Friday, March 13, 2009

All Systems Go: Recovering Jack Burnham’s ‘Systems Aesthetics’
Luke Skrebowski


I want to argue that we might think systems theory (as mediated to the art world by Burnham’s systems aesthetics) as a productive methodological framework for considering postformalist art as a whole. 14 As Pamela Lee has recently reminded us: ‘systems theory was applied to emerging forms of digital media ... but it also served to explain art not expressly associated with technology today: conceptual art and its linguistic propositions, site-specific work and its environmental dimensions, performance art and its mattering of real time, minimalism even.’15 Although Burnham used concepts drawn from technoscience in his theorisation of postformalist art, I want to insist that this is not the same thing as advocating art that simply dramatises scientific or technical development (a position he has unjustly, but perhaps to some degree understandably, come to be associated with).