Systems 2014

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Week 1 - intro / SYSTEMS book proposal



Week 3 - GST and Cybernetics, Systems Aesthetics/Art

Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT) / Natalie Jeremijenko


Suicide box.jpg

  • Natalie Jeremijenko:

The art world is a very prissy little thing over in the corner, while the major cultural forces are being determined by technoscience. The whole way way we imagine ourselves is being redefined, and the art world is still talking about gender politics or whatever without taking on big corporate biotechnical advances. Technology is a language that is much less about privilege, it's much less intimidating conceptually than art criticism--one knowns how to use a computer keyboard.

Better Art Through Circuitry, 2000
  • Inverse technology. Inverse methods.
    • Bit is An information agency servicing the Information Age
    • systems device servicing the systems age.

Week 4 - Bodies/Minds

Conceptual/Creative Systems

Inviting the computer in to disrupt, circmvent, augment, monkey about with, model human cognitive creative circuits.

Desiring Machines



  • Mary Kelly. Post-Partum Document.


  • lacanian schema. Seminar on the Purloined Letter

Lacan l schema first.png

Extended Mind

  • edwin hutchins.

Cultural Analytics/Digital Humanities

Taking an information-science approach to humanities research.


moravec's paradox:'s_paradox

BeAnotherLab. The Machine to Be Another. 2014

  • BeAnotherLab. The Machine to Be Another. 2014 (?)

Machine to be another.jpg

Rodney Brooks. GHENGIS. 1989

  • Rodney Brooks. GHENGIS. 1989.
  • Elephants Don't Play Chess 1990:
Nouvelle AI is based on the physical grounding hypothesis. This hypothesis states that to build a system that is intelligent it is necessary to have its representations grounded in the physical world. Our experience with this approach is that once this commitment is made, the need for traditional symbolic representations soon fades entirely. The key observation is that the world is its own best model. It is always exactly up to date. It always contains every detail there is to be known. The trick is to sense it appropriately and often enough.

Ghengis with insect.jpg

Cynthia Breazeal. KISMET 1997

Cynthia Breazeal. KISMET 1997


Child-directed speech.

Drawing Machines

Week 5 - Generative Systems

Whitelaw. System Stories and Model Worlds: A Critical Approach To Generative Art

Whitelaw. System Stories and Model Worlds: A Critical Approach To Generative Art. 2005.

nice definitions of terms:

  • software formalism v. software culturalism
  • critical generativity
  • code - language specific text
  • system - abstract formal structure
  • system story - "a translation or narration of the processual structures, ontology, entities and relations in a software system".
  • "the value of system stories for generative art is in their ability to connect...entities and relations within the system, with entities and relations outside it" p 3.


  • critics warn us against mistaking these assumptions for “the rules” of life – confusing the made with the given, or culture with nature p 3.
  • not increasingly-accurate simulations of an authorised “life”, but experimental, reflexive performances of possible lives
  • a life. "life as it could be" as opposed to "life as we know it". Stefan Helmreich. p 6.

prevelance of pragmatism with generative/software artworks. people do/make what they are able. when tech is a stretch, "able" is quite limiting.

the idea of instrumentality

  • "software... uncoupled from instrumentality or referentiality.. [it] serves nothing save its own play, display and critique.” brad borevitz. p 3.
  • referentiality is downplayed in favour of pure generative instrumentality. p 5.
  • explanatory power?
  • simulation?
  • visualization vs. model. explanatory value. exact science. representation.

what kind of world is modelled? an impoverished one. p5.

  • computationally pragmatic attributes. p 5.
  • "consider the subject or agent modelled here, if that’s the story we want to tell: a clone in a crowd, unchanging, with no traction on the space it inhabits, existing in an ongoing, perpetual present." p 5.
  • "usual disconnection between agent and environment – agents interact with each other, but have no functional impact on their world" p 6.


  • Casey Reas - Software {Structures}: Reas’ #002 and #003, Tarbell’s #003A and #003B, and Ngan’s #003B. [10]
  • Mark Napier and Scott Snibbe’s works in the CODeDOC.
    • Alessandro Capozzo’s Relations
    • Reas Tissue, Microimage, Articulate, TI and Cells.
  • Ichitaro Masuda Haohao.
  • Maura Annunziato Artificial Socieities drawings.
  • Driessens and Verstappen E-volver
  • Golan Levin 'Axis'

Lewitt - Paragraphs on Conceptual Art

Sollewitt variationsonincompleteopencubes 1974.jpeg

Lewitt cubes wood.jpg

"The idea becomes a machine that makes the art" f.ex.: project about imaginary daughter. why shouldn't subjectivity enter into the picture? aren't artist subjective responses/ideas sometimes the most interesting part? idea can be a catalyst to make the art, stimulus/response. closed loop feedback, without specifying/entailing an entire formal system to be implemented (variations on a cube).

what a poor conception of mental interest: "It is the objective of the artist who is concerned with conceptual art to make his work mentally interesting to the spectator, and therefore usually he would want it to become emotionally dry.

why would we want "perfunctory execution", free of the artist's skill? also, I think Lewitt is being a bit disingenuous here: what about appreciation of a skilled conceptualism, which I would say he is advocating for?

conception and perception as pre and post face. at odds with traditional ideas of artistic practice, where problems are worked out/ideas are formed through them.

working with a plan. f.ex.: series of imaginary family members. entire series, whole to be arranged, follows from the initial framing.

"all steps in the process are important". I like this. Emphasis on process.

"gaudy baubles". new materials are one of the greatest afflictions of contemporary art. what about new media? hah hah.

again, this anti-emotional stance. probably response to emotional claims of expressionist painting (AbEx). conceptual art with emotions--that is possible now.

"This kind of art, then, should be stated with the greatest economy of means".

Manfred Mohr - Statement from exhibition 'Manfred Mohr Computer Graphics- Une Esthetique Programmee' 1971


"creative work is an algorithm which represents a human behavior in a given situation"

"If one is now curious enough to look for his own aesthetical parameters, he is ready to engage in an interesting line of research. These considerations led me to use the computer as a PARTNER In my work.

"The first step in that direction was an extended analysis of my own paintings and drawings from the last ten years."

"...I was in a position to realize all possible representations of my algorithms."

  • integrative fantasy.
  • common for artists subjecting themselves to self-analysis, making a model of their creative system.
  • Harold Cohen
  • Keith Tyson
  • Fox Harrell/Goguen/GRIOT conceptual blends
  • Charles O Hartman. Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry (Wesleyan Poetry Series). [1]

Wall Panel. Viewer feedback onto the system.


  • "At this point a new problem appears: how to choose what Is to be kept and what Is to be rejected?"
    • presumed objective method
    • presumed computer contribution, "equal partner"
    • presumed systematicity

"there will be lass and less mystical barriers behind which the artist can hide himself."

  • I want mystical barriers!! mythologies.
  • techno-mythologies?
  • capacity for symbolic action in technical spaces.

Harold Cohen

Harold cohen sfmoma 1979.jpg SF MOMA. 1979.


Aaron fig1.png

  • Colouring Without Seeing: a Problem in Machine Creativity. 1999.
    • "Creative" is a word I do my very best never to use if it can be avoided."
  • online publications -
  • "Mind, Machine, and Creativity: An Artist's Perspective". Louise Sundararajan. The Journal of Creative Behavior, John Wiley and Sons. 2013. [2]

Keith Tyson Art Machine

External References

Cornelia Sollfrank. Cornelia sollfrank.png

Unit Operations. Ian Bogost. MIT Press. 2006.

  • models vs. simulations
  • Huiziniga's "magic circle":

"The arena, the card table, the magic circle ... all are in form and function playgrounds, i.e. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart."

p. 134

"In fact, Huizinga is mainly interested in how such play activities persist after the game is abandoned: "the feeling of being 'apart together' in an exceptional situation, of sharing something important, of mutually withdrawing from the rest of the world and rejecting the usual norms, retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game." This suggests that the magic circle of the game world ruptures into the material world, but yet it does not disappear entirely. Such an understanding of the magic circle disrupts the notion that play space possesses a stable interiority and exteriority. The idea that "you're either playing a game or you're not" or that games offer an "artificial space" that contrasts sharply with the material world needs to be revised in light of this new understanding of the magic circle.

p 134.

Performance: A Critical Introduction. Richard Carlson. 2004.

  • Art as play. Huizanga and Callois (Man, Play, and Games). Not obligatory, circumscribed in time and space, undetermined, materially unproductive, rule-bound, concerned with an alternate reality. ~ p. 221
  • Social changes, catalyzation. Turner. liminal - regular cultural activity. mark sites of challenge, but ultimately reaffirm the status quo.
  • liminoid - play, sport, leisure, art. more likely to be subversive.
  • Bakhtin (on Rebeleis) carnival, bears resemblance to Turner's liminal or liminoid.

Richard Paul Lohse: Lines of Development 1943-1984 (selection)

Richard Paul Lohse: Lines of Development 1943-1984 (selection).

Week 6 - Cybernetic Art and Architecture

Roy Ascott - La Plissure du Texte 1983

toronto.jpg tomk.jpg hank.jpg toronto-bw.jpg tomk_rax.jpg vienna-bw.jpg photos from

Roy Ascott - The Cybernetic Stance 1968



operating on two levels:

  • ”on the social level, elaborating plans for a Cybernetic Art Matrix”
  • ”on the intimate level making individual art works”

Both processes are concerned with creating triggers-initiating creative behaviour in the observer/participant.


practice/process not finished work:

the artist's interest lies more in the process of working than in the finished art work,
“...his audience expects, not a fixed attitude or viewpoint to the work, but a field of uncertainty and ambiguity in which they can, endlessly, take part.

p 106.

“I like the idea that the term performance references doing, masquerade, duration, and ritual. That it connects to history. That it connects to the heightened experience of the proscenium stage as well as veering off into the moment, action and event of everyday. I think if I were to call what I do anything else, I'd call it a practice; like I'm always preparing for something because I have to. In order to better myself or some thing or some other; or solve some problem; also that the goal of my repetition is always in the future (multiple goals; multiple timelines), always deferred by the reality of imperfection. I like the idea that practice aims to make, by implication, something perfect; though also by implication, this drive contains its own impossibility, which is good and perhaps allows us to do other things that really matter, like petting the cat or having a conversation with your Uncle Levert. Practice runs like the water.”

behavior, not essence “The role of life is to insert some indetermination into matter” Bergson. “A shift of human interest is from the thing, the object, the product to the process, the system, the event in which the product is obtained.”

dialog vs. performance

A function of the output variable (social/individual response) is to act as an input variable in my working process and in the art-work/experience, so introducing continually more and more variety into the system. p 108.

CP1 - board and ruler example. A problem, process is invisible, isn’t it? p 109-10.

CAM - ...self-creating artform, in which human beings are their own media...

Gordon Pask - The Architectural Relevance of Cybernetics

But cybernetics and architecture really enjoy a much more intimate relationship; they share a common philosophy of architecture in the sense that Stafford Beer has shown it to be the philosophy of operational research.

architects design systems. required to design buildings. p 2.

nowadays there is a del!lalld for system orientated thinking whereas, in the past, there was only a more or Jess esoteric desire for it.

Frank Gehry and CAD assisted crumpled paper facade design.

The high point of functionalism is the concept of a house as a 'machine for living in'. But the bias is towards a machine that acts as a cool serving the inhabitant. This notion will, I belieYc, be relined imo the concept of an environment Jl'itb which the inhabiranc cooperates and iu which he can externl!lizc his mental processes, i.e. mutualism will be cmph::~sizcd as compared wirh mere functional ism.

time scales. minute hour. day, week. (flexible office procedure). months years, urban planning.

But notice the trick the designer is controlling the construction of control systems and consequently design is control ofcontrol, i.e. the designer docs much the same job as his system, but be operates lit a higher level in the organization::~! hierarchy.

Usman Haque - The Architectural relevance of Gordon Pask

  • if such an embodiment has underspecified goals, it enables us to collaborate and converge on shared goals. We are able to affect both the embodiment’s response and the way the response is computed.
  • This is a completely different notion of interaction from that used in many of today’s so-called interactive systems, which are premised on unproductive and prespecified circular, deterministic reactions.
  • Colloquy of Mobiles (1968) - sounds like emergent behavior
  • A Paskian approach to architecture does not necessarily require complexity of interaction – it relies on the creativity of the person and the machine negotiating across an interface, technological or otherwise.” I am totally on board with this.
  • It is about designing tools that people themselves may use to construct – in the widest sense of the word – their environments and as a result build their own sense of agency.

A comment, a case history and a plan 1968

’Man is always aiming to achieve some goal and he is always looking for new goals.' (Pask)

'Control', in this symbolic domain, is broadly equivalent to 'problem solving' but it may also be read as 'coming to terms with' or 'explaining' or 'relating to an existing body of experience'.

“man enjoys perform-ing th!.!:;, jointly innovative and cohesive operations. To- gether, they represent an essentially human and an in- herently pleasurable mode of activity.”

like Piaget, “pleasure of being the cause.”

I take issue with his authoritative method. lists. bullet points. etc.

The meaning of cybernetics in the behavioural sciences - 1969

TOTE unit

Pask TOTE system.png

TOTE Hammer

TOTE hammer.jpg

goal directed systems.

taciturn systems, language oriented systems

—“peculiarly important in connection with studies of i11an or attempts to control, teach, or otherwise influence human beings.”

Ashby - ‘the brain as a communication and controls ystem’ p 18.

Within the cybernetic framework, the constituents of organization, namely information and control, acquired a status just as respectable as that alre.ady accredited to "matter" ·or "energy".

Cartesian Dualism ... was replaced by a Systemic Monisim. p 19.

The crux of systemic monisim is contained in the assertion that any system is a goal directed system which can be analysed into or (in context) synthesised from a collection of goal directed Subsystems.p

TOTE systems (Test Operate Test Exit)

systematic monism: Holistic and Atomistic at the same time.

“Hence, the reductionist explanations of human behaviour and mentation th~t featur~ in a cybernetic discussion are quite distinct from those (to my mmdfa~la~lOus) mechanistic explanations in which man is reduced to a bag of aSSOCIatIOns and responses. To parody the position of naIve behaviourism, man is conceived as something that reacts to stimuli. In contrast, the cyber- netic theories of psychology envisage man as someone who interprets, intends, and anticipates.“

“A human being has the qualities ordinarily associated with mental activity; nevertheless, the human system is, in principle, reducible to elementary subsystems which have the same quality in a primitive form.”

In view ot: thIS work, there can be no serious doubt that human beings can be fruitfully represented as cybernetic systems. p 23.

black box. goal-directedness, necessary to interpret structural or organizational model for the system. p 24.

All the systems of human psychology are lan- guage oriented systems and all the models proper to human psychology are language oriented models. p 29

language oriented systems - “mind systems” taciturn systems - “body systems”

Pask works

Colloquy of mobiles.png Colloquy of Mobiles

Conversation Theory References - Gordon Pask

all from

  • Conversation, Cognition, Learning. 1971. Pask.
  • Conversation Theory, gordon pask.
  • An approach to cybernetics. 1961. Pask.
  • A theory of conversations and individuals (Exemplified by the Learning Process on CASTE). International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Volume 5, Issue 4, October 1973, Pages 443–566. G. Pask, B.C.E. Scott, D. Kallikourdis
  • A fresh look at cognition and the individual. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Volume 4, Issue 3, July 1972, Pages 211–216. Gordon Pask
  • Developments in Conversation TheorymPart 1. GORDON PASK. 1980
  • “A Comment, A Case History, and a Plan”, in Cybernetic Serendipity, J. Reichardt, (Ed.), Rapp. And Carroll, 1970. Reprinted in Cybernetics, Art and Ideas, Reichardt, J., (Ed.) Studio Vista, London, 1971, 76-99. (problem with prior PDF repaired on 30 December 2010)
  • Learning strategies and individual competence Original Research Article. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Volume 4, Issue 3, July 1972, Pages 217-253. G. Pask, B.C.E. Scott
  • “Artificial Intelligence: A Preface and a Theory”, published as introduction to chapter entitled “Aspects of Machine Intelligence” in Soft Architecture Machines, edited by Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Press, 1976.
  • “An Essay on the Kinetics of Language, Behavior and Thought”, Proceedings, Silver Anniversary International Meeting of Society for General Systems Research, London, August 1979, Washington: SGSR, 111-128.
  • !!Conversation Theory in Two Sentences.
  • “The Limits of Togetherness”, Proceedings, Invited Keynote address to IFIP, World Congress in Tokyo and Melbourne, Editor, S. Lavington. Amsterdam, New York, Oxford: North holland Pub. Co., 1980, 999-1012.
  • “The meaning of cybernetics in the behavioural sciences”, reprinted in Progress of Cybernetics, edited by J. Rose, 1969.


  • The Cleaving of House and Home: A Lacanian Analysis of Architectural Aesthetics. Sarah E. Thorne, The University of Western Ontario

Sound and Music Feb 19

John Cage - Composition as Process

  • "structure", "method", "material"
  • "structure and method... the proper concern of the hear","method and material, together with form... equally the proper concern of the heart"
  • composition integrates the opposite.
  • "the form was as natural as my taste permitted" Sonatas and Interludes.
  • "nothing about the structure was determined by the materials which were to occur in it; it was conceived, in fact, so that it could be s well expressed by the absence of these materials as by their presence." p 19-20.
  • the mind, though stripped of its right to control, is still present... Where none of these or other goals is present, silence becomes something else--not silence at all, but sounds, the ambient sounds. p 22.
  • where the ears are in connection with a mind that has nothing to do, that mind is free to enter into the act of listening, hearing each sound just as it is, not as a phenomenon more or less approximating a preconception. p 23.
  • The mind reappears as the agent which established the boundaries within which this small play took place. p 27.
  • Williams Mix. p 29.
  • with tape and music-synthesizers, action with the overtone structure of sounds can be less a matter of taste and more thoroughly an action in a field of possibilities. p 31.
  • The are therefore not preconceived objects, and to approach them as objects is to utterly miss occasions for experience.. p 31.
  • Composing, if it is writing notes, is then actually writing p 34.

Manfred Werder - Text Scores - Statement (1)

Nick Prior - Putting a Glitch in the Field

  • In both cases, the sounds of technological failure had become an inherent part of the arrangement, re-aligning a malfunction (a machinic dis- turbance, an annoyance) with a creative gesture (a human expression, a joy). p 8.
  • One needs to be guarded against work that claims a self-organized, machinic evolution and genesis of technology independent of its uses and meanings amidst social spheres of practice... sensitizing us to the fact that instruments and associated devices are not passive intermediaries but active mediators. p 17.

Kollias - Self-Organizing Work of Music

  • Is it possible to talk about representation in natural self-organizing systems?
  • What are the limits between the system and its environment?? p 3.
  • Self-Organizing Music p 3.

a self-organising work emerges during a performance from the interactions defined by an interpretational model, interactions between the structures constituting the self-organising work and the given context of performance.

  • As Di Scipio puts it, the composer, instead of compos- ing the music, ‘composes the interactions’ (Di Scipio 2003) p 4.
  • Ephemeron’s existence begins from the moment the process of the sound’s projection starts from the speakers and its existence ends with the completion of the sound’s emission. There is no Ephemeron before or after the performance. p 5.

Baldwin - Wiring John Cage

  • for RB: why radios, today?

Xenakis - Free Stochastic Music by Computer

  • The general public has a number of different reactions when faced by the alliance of the machine with artistic creation
  • Yes, one may play games with a machine or use it for speculative purposes, but the result will not be "finished": it will represent only an experiment-interesting, perhaps, but no more."
  • Now everything that is rule or repeated constraint is part of the mental machine.
  • But computers are not really responsible for the introduction ofmathematics into music; rather it is mathematics that makes use of the computer in composition. Yet if people's minds are in general ready to recognize the usefulness of geometry in the plastic arts (architecture, painting, etc.), they have only one more stream to cross to be able to conceive of using more abstract, non-visual mathematics and machines as aids to musical composi- tion, which is more abstract than the plastic arts. p 132.


Mallarme - Un Coup de Des -

Thoughts Week Whatever

Relationships between visual and textual scores.

Score -> Script -> Literature.


Examine the sites of our intimate lives from a systems theoretic standpoint. Considering systems thinking as a general analytic framework concerned with open and closed systems, principles of feedback and control beyond mere technology, I will test its value in interpreting the domestic, social, and linguistic systems we actually inhabit. Where do systems understandings lose their traction in engagement with the messy conditions of home, family, love, and desire? Where do they succeed? To anchor this analysis, I draw on works of art engaged with these sites, which can be productively analyzed from a systems theoretic standpoint. I will pay particular attention to the neglected remainder in systems analysis, what is left out of our systems stories?

This project will not be an exhaustive study: tilt your head appropriately and anything can be viewed as a systems. My method is a subjective one: focused on those sites and relations that have the strongest personal significance for me, appraising systems perspectives in terms of their explanatory power for interpreting my lived experience. I want to test the value of systems understandings in this personal arena: if they can't address the full scope of human experience then what good are they?


When are they productive? When are the masturbatory, solipsistic? Circular motion. Wasted energy with no output?

Script. Reading Reference.

Sketchbooks. Typing and retyping.

drawing, recording, playback. tracing.

verbal/speech. (solipsist)

self-reflexivity. self-reflection.


PTZ video system voice-ID / speech recognition stomach body torso situps

habitus, technologies of the self

krapp's tape recorder

thoreau's cabin

the medical waiting room

the car



space-ship boat, house boat

facebook cell-phone provider ISP google



interpersonal relationships (friendships)


professional career

technical (the simplest)

interpersonal relations (are they systems?)




productive (practice, methodology)


entertainment production / consumption (as I am watching Vikings while I write this)


the big ones feed my own history back into my present (guidance, steermanship "cybernetics")


home as refuge.

scramble the codes (linguistic, etc.) in the home