Academic Session 22: Reading 2013

39th Annual Conference and Bookfair
University of Reading
11-13 April 2013

From Utopian Teleologies to Sporadic Historiographies: ‘Interfaces’ of art and cybernetics

Session Convenors

Maia Toteva, Montana State University,
Jennifer Way, University of North Texas,

Six decades ago, Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, and Warren Weaver introduced cybernetics to the English-speaking world. Stimulated by the information explosion in the 1950s, it grew internationally, challenging disciplinary boundaries and preconceptions. Cybernetic models of ‘self-reproducing automata’ brought about an enhanced understanding of informational and communication systems, engendered artificial intelligence and machine-biological interfaces (cyborgs), and impacted game theory. In the West, cybernetics had a lasting effect on art and popular culture from interactive art, performance, and computer art, to telematic art and American Idol. The ‘new science,’ however, received a different reception in USSR. After its initial hostility, the Soviet government endorsed cybernetics as a panacea ensuring the rational control of a failing centralised economy. The interdisciplinary umbrella of Soviet cybernetics protected underground art – from kinetic constructions and installations, to conceptual art and performance.

This session redresses a longstanding lack of attention to cybernetics globally. Presenters reconsider and generate new knowledge about generations and geographies of art and cybernetics, including practices that create, distribute, and theorise art forms, concepts, and histories. They explore cybernetic phenomena in artistic environments; examine artistic play on logic and reason; consider how art or non-art agents treat cybernetics as a social and cultural paradigm, and question how cybernetics is presented in historiographies of recent art and what interfaces of cybernetics and art bode for intra- and inter-disciplinary research and practice.


Henning Engelke (Goethe-Universität) Gregory Bateson and the Artist: Cybernetics and Aesthetics in the Early 1950s

Andreas Broeckmann (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg) Imagining an Art Computer in 1959: Vera Molnar and the Machine Imaginaire

Maria Fernandez (Cornell University) The Materiality of Concepts in the Early work of Gordon Pask

Diamantina Pandi (University of Paris Ouest Nanterre) ‘Systems esthetics’ and the Question of Medium in the Sixties: Revisiting drawing practices

Beth Capper (Brown University) ‘Ultimate Participation Video’: Shirley Clarke’s Tee Pee Video Space Troupe

Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra (Cambridge University) Matrixing Soft(War): cybernetic imaginaries and ferocious play in the work of Marcos Kurtycz

Charlene K. Lau (York University) Artist-Engineer: Arcangelo Sassolino’s cybernetic devices

Jonas Hansen, Thomas Hawranke, Karin Lingnau, Lasse Scherffig (Paidia Laboratory) Feedback. Artistic research at the interface of art and cybernetics

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