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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  September 2008

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING September 2008

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Subject:

Re: Fwd: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Fwd: [OlatsNewsEnglish] Cybernetics Serendipity Redux

From:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 4 Sep 2008 10:24:43 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (271 lines)

It occurs to me that cybernetics and serendipity are two different things.

We have been discussing the first part of the term but assuming the second
part is subsumed into that subject. It is, of course, a term with its own
independent existence.

I understand Oserendipityı to mean a happy accident or confluence of events.
Perhaps this is where a problem lies? As I observed in a previous post, we
have, and still do, live in dark times. Perhaps the likelihood of happy
accidents is something most people do not consider probable anymore. Most
accidents we encounter are definitely not happy, whether a car crash on the
highway, a nuclear power plant melt-down or (oops) a little genocide. When
we think of the future now we think of it with trepidation; not of sunny
uplands but of ecological crisis and social breakdown.

In 1968 happy accidents may well have seemed more probable.

So, I would be interested to see how the subject of cybernetics might be
addressed in our current context ­ but I would be keen to see this happen in
a manner decoupled from the serendipitous. Any attempt to place cybernetics
into current discourse would be doomed to failure if it did not recognise
the zeitgeist of the age and how distinct that is from where things were 40
years ago. Perhaps cybernetics could he harnessed to look at how ecological
systems function and to aid in the public understanding of why things need
to change if we are to preserve the world. I would imagine this to be the
Batesonian approach.

The current Republican vice-presidential nominee could do with a crash
course in cybernetics and ecological science. However, if that were to
happen it would definitely be most serendipitous!

Regards

Simon


Professor Simon Biggs
edinburgh college of art
[log in to unmask]
www.eca.ac.uk

[log in to unmask]
www.littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk



From: Simeon Lockhart Nelson <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2008 10:53:53 +0100
To: Simon Biggs <[log in to unmask]>
Cc: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Fwd: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Fwd:
[OlatsNewsEnglish] Cybernetics Serendipity Redux

Hi Simon and list

Taking up Simons point that cybernetics is essentially a humanist
discourse,
I would agree and go further. Gregory Bateson and other early
cyberneticists
positioned cybernetics as a complete world view, a view that was
processual and
relational rather than atomistic and reductivist. Bateson I believe
was highly
influenced by A N Whitehead's process philosophy and his critique of
'purposeless'
science. Norbert Wiener coined the term cybernetics to denote the
study of what he called
teleological mechanisms. This represented a radical break from the
paradigm of 'objectivity' in
reductivist science.

Cybernetics is essentially optimistic and curiously Aristotelian in that
it situates humans in a wider cosmological context and identifies
processes like
feedback as unifying principles underlying all phenomena, natural,
cultural and
technological. I think this 'classical' cybernetics as a world-view
has a reinvigorated relevance to
some of the epistemological debates of today, particularly the
current culture war
between fundamentalist religion and scientistic science.

Is it time for a new Cybernetic Serendipity?

Simeon

Simeon Nelson FRSA
Reader in Sculpture
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, UK
[log in to unmask]
+44 (0)2072471375
+44 (0) 7702375452
www.simeon-nelson.com




On 3 Sep 2008, at 09:30, Simon Biggs wrote:

I think Roger has touched on two of the key issues why events like
Cybernetic Serendipity, 9 Evenings and Software marked the high-water
mark
of certain artistic practices and social agendas rather than a
beginning.

The gender issue was important, as has already been discussed. Since
1968
the world has changed, in large part due to shifts in gender politics.

Issues around colonial/post-colonial politics were equally important,
both
within states and between them. This is still an active determinant
in our
world and is a complex issue (I am completing a paper that cites Ortizıs
work, which remains relevant today).

However, in a sense (and acutely aware I am not seen to be
downplaying what
remain major social issues), these were not the key factors. They can be
regarded as part of the change rather than prescient or causal.

1968 was a turning point. It was the year that people began to move away
from optimistic expectations for the future to a far darker view of
where we
were going. Paris 1968 was inspired by despair and fear, not hope and
renewal. The Vietnam war hung over everything like a sickening
stench. You
could smell the moral decay effusing from the elites of Washington,
London,
Paris and Moscow. They were without vision, trapped in their cold-war
manoeuvres, no longer certain why they were at each otherıs throats.

Another Yasmin member mentioned that people turned against technology as
they began to see it as a negative force. I donıt think it was as
simple or
as shallow as that. People were aware of and responding to something
more
fundamental. My impression, having grown to adulthood during the
decade that
began in 68, was that peopleıs perception of themselves, of people in
general, shifted profoundly. There began to be a general view that
people
were not very nice, that we were violent, corrupt, selfish and
abusive to
our environment and to one another. The politicians of the day didnıt
help
as they generally set a poor example (they continue to set a bad
example). I
have always understood that this change in world-view marked the
shift from
the Modern to that which followed it (what has often been called
post-modernism), even if post-modern themes were evident a decade or
more
before. We should remember that the term post-modern did not enter
common
parlance until a decade after 1968, with Lyotardıs Post-Modern Condition
(1979).

Artists both led the development of and reflected this zeitgeist. The
art of
the decade or so after 68 was markedly different to that of the period
prior. It was darker, existentially pregnant with a sense of absence.
I am
thinking minimalism and early performance/video practices, such as
Lucinda
Childs and Vito Acconci, as well as artists as diverse as Andre and
Beuys. I
am thinking of Pasolini and Antonioniıs landscapes, Kubrickıs journey
from
2001 to A Clockwork Orange. It was an art that presented the human
condition
as fundamentally flawed, that proposed we could not trust our own
instincts
nor the social constraints that tamed them. It was bleak, with people
caught
between a rock and a hard place. However, much of the art of that
time was
beautiful in its elegance, simplicity and simmering fear.

For artists who developed in the shadow of these opposing world-views
(I am
one of that generation) it was confusing, to say the least. At one
extreme
there was the positivist, humanist (Roger is right to cite
cybernetics as
essentially a humanist paradigm) and perhaps naive outlook of those
artists
associated with the art and technology movement. At the other there
was the
doom-laden nihilist moaningıs of those artists who thought we were at
the
Oend of timeı. Most artists worked somewhere along this spectrum, but
this
was the spectrum they had to work with. Some emerging artists sought to
broker a compromise between the two positions, others chose a side ­
many
chose to ignore the debate altogether and pursue highly personal agendas
instead. To some degree all these positions came to fruition in the
1980ıs,
which was such a pluralist decade.

I am still digesting the 90ıs...

A discussion of Cybernetic Serendipity might benefit from engaging the
social context within which the show was mounted and the developments
that
came after. Art is meaningless, decoration for our museums, without an
understanding of the context within which it was made and a reasonable
knowledge of the history around it. It would be good to hear some of the
personal reminiscences of those involved with events such as Cybernetic
Serendipity, especially as concerns how they perceived the social
developments of the time and how these impacted on their art and
ideas. This
is the history that has not been told but one many of us share, if
only as a
legacy.

Somebody also mentioned that in the States (and elsewhere) Cybernetic
Serendipity was not as high profile as it seemed in the UK, citing other
events (and Burnham) as key. It would be good to hear from those who
were
involved in these other initiatives too, partly to place Cybernetic
Serendipity within its context and to gain a better understanding of how
similar dynamics were encountered and managed in different contexts.

2008 is the fortieth anniversary of lotıs of things.

Regards

Simon


Professor Simon Biggs
edinburgh college of art
[log in to unmask]
www.eca.ac.uk

[log in to unmask]
www.littlepig.org.uk
AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk



From: roger malina <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: roger malina <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 10:25:17 -0700
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Fwd: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Fwd:
[OlatsNewsEnglish] Cybernetics Serendipity Redux

if cybernetics serendipity were re imagined today= hopefully the gender
balance
in exhibiting artists in 2008 would be improved compared to 1968= yet
cybernetics
i bet is a very male field today as it was in 1968

a parallel discussion would be relevant about the national origin of the
artists concerned !!

roger malina


Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland,
number SC009201



Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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