edited by Edward A. Shanken – Systems


The MIT Press/Whitechapel Gallery, ISBN-13: 978-0262527194, English, 240 pages, 2015, USA

In the vast magmatic territory between science and media art, the concept of “system” occupies a strategic outpost, especially after the first developments of cybernetic studies. But this concept, even better articulated as “open systems,” has been used in different cultural domains since the second half of the 20th century, finally welcoming complexity and autonomous dynamics in cultural processes. This book gives justice to those who have adventured in these territories, with pioneering practices and visions. This is a very consistent, but also historically extremely well-researched selection, expanding the knowledge usually limited to the (still seminal) theories of Jack Burnham and feedback loops (so en vogue in so-called “interactive art”) into an articulated anthology where theorists and artists contribute equally. Understanding systems in the different relationship among the single elements, their role and the whole they create is here articulated by classics like Buckminster Fuller and Latour, but also more recent offerings by Hayles and Haque. Artists’ texts and manifestos include Paik and Eno, but also Rinaldo and Reas, generating a trajectory where artificial life and generative concepts are only a part of a much larger and contemporary space that includes linguistics, architecture and design, for example. What is stated here is a key perspective for understanding the present, welcoming hybrid processes, but also firmly acknowledging art again for its essential dynamic and transformative role.