no artistic media.

Luhmann calls the process by which distinctions are indicated from a position relative to the system in which it takes place observation . This is a paradigm shift from a more traditional sociological notion of representation to a concept of social meaning that is contingent not only on particular systems but also upon the process of observation itself. Without observation no differentiation would occur. Thus, the economic system observes and differentiates the world in terms of economic value while the art system differentiates what it observes in terms of artistic and aesthetic value.

Luhmann's most radical insight on art is his anti-ontological definitions of both art and its constitution. 17 He grounds this anti-ontological definition in the dichotomy of medium and form and his concept of the radical contingency of observation. His description of medium and form observes them as being independent of particular genres such as painting or music. Instead Luhmann presents a theory of 'the medium of art' as that which produces a special type of communication whilst not being media specific. 18 This involves an inversion of a traditionally conceived relationship between medium and form. In Luhmann's definition the traditional conception of medium constituting the form is replaced by the notion that form is constituting the medium. Luhmann explains this in the following terms:

'From a systems-theoretical perspective, by contrast, both media and forms are constructed by the system and therefore always presuppose a specific system reference. They are not given “as such.” The distinction between medium and form, just like the concept of information, is strictly internal to the system. There is no corresponding difference in the environment. Neither media nor forms “represent” system states of an ultimately physical nature.' 19

In the understanding that medium constitutes the form of a work of art, that Luhmann wants to reject, the genesis of a work of art is framed by the material constraints of the medium that the artist uses. Two examples to help explain this (not given by Luhmann) could be:

(i) Michelanglo's dying slaves, conceived as an expression of the tension between idea (as discussed by Panofsky20) and the marble within which that idea is manifested;

(ii) Pollock's painting conceived as an expression of paint and canvas, which thus has the medium specificity that made it so pertinent to Greenberg's defence of Modernism.

In the essay The Medium of Art (1990) Luhmann illustrates the application of his reconfigured relationship between medium and form in art via the example of music. Music is observed (in this case heard) as music only by those, Luhmann states: 'who can also hear the uncoupled space in which the music plays.' 21 He states:

‘whereas we normally hear noises as differences to silence and are thereby made attentive, music presupposes this attention and compels it to the observation of a 2nd difference – that between medium and form. 5

We ‘observe' the medium of music because we have paid attention to the sensuous form of the music's manifestation in contra-distinction to noise and silence of its environment.

In this sense, then, the form of an observable and presumably engaging sound constitutes the medium of music. Luhmann's argument that it is the form of music as it is heard constitutes the medium of music in the process of its hearing. This is in effect a conceptual shift from the perspective that 'there is already a medium to which form can apply' 23, to the position that form itself constitutes the medium within which it becomes manifested.

In Art as a Social System, Luhmann devotes an entire chapter to the discussion on Medium and Form, he gives the following example:

'In the medium of sound, words are created by constricting the medium into condensable (reiterable) forms that can be employed in the medium of language to create utterances (for the purposes of communication). The potential for forming utterances can again serve as the medium for forms known as myths or narratives, which, at a later stage, when the entire procedure is duplicated in the optical medium of writing, also become known as textual genres or theories. Theories can subsequently be coupled in the medium of the truth code to form a network of consistent truths. Such truths function as forms whose outside consists of untruths lacking consistency. How far we can push this kind of stacking depends on the evolutionary processes that lead to the discovery of forms.' 24

In this example we can see the stacking up of the following media, all of which act as the mediators for a variety of forms: air, sound, language, myths/narrative, the written word, genre/theory, the truth code (a system of discursive validation) and finally a discursive system which Luhmann identifies here as a 'network of consistent truths.'

Thus Luhmann's argument that form constitutes the medium effects a conceptual shift from the position that 'there is already a medium to which form can apply' 25, to the position that form itself constitutes the medium within which it becomes manifested. More significantly it is not only that the medium being observed is now relative to the form by which it is observed, but also and more radically, that it is relative to the process of being observed itself. In other words, different media may be observed at different times as emerging from the same physical phenomena. Luhmann describes this so:

‘The art system operates on its own terms, but an observer of art can choose many different distinctions to indicate what he observes. The choice is his. Of course, there is an obligation to do justice to the object and its surrounding. It would be wrong to say that an object is made of granite if it is really made of marble. But what about the distinction granite/marble? Why not old/new, or cheap/expensive, or ‘Should we put this object into the house or the garden?' Theory has even more freedom in choosing its distinctions – and this is why it needs justification!' 26

For Luhmann distinction and observation are the processes by which medium and form are subsequently constituted. In doing so, he provides a definition of artistic media that stands in opposition to one grounded in the Modernist prioritisations of both media specificity and the subordination of form to medium. Instead Luhmann provides a description in which the observer's own distinctions regarding which form, and thus which media they choose to observe are the constituting factor. It is my argument that, although he was not specific in the examples he choose, Luhmann's account of medium and form is commensurate with an historical shift from Modernist medium specificity that is reflected in intermedia, post-media, systems-art and new media art.27 And that it thus provides the basis for a theoretical account by which to critically examine it.

Concluding Example

Jeffrey Shaw is best known for his interactive multi-media environments. In the computer graphic/video installation, Place – Ruhr, (2000) the viewer negotiates eleven live-action and three-dimensional virtual environments from the industrial German region of Ruhrgebeit (

The viewer uses a platform and interface centrally located within the cylinder of the installation projection screens. From this platform the viewer controls both their spatial relationship to the screens and their p rogress through the environments that are realised as a sequence of cylinders. Upon entering these panoramic cylinders the environment is cinematically realised around the spectator in relation to them. The installation contains further elements of interaction. Sounds made by the participant trigger projected words that move through the environment in paths dictated by the movement of the viewer. Mark Hansen describes this process of interaction in such computer-aided works as part of an embodied, phenomenological experience that:

'specifically invest the body as the site of a bodily, but also an ‘intellectual' event. In these works, the body, rather than being assimilated into the deframed image-space, stands over against a now vitualized image-space and thereby acquires a more fundamental role as the source of the actualization of images. If the corporeal and intellectual processing it performs still functions to ‘give-body' to the image, it does so by not lending its physical, extended volume as a three-dimensional screen for the image but rather by creating an image-event out of its own embodied processing of information. 28

From a systems-theoretical perspective informed by Luhmann, the observer takes the position of Hansen's embodied viewer. Shaw's multi-media environments provide examples whereby the observer constitutes the media they observe anew with each immersive interaction. Thus we can see a working example of how the form of the interaction, chosen by the participant, dictates the constitution of the media of aesthetic engagement and how the problem of media-specificity in systems art might be addressed by the application of systems-theory.


1. Gere, C. (2005), 'New Media Art', The Art Book, Vol. 12. 2, May, pp. 6-8.

2. Mitchell, W.J.T. (2005), What Do Pictures W ant?, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 205.

3. Mitchell, W.J.T. (2005), What Do Pictures Want?, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 211.

4. Osborne, P. (2005), ‘Presentation', Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 Symposium, 16th-17th September. Archived online at [active November 2005].

5. Luhmann engaged specifically with the issue of discursive self-reflexivity and the contingent relationship between an observing discursive system and that which it observes. See Luhmann, N. (2000), ‘Deconstruction as Second-Order Observing,' New Literary History 24, pp. 763-82. See also Rasch, W. (2000), Niklas Luhmann's Modernity. The Paradoxes of Differentiation, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

6. Osborne, P. (2005), ‘Presentation', Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970 Symposium, (16-17 September). Archived online at [active November 2005].

7. Although this does not preclude the possibility of a relationship between art and technology, especially in the late 20th century. Edward Shanken, for example, has argued that, ‘little scholarship has explored the relationship between technology and conceptual art'. He believes that there has been, for example, an art historical impetus to artificially distinguish Information Art from Conceptual Art. See, Shanken, E. (2004), ‘Art in the Information Age: Technology and Conceptual Art,' in Corris, M., (ed.), Conceptual Art: Theory, Myth and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

8. For a review of the exhibition and catalogue see Halsall, F. (2005), ‘Open Systems: Tate Modern', CAA Reviews, online journal published by the College Art Association at, October; Halsall, F. (2006) review of Open Systems: Rethinking Art c. 1970, De Salvo, D. (ed.), The Art Book, 13:3, August, pp. 26f.

9. De Salvo, D. (2005), ‘Where We Begin – Opening the System, c. 1970,' in De Salvo, D., (ed.), Open Systems Rethinking Art c. 1970, London: Tate Publishing, pp. … .

10. Lippard, L. (1997), Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, California: University of California Press.

11. Burnham, J. (1968), ‘Systems Esthetics,' Artforum, September, pp….

12. Burnham, J. (1970), Beyond Modern Sculpture – The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of this Century, New York: George Braziller Inc., p. 12.

13. In ‘Systems Esthetics' Burnham makes reference to the use of systems-theory by the Pentagon. For a fuller discussion on this topic see Dickson, P. (1971), Think tanks, New York: Ballantine Books.

14. Primary Structures: Jewish Museum, New York, 1966; Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts: I.C.A, London, 1968; The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968; When Attitudes Become Form, Concepts, Processes, Situations, Information: Kunsthalle, Bern, 1969; Information: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970; Software ; The Jewish Museum, 1970; Systems: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1972.

15. Higgins, D. (1966), ‘Intermedia,' reprinted in De Salvo, D., (ed.) (2005), Open Systems Rethinking Art c. 1970, London: Tate Publishing, pp. …. . See also: Higgins, D. (1984), Horizons, the Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia, Illinois: Illinois University Press, and Spielmann, Y. (2001), ‘Intermedia in Electronic Images' Leonardo, 34:1, pp. 55-61

16. Krauss, R. (1999), ‘Reinventing the Medium (art and photography)', Critical Inquiry, 25:2, Winter, p. 289.

17. As Kitty Zijlmans has observed, a key feature of systems-theory is that its ‘starting point has to be an anti-ontological view of the world'. See Zijlmans, K. (1993), ‘Art History as Systems-Theory'. Unpublished translation by Annie Wright in Zijlmans, K. and Halbertsma, M. (1993), Gezichtspunten. Een Inleiding in de Methoden van de Kunstgeschiedenis, Nijmegen: Universiteit Nijmegen, Chapter 9.

18.‘Communication is, for Luhmann, the manifold of information, message and understanding. Thus a communication is an occurrence, specific to a particular system, that generates meaning within that system from the unity of a message as well as its communication and reception. Luhmann dismisses a theory of communication as the transmission of information from one agent to another as too ontological. Meaning is not something handed over like a parcel, rather it is something generated in an observer by a self-referential process. Communication facilitates the production of meaning by reducing complexity and contingency. It creates some possibilities whilst excluding others thus reducing the complexity of the world to terms intelligible to the system while re-inscribing the distinction between itself and its environment. Different systems generate communication according to their particular codes of self-reference. For example, the science system is ordered by a coding of differences between true/false that produce meaning by simplifying the complexity and contingency of the world to communications on truth and falsehood and the art system facilitates communication about art through the sensuous and aesthetic forms of works of art. For Luhmann, communication (and meaning) is the basic constituent of society, and therefore the basic concept of sociology. There can be no society without communication. The limits of society are the limits of communication. Individuals do not participate in society unless they engage in communication. Communication provides the opportunity for Luhmann to discuss the uniqueness and importance of the art system. The art system produces a special type of communication, one that mediates between the individual perceptions of consciousness (psychic systems) and the operations of the social system. It does this by being grounded in sensuous engagement with material, perceptual form, whilst also generating communications which then circulate in the social system.' From Halsall, F. (2006), ‘Niklas Luhmann', in Costello, D. and Vickery, J. (eds.) Art: Key Contemporary Thinkers, Oxford: Berg Publishing.

19. Luhmann, N. [1995], Art as a Social System, trans. Knodt, E., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 103. See also the chapter, ‘Medium and Form', pp. 102ff.

20. See Panofsky's (1939) discussion of Michelangelo in Studies in Iconology, Oxford: Oxford University Press. For Panofsky on the concept of idea see Panofsky, E. [1924], Idea: A Concept in Art Theory, trans. Peake, J.J.S., 2nd ed. (1975), New York: Harper Collins.

21. Luhmann, N. (1990), ‘The Medium of Art,' in Luhmann, N. Essays on Self-Reference, Columbia: Columbia University Press, pp. 215-226.

22. Luhmann, N. (1990), ‘The Medium of Art,' in Luhmann, N. Essays on Self-Reference, Columbia: Columbia University Press, pp….

23 Luhmann, N. (1990), ‘The Medium of Art,' in Luhmann, N. Essays on Self-Reference, Columbia: Columbia University Press, pp….

24 Luhmann, N. [1995], Art as a Social System, trans. Knodt, E., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 106.

25. Luhmann, N. (1990), ‘The Medium of Art,' in Luhmann, N. Essays on Self-Reference, Columbia: Columbia University Press, pp….

26. Luhmann, N. [1995], Art as a Social System, trans. Knodt, E., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 102.

27. Burnham pre-empted Luhmann's medium/form distinction and related it to a position of technological determinism and in particular the emergence of the electronic computer: ‘The computer's most profound aesthetic implication is that we are being forced to dismiss the classical view of art and reality which insists that man stand outside of reality in order to observe it, and, in art, requires the presence of the picture frame and the sculpture pedestal. The notion that art can be separated from its everyday environment is a cultural fixation as is the ideal of objectivity in science. It may be that the computer will negate the need for such an illusion by fusing both observer and observed, “inside” and “outside.” It has already been observed that the everyday world is rapidly assuming identity with the condition of art.' In Burnham, J. (1970), ‘The Aesthetics of Intelligent Systems', in Fry, E.F. (ed.), On the Future of Art, New York: The Viking Press, p. 119.

28. Hansen, M. (2004), New Philosophy for New Media, Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, p. 60.

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1 comment:

Walter said...

My word!
Another discussion forum for my landmark piece!

Please visit me frequently for updates on my wanderings through this modern age.

Walter Benjamin