Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Neocybernetic Art or Affect and Conversation in the Animal and the Machine
Guilherme Kujawski
2nd Author
3rd Author
Postgraduate student
Number of Pages
Danube University Krems
Thesis Supervisor
Paul Pangaro
Supervisor e-mail
pan AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Center for Image Science / MediaArtHistories
Languages Familiar to Author
English, Spanish, French, Portuguese
URL where full thesis can be found
Cybernetics, Philosophy of Technology, Radical Constructivism, Animal Studies, Perspectival Anthropology
Abstract: 200-500 words
The investigations into the existence of an art based on second-order cybernetics (neocybernetic art henceforward) are not explicitly directed to systems art neither to cybernetic art proper, an artistic expression that since the 60's has been associated with kinetic sculptures and video feed-back artworks; and only slightly touch the second-order cybernetics paradigm, although incorporates some of its canonical assets, for instance, recursive languages and the role of the observer articulated as part of the system observed. The thesis foundation draws on the ideas of two thinkers, Gilbert Simondon and Gordon Pask, specifically their concepts of affectivity and conversation. Simondon's concept of affectivity implies, inter alia, three elements: individuation, as to say, individuals on a permanent condition of ontogenesis (the sequence of events involved in the development of metastable entities striving for the stabilization of their becoming); transduction, the operation of information transferring between individuals and between individuals and their associate milieu; and information, a transductive process which provisionally resolves some incompatibilities within an individual (or ensemble), a phenomena that come into being when the previous internal resonances of multiple states begin to resonate together. The concept is to be applied to describe an "aesthetic-technical object". Pask's concept of conversation also implies, essentially, three components: participants, or observers organizationally closed but "informationally open"; proto-language, a not necessarily semantic language capable to inform and maintain the organizational relationships between processes or a collection of mental processes; and concept, a procedure that recalls, brings about or maintains a relation. In this case, a participant observer is a system of concepts, or is a carrier of concepts. Pask's notion of conversation is to be applied to describe a "participant observer". In the artworks to be analyzed, it is argued that there are at least two metastable systems (say, the artwork and the observer; or two systems within the artwork), but initially not in contact with each other due to momentary differentials of several orders. Thus, neocybernetic artworks suggest the presence of two or more metastable systems under an initial condition of withdrawal. When a communication channel is laid down and a change of information is established between them, it is expected a synergistic interaction. According to Brian Massumi, whose work is influenced by Simondon, when synergy takes effect in the domains of two or more metastable systems, "there is also something [that leaps] into existence. There is circularity between them, a recurrent feedback that has crossed a threshold to bring another plane of operation into existence." Aesthetically speaking, this "something" emerged from such relation has something like an appearance of a new concept and/or a new functioning. But how affectivity and conversation gives rise to novelty in an aesthetic context? In humans, such appearance is the outcome of the friction between concurrent concepts and different perspectives; in animals, there is the appearance of a "semantics" between the organism and a participant observer; in machines, an assemblage comprised of devices, computer languages and feed-back loops renders the appearance of a "machinic life"; or, in a special class of machines, the appearance develops through oscillation or supersaturation (e.g. crystal growing). On the basis of this approach, what could be classified as examples of neocybernetic art? It might be verifiable in the works of Antony Hall, who relies on living organisms, specifically fish, that exchanges information with humans by means of binaural beats and brainwave entrainment; it might be verifiable in the works of Philip Beesley, who creates interactive architectural environments comprised of meshes of sensors, bladders, permeable fabrics and membranes responsive to human presence; and, finally, it might be verifiable in several works of Richard Brown and his electromagnetic kinetic sculptures.