From Utopian Teleologies to Sporadic Historiographies: “Interfaces” of Art and Cybernetics

Jennifer Way and Maia Toteva, PhD (art history), are collaborating as chairs of the session, From Utopian Teleologies to Sporadic Historiographies: “Interfaces” of Art and Cybernetics, for the 39th Annual Association of Art Historians Conference scheduled for the University of Reading (UK) 11-13 April 2013. The call for papers reads:

It has been more than six decades since cybernetics was introduced to the English-speaking world by Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, and Warren Weaver.  Stimulated by the information explosion in the 195Os, it grew as an international phenomenon that challenged disciplinary boundaries and preconceptions.  Cybernetic models of “self-reproducing automata” brought about an enhanced understanding of informational and communication systems, engendered artificial intelligence and machine-biological interfaces (cyborgs), and impacted game theory. In the West, cybernetics had a lasting effect on art and popular culture from interactive art, performance, and computer art, to telematic art and American Idol.  The “new science,” however, received a different reception in USSR.  After its initial hostility, the Soviet government endorsed cybernetics as a panacea ensuring the rational control of a failing centralized economy. The interdisciplinary umbrella of Soviet cybernetics protected underground art—from kinetic constructions and installations, to conceptual art and performance. The session redresses a lack of attention to cybernetics globally.  It invites presenters in the visual arts and from non-art disciplines to reconsider or generate new knowledge about generations and geographies of art and cybernetics, including practices that create, distribute, and theorize art forms, concepts, and histories. Papers may explore cybernetic phenomena in artistic environments; examine artistic play on logic and reason; consider how art or non-art agents treat cybernetics as a social and cultural paradigm, or question how cybernetics is presented in historiographies of recent art and what interfaces of cybernetics and art bode for intra- and inter-disciplinary research and practice.

Professor Toteva will be a Visiting Scholar at the College of Visual Arts and Design during spring 2013. She will present a lecture, “The Role of Soviet Cybernetics in the Creation of the Russian Nonconformist Art Movement,” provide an informal survey of Eastern-bloc Art since the 1960s, with emphasis on art and technology, and discuss the development of her research including her education in Bulgaria and the U.S. facilitated by fellowships from the Menil Foundation,  Smithsonian Institution National Portrait Gallery, Getty Research Institute and the Council of European Studies.