Oliver Grau has recently argued that “it is important that we continue to take media art into the mainstream of art history”. This paper will argue that media art must also be viewed through the discipline of science history in order to “consider other models for relationships to technology”. This is particularly important in the case of the cybernetic art of the 1960s. Science historians have insisted that cybernetics is “essential to the history of our present”; but grasping the massive impact of cybernetics on scientific thinking in its heyday requires an imaginative effort because cybernetics has all but disappeared from the contemporary scientific discourse. Cybernetics was the theory of the control technologies which unleashed the Information Revolution and was a fundamental challenge to the methodology and disciplinary hierarchies of contemporary science.
Emerging from wartime research into artillery control; signal transmission; and brain physiology, cybernetics asserted an “essential unity of the set of problems centering about communication, control, and statistical mechanics, whether in the machine or living tissue”. _Wiener
- Professor Christo Doherty (ZA) is Head of Digital Arts, in the Wits School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also a photographer and video artist, his most recent exhibition, Small Worlds, examined rail technology, nostalgia and the South African landscape.
Full text (PDF) p. 92-94