Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
[Editorial comment: systems and art], pp. - PDF (12.9 MB)
or it can be a separate function with a hierarchical assembly such as the human brain and the nervous system. A different level of systems is concerned with organisms and their information and energy exchanges with the environment. Man-machine relationships presume such exchanges also, but are structured differently. It was the purpose of the course to change the student's perceptual sense so that he would be able to appreciate these frequently invisible interactions between interlocking and neighboring systems in higher and lower relationships. The reason for applying a systems context to such an art synthesis may still be unclear. It is necessary to realize that the trend in research and industry to conceive of machines, information processing equipment, and personnel as a single totality has a distinct affinity with some of the more sophisticated happenings and art environments of the past few years. The best contemporary museums today are less storage space for art objects and more laboratories for mixed-media events. The comprehensiveness of systems theory covers very dissimilar physical assemblies. Analysis includes changes in time or the "states" of a system. Such changes are defined by a system's transforming functions. Both the nature and duration of systems may vary radically. For instance, systems might include sports, means of communication, transportation terminals, plant life, star systems, motion picture making, waste disposal - all very dissimilar, but all classifiable within a systems context. Quite possibly some of these have similar characteristics in terms of their behavior and structure as systems. Such common characteristics provide the basis for analysis and can also establish revolutionary new criteria for aesthetic concerns. For hundreds of years we have dwelled on those qualities which reveal the beauty of a painting or piece of pottery. Yet what makes one system aesthetically superior to another? Are our value judgements in this respect connected to our own self interests? For many, including the systems analyst, the answer would be yes: we do tend to judge systems in terms of their usefulness and compatability to ourselves. Yet for certain advantages humans tolerate destructive and ugly systems. Then how do we make adjoining and linked systems compatible? How does technology relate man-made to natural systems so that they maintain a healthy stability? Which man-made systems need to be abandoned or revised because of their harmful effects? Many of these appear to be solely practical, and at times utopian, considerations; actually they are aesthetic concerns of the highest priority. A systems aesthetic presumes that the patterns of advanced technology should not be abandoned for simpler life patterns. Machines and information systems are not alien to human welfare, but appear to be compatible extensions of it. Within this context the place of the artist becomes less precisely defined. He is not so much an artisan forming hand-crafted artifacts in the traditional sense, but someone supremely sensitive to the evolving environment. While his role may still be to comment upon this environment in the aloof fashion of gallery art, he actually becomes responsible for forming that environment. Until the industrial revolution this task was traditionally the artist's and any future rapproachment between art and technology demands recognition of this fact. During the winter of 1966 these and other concerns were projected in a series of papers written by engineering students. Dr. Rath, who guided these pilot studies, was mainly concerned with defining the objectives and methodology of an effective systems course whose major focus was the delineation of pertinent aesthetic criteria. The first "Art and Systems" course was offered in the spring of 1967. It was held in the Technological Institute because of needed facilities, despite the fact that deans of engineering are by inclination reluctant to make such concessions. (A later project in the course was that of designing the ideal systems classroom.) We discovered that an effective systems classroom should provide extensive working areas, a media storage area for keeping records of systems, and most importantly a portable "demonstration" 197 - . F.