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The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England

2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher. This book was set in Bitstream Charter with Kievit display by Graphic Composition, Inc. Printed and bound in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lee, Pamela M. Chronophobia : on time in the art of the 1960s / Pamela M. Lee. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-262-12260-X (hc : alk. paper) 1. Art and technology History 20th century. 2. Time in art. 3. Nineteen sixties. I. Title. N72.T4L43 2004 2003061092 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1







Introduction: Eros and Technics and Civilization


Chapter 1: Presentness Is Grace


Chapter 2: Study for an End of the World


Chapter 3: Bridget Rileys Eye/Body Problem


Chapter 4: Ultramoderne: Or, How George Kubler Stole the Time in Sixties Art

Chapter 5: Conclusion: The Bad Innity/The Longue Dure





The wisdom and support of many individuals have been critical in the making of this book. I am grateful to the artists and critics who contributed their time, insights, and observations to my research, as well as those institutions whose archives and holdings are central to what follows. Deepest thanks to Guy Brett, Pol Bury, Liliane Lijn, David Medalla, and Carolee Schneemann. Research for the book was conducted at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; the Archives of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Archives of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Archives for American Art, Washington, D.C.; Rare Books and Manuscripts, Sterling Library, Yale University; the Jewish Museum, New York; and the Archives of the Museum Jean Tinguely, Basel (with thanks to Claire West). The research, writing, and production of this book were generously funded by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; a Deans Fellowship in the Humanities from Stanford University; and a McNamara Grant in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford. I am extremely pleased to be working again with the MIT Press and am indebted to Roger Conover for his continued advice and support. At the MIT Press, Lisa Reeve facilitated the books production at all stages. Former teachers and friends make all my work possible. Yve-Alain Bois continues to inspire. To Joseph Koerner I owe more than a few e-mails. Rosalind Krauss was my rst teacher in graduate school; I have never adequately thanked her for that. Nor could I ever repay the following individuals, whose friendship well transcends the business of academia: Pauline Abernathy, Leah Dickerman, Maria Gough, Karin Higa and Russell Ferguson, David Joselit, Juliet Koss, Jennifer Lee,

Michael Lobel (and yarn, by proxy), Christine Mehring, Richard Meyer, Eric Miles, Steven Nelson, Alex Nemerov, Julie Ries and Ken Miller, Gus Stadler, and Ellen Tepfer. Cheers to David Empire Karam and the good folks at (aka Steve Hartzog) for their technological empathy. The conclusion of this book is dedicated to the memory of Henry Jay Tobler, with whom I rst stumbled into the wilderness of postmodernism many years ago. Im indebted to the readers and interlocutors who have granted portions of this book a receptive audience and whose feedback has shaped my thinking in important ways. They include Alex Alberro, Rhea Anastas, Doug Ashcroft, Eric de Bruyn, Benjamin Buchloh, Thomas Crow, Lane Relyea, Chris Wood, Cecile Whiting, and the editors of Grey Room: Branden Joseph, Reinhold Martin and Felicity Scott.. Colleagues and students in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University have been unstinting in their support. Thanks to both the art history and studio faculty, particularly Professors Wanda Corn, Michael Marrinan, Joel Leivick, and Bryan Wolf. For all matters photographic, Im grateful to Davey Hubay for her conscientious work and goodwill; for all matters bureaucratic, thanks go to Stephanie Chang and Liz Martin. Among past and present graduate students, many of whom took my seminar on time and the work of art several years ago, I wish to acknowledge Carrie Lambert, Gwen Allen, Jill Dawsey, Lisa Pasquariello, Corey Keller, and Tirza Latimer. Gabriela Muller began this project as my research assistant; Dana Ospina continued her efforts and completed the odious task of securing reproduction rights and permissions. Their sense of humor, hard work, and incredible patience with its authors demands and peculiar interests (Flugbltter? Mind Control?) has neither gone unnoticed nor unappreciated. My family has always given space to my obsessionsboth academic and otherwiseand here, as elsewhere, their support has been critical. Fred, Margaret, Felicia, Serena, and Sondra Lee have been there for me in more ways than they could know. Alice Yao and Peggy Chan generously opened their home to me in London during an extended research period spent abroad. Finally, it is Geoff Kaplan who has seen this project and its author through multiple, seemingly endless permutations and revisions; hes listened to me go on and on about the matter of time. Hes seen this project over the (relatively) long dure. It is in no small part because of his love, patience, and great good humor that hes seen the book to its conclusion. I dedicate it to him.


Clutch at the moments as I may, they elude my grasp: each is my enemy, rejects me, signifying a refusal to become involved. Unapproachable all, they proclaim, one after the next, my isolation and my defeat. We can act only if we feel they convey and protect us. When they abandon us, we lack the resources indispensable to the production of an act, whether crucial or quotidian. Defenseless, with no hold on things, we then face a peculiar misfortune: that of not being entitled to time. E. M. Cioran1 In his 1964 book The Fall into Time, E. M. Cioran offered a bleak prognosis for the condition of time in late modernity, a time understood as at once desperate and fatal. Describing moments that endlessly elude ones graspof being abandoned by the safe haven that history once representedCioran gave voice to the acutely contemporary phenomenon of noncontemporaneity, of not being entitled to time. To fall in and out of time and to lose ones bearings in the process: this would seem to be one of the great tropes of literary modernism, that the ever-rushing pace of contemporary life had outstripped ones attempts to make sense of the present. And yet Ciorans pronouncements, poetic and existential as they are, are also historically specic to the 1960s. Countless writers, philosophers, and social critics confronted the question of time back then. The Counterculture, popular music, and other forms of mass entertainment likewise grappled with the subject.

The gure of revolutionof radically changing timesis critical to the image of that decade. Indeed to survey the art and art criticism of the sixties is to encounter a pervasive anxiety that I describe as chronophobic: as registering an almost obsessional uneasiness with time and its measure. Cutting across movements, mediums, and genres, the chronophobic impulse suggests an insistent struggle with time, the will of both artists and critics either to master its passage, to still its acceleration, or to give form to its changing conditions. In charting the consistency as well as diversity of such efforts, this book restitutes the question of time to the history of sixties art. But, just as important, this preoccupation illuminates the emergence of new communications and information technologies in the postwar era, offering a historical prelude to our contemporary xations on time within digital culture. The philosopher of history Reinhart Koselleck characterized late modernity as being a peculiar form of acceleration,2 and the computer technology of the sixties, with its rhetoric of speed and seemingly instantaneous information processing, represents a radical attenuation of this model. This book reads the chronophobic tendency in much of that decades work as projecting a liminal historical moment, for which there was no clear perspective on the social and technological horizon yet to come. And time, I argue throughout, becomes the gure of this uncertainty for many artists and critics. Michael Frieds injunction against time in the reception of minimalist sculpture; Robert Smithsons obsession with entropy and futurity; video arts politics of presence; conceptual arts preoccupation with seriality and real time aesthetics; Andy Warhols musings on the eeting character of modern celebrity, on the one hand, and his cinematic endurance tests, on the other; kinetic arts literalization of movement; John Cages soundings in time; the discourse of performance art and the lived and timely body: all of these examples, covering a wide range of sixties art making, are informed by a marked grappling with temporality. Paradoxically, however, this engagement with time on the part of artists and critics is so foundational, so basic to any narrative about sixties art, that it remains largely untreated in the decades general histories.3 This book traces the ubiquity of the chronophobic impulse, considering how artists implicitly, even inadvertently, wrestled with new




technologies in the United States and Europe in the sixties, of which time is both symptom and cure. I treat the obsession with time in 1960s art in tandem with two indissociable shifts in the culture following World War II: the alleged waning of the Machine Age on the one hand, and the concomitant advent of computer technologies, on the other. I suggest that the rise of the Information Age and its emphasis on speed and accelerated models of communication serve as the cultural index against which many artists and critics gestured. Historically rooted in the military science of World War II, the information technology of the sixties found a much broader audience than the research covertly linked to the war effort. Now introduced into the spheres of both commerce and culture, its impact was startling and seemingly abrupt. By 1970, for example, the best-selling author Alvin Tofer famously bemoaned the condition of Future Shock, a generalized social anomie caused by rapid transformations in technology: the book was an instant best-seller. This sense of historical unknowing and the cultural history that surrounds it crucially inform my study, not only at the level of Tofers pop sociology, but in seemingly disparate communities of readers, spectators, and producers. Indeed the sixties mark the beginning of the computer racea furious competition on the part of companies historically associated with bureaucratic technologies to develop the fastest and most efcient computers possible. Radical innovations such as IBMs rst transistorized computer of 1959 and its development of mainframe systems in the sixties offered the potential of virtually instantaneous data processing. And in 1965, Gordon Moore, the research director of Fairchild Semiconductor, would prove lucky (or at the very least, prescient) in his speculations about the future of computer production and its accelerated information processing. His law (Moores Law as it is now widely known), argued that engineers would be able to cram an ever-increasing number of electronic devices on microchips, and it estimated that the number would roughly double every year. Developments of this sort seemed to extend the promise of technology associated by many with the historical Machine Age, however much that promise was itself radically contested by earlier critics. Yet for the many commentators and philosophers struggling with the catastrophe of the Second World War, they also raised pressing questions about technological progress and its effects on subjective

experience. Debates on the changing character of social life under the shifting modalities of time were central to discussions about the role of technology in the postwar era. The writings of Norbert Wiener, Jacques Ellul, Marshall McLuhan, and Theodore Roszak, among many others, attest to a deep ambivalence about time and the future, engendered by the information technologies at the crux of their respective accounts. Thus this book engages the question of technocratic rationality in the sixties, ranging from the dour social prognoses of the late Frankfurt School to the liberatory ethos of the Counterculture. By the same token, it confronts the way in which the technological optimism of the prewar era lingered in the public consciousness of the sixties. Throughout, I argue that the larger cultural ambivalence surrounding technology parallels the production of a diverse body of art and art criticism in the sixties, with time standing as its most compelling, if elusive, cipher.



But why chronophobia, one might reasonably ask? Why not chronophilia an almost erotic absorption with time? No doubt there is a ne line between a phobic obsession with time and an almost perverse fascination with its unfolding, as if the brute gravity of that unfolding demanded a respect of equal but opposite weightiness to the anxiety time might produce. Nonetheless, I have leaned toward the phobic side of this equation in what follows. For with the exception of the artists in the introductory chapter, the gures who are at the center of this book remain suspicious of the conjunction of time and technology in sixties culture, some denying altogether the application of technology in their work. Theirs is neither a matter of intention nor declaration; nor what might appear, at least on a supercial level, to be a wholesale embrace or even rejection of cybernetic culture. Not at all: the lip service artists and critics paid to the Information Age is a fundamentally different pursuit from the structural operations of works of art and their reception, or what is repressed within that moments writing and criticism. This book seeks other means to think about the relationship between art and technology beyond an explicit iconography of postwar


technics or even a discussion of new media as such. I take very seriously Fredric Jamesons account of the operations of technology and representation within postmodernism, which could well stand as the secret mantra for many of the artists working here. It is immediately obvious that the technology of our own moment, he writes,
[n]o longer possesses the same capacity for representation: not the turbine nor even [Charles] Sheelers grain elevators or smokestacks, not the baroque elaborations of pipes and conveyer belts, nor even the streamlined prole of the railroad trainall vehicles of speed still concentrated at restbut rather the computer, whose outer shell has no emblematic, or visual power, or even the casings of the various media themselves, as with that home appliance called television which articulates nothing but rather implodes, carrying its attened image surface within itself. Such machines are indeed machines of reproduction rather than of production, and they make very diKerent demands on our capacity for aesthetic representation than did the relatively mimetic idolatry of the older machinery of the futurist moment, of some older speed-and-energy sculpture.4


No statement more effectively dramatizes the pressure recent technology places on its representation. Even still, one might think the relationship was business as usual upon surveying the visual environment of today. Turn on the television, ick on the computer, and scan quickly those endless advertisements selling this new Website or that new digital technology. Far too often, one confronts a series of iconic 0s and 1s oating in a sea of ether, a pallid representation of the on/off ipping of the binary code. But time (and attitudes toward technology along with it) is a far more slippery proposition than any image or thematic that would seek to encode it. For at the edges of the art critical discourse that concerns us in the 1960s (and at the edges of the art itself), there remains a thinking about time that is undecidable as both theory and representation. How to theorize process at this historical juncture? How to gure temporal presence in the work of art? How to retain a model of artistic subjectivity that at once acknowledges the historicity of its maker while deferring to the dramatically changed time of artistic production under

postwar technology? These are the kinds of questions posed by artists and critics of the 1960s, whether implicitly or explicitly; and their responses do not necessarily cohere around the image of technology or any ostensible narrative of new media. As for other whys behind this study: Ill show my hand in sharing a personal phobia. It reveals that what might seem a sixties problem is embedded in the web of our own present. Its an open secret among friends of mine that I have long harbored a certain discomfort around the most patently banal technological activity: driving. This is not something to be proud of; admittedly, its an absurd fear for someone who grew up in Los Angeles. Then again, perhaps this is to the point. But even more to the point is what this activity suggests about its temporal orientation to the world, and how its implications get played backlike a tape-loopbetween our contemporary moment and that of the recent past. Consider the experience of driving, mundane as it is. Behind the wheel, the world speeds by like an image over which one is alleged to have some agency. The body connects to the machine it occupies; the body coordinates the movement of that machine through space; the horizon assumes the status of moving picture as framed by the machine in turn. The car is its own medium: vistas accelerate and decelerate with the pressure of the foot on the pedal, ash into view and disappear with the turn of a head. In The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch historicized a parallel phenomenon to driving in relation to the rise of the railroad in the nineteenth century. For him, the evolution of train travel produced a new modality of embodied spectatorshipa spectatorship conditioned by a new temporality.5 With the car, however, control is ceded to but one driver and the sense of the body moving in time places new stress on that driver as well. In fact, I would argue that the driving body does not necessarily square with Marshall McLuhans famous narrative of technology and prosthetic subjectivity, the idea that technologies are but seamless extensions of man. What McLuhan downplayed in his treatment of new media is the negatively inverse relationship between technological prosthetics and the subject who would seek to control them. No seamless body/machine meld here. It is ones relationship to time that announces this very condition: it throws the question of technology into high relief.



Now the modernist in me acknowledges the ridiculousness of these remarks at the same time as I can see them in terms of a much grander theoretical tradition: Siegfried Kracauer on distraction, for example, or Walter Benjamin on shock, or, much more recently, Paul Virilio on the pressures of a dromological culture. And there is no doubt that these psychic tics in my technological imaginary nd their analogue in the literature on sixties art. Take, for instance, Tony Smiths famous interview with Samuel Wagstaff, in which the minimalist sculptor described the reception of art in terms of a thematic of endlessness, notably depicted as an open road. Persuasively treated as an allegory for the new sculpture, the passage demands to be revisited through the logic of temporalization. As Smith said:
When I was teaching at Cooper Union in the rst year or two of the fties, someone told me how I could get onto the unnished New Jersey Turnpike. I took three students and drove them somewhere in the Meadows to New Brunswick. It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all except the dark pavement moving through the landscape of ats. . . . This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was articial, and yet it couldnt be called a work of art. On the other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At rst, I didnt know what it was, but its eKect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. . . . The experience of the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear thats the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that.6


In Smiths postwar retelling of the classical travel narrative, the sense of the Great Unknown is held at a distance, metaphorized by the dimness of the road and its lack of legible street architecture: openended interpretation is analogized to the business of incomplete road construction. But it would be a mistake to stop here. For Smiths discourse on a literal passage analogizes the question of a temporal passage, of duration, before and around the work of art, providing an object lesson for our own deeply mediated relationship to visual art and the environment as inected by time. Indeed this study nds its origins at the heart of the Silicon Valley, where I teach and have lived; and one

conceptual horizon of my project, like Smiths narrative, might be played out as an endless highway. Nothing quite like the spectacle that confronts the commuter as he or she makes her way up and down Highway 101, the main artery connecting San Francisco to the Silicon Valley. A parade of billboards lines the road, each screaming for attention. But what do they advertise? start-ups; net connections and service providers; cyberspaces for cyberevents. Its hard to ignore the paradox, a beautiful paradox. Its an odd encounter between hard, primitive communications media and the soft, virtual, new media those signs would attempt to sell. In the wake of more recent economic realities, those signs dont blare as loudly as they used to, their arrogance muted by the censorious realpolitik of failed initial public offerings and mountains of pink slips. But the peculiar contrast they stage between then and now is just so; and it underscores one of the central issues of this book, the endless temporal switching that occurs between past, present, and future. The recursiveness between old and new media in the sixties is something we can better see, with hindsight, from our millennial (or rather, postmillennial) perch. How do we gure or conceive of our own horizon of contemporaneity; and how is that contemporaneity at once augured and shadowed by the faith we place in our technology? This book attempts to address some of these questions by means of a historical horizon only recently past.



Some prefatory remarks on the terms that comprise the subtitle of this book time, art, and the 1960s as well as the term technology, which gures prominentlyare in order. These terms seem transparent enough. As this book will make clear, however, both the language and the historical conditions that shape them are far from transparent, are far more ambiguous than they might seem; and it is precisely this lack of consensus around their meanings and implications that endows the history that follows with its acutely anxious charge. This is a study whose objects of criticism, whether works of art or texts or the matter of time itself, have blurred edges at best. In the name of politics,



culture, and ideology, they will be mobilized to radically different ends by equally different constituencies. Ill start with the seemingly self-evident coupling of the concepts art and technology. I say seemingly self-evident because the linking of the two has been a cornerstone of modern art history, but one, I think, that demands to be nuanced within the context of postwar art making. Mention the pairing of art and technology and the art historical roll call begins: think the futurists, the constructivists, experimental lm and photography, video. Or think new media: telematics, portables, motion graphics, biotechnology all pressed into the service of advanced art making. Examples of this sort occupy a central roleeasily the most privileged rolein the archive of art and technology. And thats certainly right: we could hardly do justice to considering new imaging technologies today, for example, without parsing the historical and scientic rhetoric that informs the invention of photography. Yet to treat the art and technology relationship as exclusively the encounter between artist and technical thing, whether medium or tool, or in the will to represent technology, is to conceive of technology as merely the stuff of objects, things whose materiality or ontological security is self-contained and self-evident. When Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Roszak, and so many others decried technological rationality and the ascendant technocracy in the 1960s, however, they were little concerned with mere things. They were not, it bears saying, just referring to computers, missiles, and television sets. They were referring, in the bluntest of terms, to an attitude peculiar to that moment, an attitude internalized socially, culturally, and politically, whose consequences stood in dramatic excess of technologys literal representation. I address this attitudewhat Marcuse called a logic of domination or administrationin the introduction of this book. Such issues are brought to bear on the works of art I have chosen to discuss as well. Inevitably, questions (perhaps objections) will be raised as to the exclusions of certain works of art and artists, not to mention the short shrift given to entire genres. Let me be clear that this is neither a survey of time in the art of the sixties, nor a history of tech art or new media in that decade, although the historical exigencies surrounding such developments are critical to what follows. This project, rather, is at once more narrow and ambitious in thinking through the art and technology nexus with respect to time. In

considering time as a trope for the increasingly fraught confrontation with technology in the 1960s, I want to appeal to the deep structure of technological change taking place then. More often than not, this structure is registered at the level of reception rather than production, consumption rather than intention, and organization, rather than representation. Thus when I speak of the relationship between art and technology, I broadly acknowledge the original formulation of technology in techne that is, its grounding in an Aristotelian tradition of applied cognition. It is in the Nicomachean Ethics that the word techne nds its philosophical articulation, by which is meant the skill, art or craft and general know-how, the possession of which enables a person to produce a certain product.7 Techne, then, as opposed to the understanding of technology as a tool, grants us a far more expansive perspective into the historical problem of art and time in the 1960s.8 Indeed, techne denes art and technology as contiguous, whether the art of the laborer or craftsperson. There is no art, Aristotle observed, that is not a characteristic or trained ability of rationally producing, nor it there a characteristic of rationally producing that not an art.9 What follows from this conceit, which acknowledges the epistemic, calculational, or rational dimensions that inhere in any formulation of technics (because of the makers know-how) is a base understanding that technology as practice and thinking all at onceis not neutral but necessarily subjective. Technology is (therefore) no mere means, Martin Heidegger wrote in his Question Concerning Technology, an essay that would describe the Western technological narrative as progressively and therefore dangerously instrumental.10 This warning will ring true for much art of the 1960s, which I argue at once registers and produces the sense that a peculiar contest over the technological is taking place, a sense of both defense and revolt. And that contest, we shall see, gets played over and over through time. Time, then, is up for grabs here. With the revolutions in quantum physics that mark the rst half of the twentieth century, it cant be anything but. And although Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg stand as irreproachable gures in any discussion of time and change in late modernity, it is not the new science that concerns meless the business of imaginary time and relativityas much as the larger issue of time, history, and periodization with respect to technology.11 Any



study that takes up such a proposal needs to be concerned with the methodological risks of technological determinism, the belief that all forms of culture get swept up in technologys inexorable wake.12 In laying stress on the notion that technology is not neutralno mere meansone emphasizes the deeply relative character of this determinism. It is relative to the ideologies that manage, support, and underwrite technologys production and distribution; and relative in terms of those communities who would subscribe to such ideologies as well. In pointing to the radical unknowing that attends questions of time in the art of this period, I also stress the degree to which notions of determinism are themselves progressively compromised. To be sure, it is one of the paradoxes of both science and technology in the postwar era that this phenomenon is thematized as uncertainty and contingency, its methods described as a certain anarchy.13 If this is determinism of a sort, it begs liberal qualication, hardly the kind of determinism that accompanies old-school historicism. In this sense, much of what follows suggestsbut does not completely square withThomas Kuhns profoundly inuential reading of change in The Structure of Scientic Revolutions (1962) and his conception of the paradigm shift. Normal Science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments, Kuhn wrote.14
When the profession can no longer evade anomalies that subvert the existing tradition of scientic practicethen begin the extraordinary investigations that lead the profession at last to a new set of commitments, a new basis for the practice of science. The extraordinary episodes in which that shift of the professional commitments occur are the ones known in this essay as scientic revolutions.15


These revolutions, to follow Kuhn, are ruptures in the existing order of scientic knowledge and practice. And as their new set of commitments wear on, they become more institutionally entrenched, only to be displaced by yet another revolution. Much of the work discussed in what follows would seem to anticipate such shifts, as if forecasting the radical change on the horizon. But I also stress that the scientic and technological ruptures that usher in the Information Age are at this point, historically ambiguous, their

implications ambivalent and their consequences still far aeld. This remark begs another question: if not a paradigm shift, then what? How, in other words, do we periodize work that seemingly resists the logic of periodization? The answer, in part, is to take that as a sign for the period itself. For when historians and critics write about periodizing the sixties, they mean, rst of all, to reject the crude historicizing that sees that time as beginning on January 1, 1960, and ending at midnight, December 31, ten years later. They mean to see something more expansive about that moment, irreducible to marks on a calendar or dates on a page, a common objective situation that is at once deeply historical but does not essentialize an omnipresent and uniform shared style or way of thinking and acting.16 A stark way to address this issue takes the form of a question: When did the sixties end? The sixties, I argue in the conclusion, are endless in peculiar ways: endless in that we are still dealing with its political and temporal legacy. But theres also no shortage of answers to that question if by the sixties one refers to a specic postwar/Cold War ethos, in which an acute faith in political agency found its systematic manifestations in the antiwar, civil rights, and national liberation movements. If thats a working denition for the period, or at least an impressionistic one, then one might make claims for a number of ends, ranging from a postMay 1968 moment to a slew of events moving into the early seventies. Such a list might include the violence at the 1969 Stones concert at Altamont, the Tate/LaBianca murders committed by Charles Manson followers, the growing splits within Students for a Democratic Society, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam in 1973, Watergate even. It goes on and on, this list, and that seems tting as well. How history gets made, how it gets written, nds a peculiar orientation specic to the period. It is specic to a matter of time anxiously felt back then.



The rst part of the study, Presentness Is Grace establishes the terms of this history. The introduction, Eros and Technics and Civilization, attends to the problematic nature of art and technology collaborations in the sixties, characterized by an unbridled love of the new technology.



The centerpiece of the chapter is the history surrounding the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), begun in 1966 and culminating with an infamous exhibition in 1971. The program was highly controversial not only for the quality of the work produced (dismal by most accounts) but also for its partnership with corporations whose links to the Vietnam War were indisputable. I read LACMAs program against the grain of another local history, that surrounding Herbert Marcuses analysis of art and technology in sixties culture. The comparison frames the terms for the debate on art and technology in the decade and opens up the possibility of considering this relationship through noniconographic means. Accordingly, the rst chapter, Presentness Is Grace introduces the thesis of chronophobia by revisiting Michael Frieds famous essay Art and Objecthood (1967). A canonical text of high modernist art criticism, the essays centrality for the sixties, I argue, has as much to do with its peculiar, even phobic, thematization of time as it does with a modernist account of visuality. Fried does not address technology explicitly in this essay, but his hostility toward the temporal dimensions of minimalist sculptureits experience of endlessness, duration, and repetitioncan be read against a generalized movement in sixties art to work based on nonlinear paradigms of seriality, systems-based (as opposed to medium-specic) production and its attendant models of recursion and autopoiesis. As such, the chapter puts pressure on the art historical readings by which medium is conventionally understood, and it provides a means to think critically about the relationship between medium and new media in postwar art. The second part of the book is entitled Allegories of Kinesis. It contends with issues of movement and time in sixties art as they relate to the ascendance of what has come to be known as media culture, the global media, and global technocracy. Chapter 2, Study for an End of the World treats the explosion of kinetic art in the early sixties. The proliferation of this work suggested a revival of avant-garde practices and has correspondingly suffered a historiographic reputation as derivative and regressive. Regardless, I take seriously the question of what this return to a Machine Age aesthetic might represent through the rhetoric of overlapping technological worlds, particularly, the emergence of automation and communications media and the question of temporality in an expanding global context. I compare the

self-destructive work of one of its most famous practitioners, the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, to the excruciatingly slow sculpture of the Belgian Pol Bury and the global propositions offered by the London-based Signals group. The third chapter, Bridget Rileys Eye/Body Problem, considers Op art, another mid-decade movement typically discussed in terms of technology and time. I focus on the work of the British painter Bridget Riley and Ops peculiar fetishization of visuality. I read the visual tempi internalized by her work in terms of the phenomenological response of its viewer. This virtual disembodiment of the spectators eye from its corporeal subject occasions a reading of the temporalized body under the conditions of a shifting technological culture and its potentially liberatory or repressive implications. As a comparative foil to Rileys practice and reception, I take up the kinetic, intermedia, and performance-based art of Carolee Schneemann. The last part of the book is called Endless Sixties. The books fourth chapter, Ultramoderne: Or, How George Kubler Stole the Time in Sixties Art concerns a peculiar episode in the art and art criticism in the sixties: the reception of George Kublers The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (1962). Hailed in art historical circles for its rejection of stylistic historicism, Kublers book also found an enthusiastic if unlikely audience of contemporary artists, as demonstrated by Robert Smithsons essays Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space (1966) and Ultramoderne (1967). Although Kublers account of an intermittent, nonlinear history of art converged seamlessly with Smithsons distaste for the modernism of Clement Greenberg, I speculate that, more signicantly, it allowed Smithson to think through questions of seriality, technics, and futurity in his own artistic production, as well as to reect on a critical discourse that had only recently emerged within popular consciousness in the fties and sixties: namely, cybernetics. Smithson made occasional reference to Norbert Wiener and cybernetics in his writing, but paradoxically, he seemed to have found the most apposite spokesperson for these interests in the gure of Kubler. In the concluding chapter, The Bad Innity/The Longue Dure, I discuss the almost compulsive desire to register time in numerous examples of sixties art, ranging from Warhols Empire to the work of the Japanese-born, New Yorkbased artist On Kawara. Such practices are considered in light of theories of postmodernism and the rise of technological forecasting in the 1960s, as well as two seemingly



incompatible models of history: G. W. F.s Hegels Bad Innity and Fernand Braudels Longue Dure. I argue that both Empire and Kawaras practice endlessly belabor the present as a particular comment on the status of futurity articulated in that historical moment.


Billy Pilgrim, the antihero of Kurt Vonneguts Slaughterhouse Five (1969), is a time traveler. Throughout the book, he claims to have come unstuck in time. In a series of increasingly vertiginous narratives, Billy Pilgrim moves with blinding speed through time and space. In a ash he is at the Dresden slaughterhouse, where he was kept as a prisoner during the Second World War. Next he is in Ilium, Ohio, a suburban optometrist stuck in a loveless marriage. Then again, he is whisked to the planet of Tramalfagore, held captive by aliens. One approach to the book might read Billys time traveling as a function of madnessof a mental breakdown brought on by the traumas of war. It is no doubt that, as much as it is a meditation on the war that Billys own son now supports Vietnam. Vonneguts book, then, is a dizzying comparison of two military events split along a temporal trajectory: World War II and the war in Southeast Asia act as chronological bookends to one of the most critical periods in world history.17 But Pilgrims madness, or schizophrenic relation to time, also betrays something of the temporal crisis that is a signal feature of postmodernism.18 And like all good crises, this one calls for a certain degree of decision making.19 How is one to act in the face of it? Artists and critics of the 1960s needed to make such decisions. Often enough, their response came in the form of a disavowal, an uncertainty in their approach to the question of time. Perhaps some recognized that it had become one of the great clichs of our time, the subject of time. But that very recognition also announces a reckoning, a historical reckoning, that theirs was a moment endlessly recasting its own version of timeliness. The task of this book is to bear witness to that version, however transient it might seem to be.




On the evening of July 20, 1969, time stood still. Everything seemed to stop. A brutal war abroad, civil strife at home, the very earth itself: all the chaos of that moment appeared to recede into the distance, contracted to points. Near the end of a decade catalytic in its rate of change, the future looked endlessly hopeful. It was a future pledged on the spectacle of technology. For it was then that Apollo 11 made good on its promise to put a man on the moon, and the images from that moment are now stock in trade to our technological imaginary (gure I.1). Buzzed cut and teeth ashing, the astronauts are proud in their space armor; while the heroes wives clutch handbags and handkerchiefs, ngers nervous in anticipation of the countdown. Mission Control vibrates with hulking mainframes; NASA men are brisk in short sleeves, thick glasses, and headsets. Then there is the moon itself, a pale curve stamped against the black. Out on the Sea of Tranquility, two would emerge from their lunar module, make their slow descent down a ladder, and plod noiselessly across its cold surface. That picture has come to stand as among the most profound in the history of technology, offering a view of the 1960s buoyed by the Enlightenment platforms of reason and progress. A utopian vision, perhaps, it is a vision of unagging optimism, of limitless horizons, and the can-do ethos of American invention. Yet this is only a partial vision of the technological landscape. It is partial because, in turning its gaze to the stars, it is blind to the decidedly worldly technology of everyday life, the mundane stuff transmitting the image. No account of the mission, after all, would be complete without the television sets, all those black and white altars in

I.1 Apollo 11 landing, July 11, 1969.

Courtesy NASA.

living rooms or mounted in a corner at the local bar. Millions would watch this history play out on television, and for many, it was a history that couldnt come soon enough. Because in 1961, smarting from the humiliations of the Soviet lead in the space race, JFK had committed the country to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. Hence the picture is partial because it is also ideological, born of a culture steeped in Cold War values and military proscriptions. Americans had trained in that culture for close to ten years by then, watching the most horric images unfold through the same medium that broadcast this message of hopefulness. They came fast and furious, those images, and too often they pictured a state of emergency technocratic in its violence. Hueys and F111s descending on a faraway land; civilians brutalized by national guardsmen and police; men with dead eyes carried off on gurneys; women and children seared by napalm: these images remind us that the technological picture in the 1960s is a blurred one, its contours messy and indiscrete. Whether seen from the sublime heights of Apollo 11 or the abject realities of Vietnam, it is a deeply shadowed, ambivalent picture. And because such images lack visual coherenceany gestalt that might inform us about the actuality of the situationwe grasp the limits of treating such representations transparently, of facing them head on.

This book takes the oblique view of technology and art in the 1960s and it does so with a concept introduced at the outset: the matter of time. Time and technology, I want to argue, are twinned phenomena in that decade; and works of art provide special insight into this relationship as much as they model that relationship in turn. Time, we shall see, plays no small role in the richly diverse practices that constitute sixties art making. From performance to painting to sculpture to new media, time becomes both a thematic and structural xture, an obsession, for critics, artists, and audiences of that moment. It will come to signal something about technological change. But not just any kind of time will do here. This is not the time inscribed by the face of the clock. We know in the 1960s that time takes on a dread urgency within popular culture. Time has come today, the


times they are a changin: its the standard refrain of the moment, playing over and over like a television jingle. No doubt, revolution is an unavoidable trope in the sixties historical record, a clich even; and however we treat that revolution with hindsightwhether failed or hopelessly romantic or marginally successfulthe vision of a time radically changed remains with us. Revolution, however, not only suggests a confrontation with authority but a peculiar mode of temporality. For revolution is as much about cycles of changethe repetition of that change as circularas it is some vision of establishments overthrown and repudiated, of Red Guards with their little red books or students amassed in protest. With that turning comes a sense of promise and expectation, yes, but also a darker anxiety about what is yet to come. In other words, the time we are dealing with is troubled and undecidable. Often it is accelerated, anticipatory, and repetitive. The art of the sixties, this book argues, produced an understanding of this time that I call chronophobic, a neologism that suggests a marked fear of the temporal. Cutting across movements, mediums, and genres, the chronophobic impulse names an insistent struggle with time, the will of both artists and critics either to master its passage, to still its acceleration, or to give form to its changing conditions. In charting the consistency as well as diversity of such efforts, this book restitutes the question of time to the history of sixties art. Just as important, I argue this preoccupation illuminates the emergence of new information technologies in the postwar era, offering a historical prelude to our contemporary xations on time and speed within digital culturewhat has been called dromology by Paul Virilio or described through the terms of Nanosecond Culture by others.1 This book understands the chronophobic tendency in much of that decades work as the projection of a liminal historical moment, for which there was no clear perspective on the social and technological horizon yet to come. Time, in other words, becomes a guration of uncertainty about the mechanics of historical change itself. Before we can begin to address this question, we need turn to the more standard accounts of art and technology in the sixties. Consulting one of the better-known records of this relationship, we come away with the same sense of possibility that marked the Apollo 11 mission.

An unbridled love of technologywe could call it an erotics of technologycharacterized many of these efforts initially. Yet in narrating the history of one such collaboration, we also confront their shortcomings on a number of levels, describing in the process the anxiety around the question of technology in the sixties more generally. Here, then, I briey treat the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art against the grain of another local history, that surrounding Herbert Marcuses contemporaneous critique of postwar technocracy. The comparison, we shall see, introduces the terms of the debate and opens onto the possibility of considering this relationship through the seemingly elusive, if no less historical, matter of time.

Earthbound now. In 1971, just two years after the Apollo landing, and no doubt basking in its technological afterglow, the Art and Technology program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is set to display its efforts to the public. Maurice Tuchman, the museums curator of modern art, launched his ambitious program in 1966, involving some thirty-seven corporations and seventy-eight artists, many of whom would not make the nal cut for the exhibition. The idea was to bring industry together with artists in a creative synergyto follow that moments fashionable jargonso that the technology that was commonplace to a JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) or a TRW or an IBM would become accessible to artists who otherwise had little contact with it. The purpose of the enterprise, a museum brochure distributed to corporate executives reads, is to place approximately twenty important artists in residence for up to a twelve week period within leading technological and industrial corporations in California.2 That enterprise would produce a small share of critical successes, mostly outweighed by artistic failures. Richard Serras famous Skullcracker series, massive cantilevered stacks of cast iron or steel, originated in the yards of Kaiser Steels Fontana Division, for instance (gure I.2) Tony Smith, Robert Whitman, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Otto Piene, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Irwin, and many others were also invited to


participate. As for the corporations, Tuchman designated ve descending levels of commitment (Patron Sponsor, Sponsor, Contributing Sponsor, Service Corporation, and Benefactors) each representing varying degrees of monetary and technical support for the program. Primarily located in Southern California, the sponsors would come to include, among others, the Ampex Corporation, IBM, Lockheed Aircraft, Hewlett-Packard, the RAND Corporation, Rockwell, and Twentieth Century Fox. From the beginning, both the bureaucratic and technological complexities of the program were acknowledged and extensively documented in the exhibitions fascinating catalog. It is, as we shall see, an unwitting testament to the late sixties technocratic mindset, in the sardonic words of one critic a micro-analogue to the Pentagon Papers.3 But there was probably no more telling icon for the program than Claes Oldenburgs gigantic pneumatic ice bag (gure I.3) Although relatively simple in form, the works lengthy and tortured


I.2 Richard Serra, from Skullcracker

series, 1971. 2003 Richard Serra/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


I.3 Claes Oldenburg, Giant Ice Bag,

196970. Vinyl over steel structure, with motors and blowers; top: berglass painted with metallic lacquer. 18 ft.(5.5 m) diameter; 7 ft. (2.1 m) high at resting position; 16 ft. (4.9 m) maximum height; top: 8 ft. (2.4 m) diameter. Collection Muse National dArt Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

history of production would serve as the bluntest allegory for the entire LACMA affair. It was a monumental headache. This is not to say that Tuchman was attempting to reinvent the wheel or stage a show without relevance to the larger context or sixties art making. His introduction to the Art and Technology catalog is plainspoken about the local culture that inspired him and the everpressing sense that the project was historically necessary. In 1966, he wrote several years later,
when Art and Technology was rst conceived, I had been living in Southern California for two years. A newcomer to this region is particularly sensitive to the futuristic character of Los Angeles, especially as it is manifested in advanced technology. I thought of the typical Coastal industries as chiey aerospace oriented (Jet Propulsion Lab, Lockheed

Aircraft); or geared toward scientic research (The RAND Corporation, TRW Systems); or connected with the vast cinema and TV industry in Southern California (Universal Film Studios). At a certain point it is digcult to construct the precise way in which this notion nally emerged consciouslyI became intrigued by the thought of having

artists brought into these industries to make works of art, moving about in them as they might in their own studios.


That move from studio to industry was hardly new to the annals of modernism: witness the Constructivists, the Bauhaus, the pretensions of the Futurists, any number of art and technology experiments in the avant-garde. And though a gargantuan effortimmensely immoderate to follow someLACMAs program was far from unique to the era as well.5 Art and technology collaborations in the 1960s were legion, perhaps rivaled only by the utopian practices of the 1920s and the digital euphoria of more contemporary practice. Chief among such efforts in the 1960s was the organization Experiments in Art and Technology, best known as E.A.T. Their history foreshadowed many of the problems later encountered by LACMAs program. In 1966, Billy Klver, a Swedish engineer working with laser technology at Bell Labs, collaborated with Robert Rauschenberg in the production of an infamous series of performances called 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering. Prior to this moment, Klver had provided technical support for a number of curators and artists: he had assisted in the making of Jean Tinguelys self-destructive Homage to New York at the Museum of Modern Art in 1960 as well as Pontus Hultens massive exhibition of kinetic art that toured Europe in 1959. But 9 Evenings was intended to place the collaborative efforts between artist and engineer front and center, granting parties an equal footing on the artistic stage. Hosted in New York at the sixty-ninth Regimental Armory, the event included Rauschenberg, David Tudor, Yvonne Rainer, Alex Hay, and Steve Paxton, as well as numerous dancers and performers associated with the Judson Memorial Church: forty engineers supplied technical support. Rauschenbergs tennis game, Open Score, for instance, saw performers rackets wired for amplied sound throughout the armory so that the game produced a musical score of sorts when the ball was volleyed across the armorys makeshift court. Not long after 9 Evenings, Klver, Rauschenberg, John Cage, and others formally established E.A.T. At the rst meeting of the group, held in New York in November 1966, close to 300 artists showed up, through sheer presence alone demonstrating the need for some institutional vehicle to mediate the relationship between art and technology. To


involve the artist with the relevant forces shaping the technological world, its bulletin states,
the artist must have access to the people who are creating technology. Thus it was decided that E.A.T. act as a matching agency . . . through which an artist with a technical problem, or a technologically complicated and advanced project be in touch with an engineer or scientist who could collaborate with him. E.A.T. not only matches artists and engineers to work on collaborative projects but also works to secure industrial sponsorship for the projects that result from the collaboration.6

With these words, E.A.T. echoes, as would many technologists in that decade, the Two Cultures rhetoric espoused by the British author, physicist, and educator C. P. Snow.7 In 1959, Snow delivered his famous Rede lecture The Two Cultures and the Scientic Revolution at Cambridge, speaking to the virtual divide that separated the sciences from literary intellectuals in Western educational life. That divide itself had a far longer genealogy in the nineteenth century, but as Thomas Pynchon has noted, Snows lecture was originally meant to address such matters as curriculum reform in the age of Sputnik and the role of technology in the development of what would soon be known as the third world.8 Snow advocated that the two needed to come together in an active partnership, particularly after the historical catastrophe of the war. The progressively industrial character of postwar culture demanded the humanizing inuence of the liberal arts. At the same time, Snows background in science led him to make extremely polemical remarks about the role of the humanities, remarks that sparked ferocious debate among literary critics.9 The reasons for the existence of the two cultures are many, deep and complex, Snow observed.
But I want to isolate one which is not so much a reason as a correlative,

something which winds in and out of any of these discussions. . . . It can be said simply, and it is this. If we forget scientic culture, then the rest of western intellectuals have never tried, wanted, or been able to understand the industrial revolution, much less accept it. Intellectuals, in particular literary intellectuals, are natural Luddites.10

That chargethat literary intellectuals were Ludditesis thought to have found its motivation in the class politics of postwar England. One commentator remarks that Snow, of middle-class upbringing, believed rmly that science was the only true meritocracythe one hope to advance in the worldand that the literary intellectuals, to the manor born, were categorically elitist. For all the hostility expressed toward the humanities, Snows position was critical in articulating the historical conuence of arts and sciences from the sixties forward: the lecture anticipated, in numerous ways, what would later be described as the phenomenon of interdisciplinarity within academia. This model of integration will be subject to criticism in what follows, but at the time of its historical formulation it seemed to offer a promise to both culturesthat the two might evolve or rather, had to evolvein dynamic exchange with one another. Snows tone was urgent, even desperate, about the matter. Isnt it time we began? he asked at the conclusion of his lecture. The danger is, we have been brought up to think as though we had all the time in the world. We have very little time. So little that I dare not guess it.11 The mandate was clear, and it was precisely this kind of language that informed so many art and technology collaborations in the 1960s. But if Snows reading betrayed a barely masked antipathy to the natural Luddites that were literary intellectuals, most collaborations seized on the possibility of a happy rapprochement between technology and art. Often enough, these collaborations were characterized as a love of technology by artists reciprocated by a love of art by technologists. Groups, programs, and media collectives engaged with such terms proliferated on the international scene, ranging from Gyorgy Kepess Center for Advanced Visual Study at MIT to WNETs experimental television lab to the communelike approach to technology used by USCO (a collaborative communityshort for US Company), not to mention European collaborations such as Group Zero and the Groupe Recherche dArt Visuel (GRAV). And then there were numerous inuential and spectacular exhibitions: Jasia Reichardts Cybernetic Serendipity at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London in 1968; Software at the Jewish Museum in 1970; Kynaston McShines Information at the MoMA in 1970; the same institutions Art as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age of one year earlier. As one critic described the LACMA affair in a suggestive turn of phrase this was art mating




with technology, a technophilic coupling imagined to spawn the most innovative work of the day.12 Typically artists paid lip service to such exchanges through the belief that technology was little more than a tool, no better nor worse than a paintbrush or chisel. It was with such transformative tools in hand, supported by the forces of industry, that the progress of art was advanced. From one perspective, it would seem the success story of the decade: Snows challenge was being met in museums and galleries, lofts and laboratories, television studios and universities. And as the most visible organization to spearhead this trend, E.A.T. would come to stand as an icon for later collaborations. With the support of an artist as famous as Rauschenberg, E.A.T. enjoyed great institutional prestige, hosting the enormous exhibition Some New Beginnings at the Brooklyn Museum in 1968, as well as showcasing their wares at a spectacular pavilion at the Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan.13 So too was E.A.T. an international affair: it had local chapters in Boston, Chicago, Vancouver, Seattle, Amsterdam, and Paris, among other cities.14 According to its own gures, E.A.T. counted nearly 6,000 members nationwide by the end of the sixties. In spite of, or perhaps because of, E.A.T.s popularity, such efforts courted their own kind of controversy, centering largely on the fruits of the collaborations themselves. Few art events of the mid1960s were as widely reviled as 9 Evenings.15 The popular press called it an unmitigated disaster, requiring over 8,500 engineering hours and costing some $150,000 to produce, but to what end? However much labor, money, and time was invested in the affair, the outcome yielded little in the way of aesthetic returns. As Clive Barnes, the theater critic for the New York Times, put it, it was rather like an elephant going through two years of gestation and then giving birth to a mouse. 16 This radically condensed narrative on E.A.T. telegraphs just one of the risks of the art and technology collaboration during the decade, problems consistent with the later history and reception of LACMAs program. On one levelunconsidered by most involved in the enterpriseit posed the larger question as to what actually constituted the relationship between art and technology in the mid-sixties: what, for example, were the philosophical and political stakes that arose out of this coupling? Technology, as we have described it, was considered by many simply as a means to an end, a neutral instrument in the service

of producing art. This belief would prove troublesome in ways that exceeded local questions of artistic merit and technical competency. Regardless, it would seem that LACMA had learned little from E.A.T.s example; and the kinds of problems that sabotaged 9 Evenings were legion to the even grander collaborations envisioned by Tuchman. Once-enthusiastic corporations bowed out due to lack of both human and nancial resources, not to mention the creeping suspicion that some artists were having a laugh at their expense. And why shouldnt they be suspicious? Why should Disney, after all, see t to sponsor Oldenburgs colossal ice bag, a collaboration that the company would hasten to terminate? When the artist later suggested the appeal of working with Disney reduced to wanting to know what people who have been making animals without genitalia . . . are like, their decision was all but justied.17 In any case, some of the artists proposals were simply unfeasible from the technological standpoint, and numerous partnerships between artist and corporation soured considerably in the process of reaching this conclusion. Both artist and industry appeared to fall back upon, rather than transcend, their prescribed roles, reconrming for the other the worst stereotypes of both professions. An especially telling case involved John Chamberlains residency at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica. Established in 1948, the RAND Corporation was the prototypical postwar think tank: a nonprot organization devoted to further and promote scientic, educational and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare and security of the United States. Following its own bulletin, the Corporation
works toward these purposes through an extensive program of research and original investigation in the physical and social sciences. Although the program places special emphasis on interdisciplinary, policy-oriented studies, it includes theoretical research within such diverse elds as economics, mathematics, geophysics, nuclear physics, electronics, computer science, aeronautics, astronautics, linguistics, sociology, political science, medicine, education and many others. In the past this program has been oriented mainly towards scientic analysis of important problems of national defense.18


RANDs collaboration with Chamberlain was unhappy to say the least. Chamberlain was approached by Tuchman as late as 1969, but the



artist was eager to participate in the program because, as he reasoned, Im initially interested in anything I dont know about.19 Like many of his peers, Chamberlains preliminary meetings with industry proved unproductive. He discussed the possibilities of a lm project, perhaps with Ampex, RCA or CBS, but when neither these nor other proposals seemed viable (one of which included an olfactory-stimulus-response multiple), he was ultimately paired with RAND, then already working with Larry Bell. Chamberlains project for RAND exhibited little of the high-tech paraphernalia of many other artists involved in LACMAs program. Granted ofce space and secretarial support by RAND, Chamberlains proposalscutting off the phones for one day, for example, or dissolving the corporation itselfwere of a rigorously conceptual (that is to say, unfeasible) bent. Such ideas met with little excitement or, rather, acceptance, by many of RANDs denizens, and the distaste was reciprocal. As his residency continued, Chamberlain discovered his RAND colleagues to be impossibly uptight and very 1953 and resistant to the line of questioning his proposals suggested. As if to interrogate his own technological sophistication, the artist posed a series of queries in keeping with the concerns of the corporation itself. What do I know about weather modication? he asked rhetorically. What do I know about cloud formations? What do I know about the war in Vietnam? What do I know about the psychology of reexes in New York City when faced with a police car?20 Instead of pursuing such topics, Chamberlain saw the use value of exploiting humor in his collaboration, tweaking the rituals of bureaucratic culture in the process. For three days he screened his lm The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez during the companys lunch hour. With Warhol Superstar Ultraviolet and poet Taylor Mead romping about in trees in various states of undress, the movie seemed to conrm for RANDs employees the worst clichs about artists in general. Following the screening, Chamberlain distributed a cryptic memo to all consultants at RAND in a gesture that at once pays tribute to and lambastes the endless paper trail of the corporate environment (gure I.4). The mimeographed sheet reads: Im searching for ANSWERS. Not questions! If you have any, will you please ll in below, and send them to me in Room 1138. The answers spoke volumes to the divide between Chamberlains conceptual leanings and RANDs technological methods. Clearly the


I.4 John Chamberlain, Memo for

exercise had won Chamberlain no supporters; it fact, it produced the exact opposite effect. The answer is to terminate Chamberlain, one rejoinder states, and that was the least of it. There was no shortage of vitriolic responses, a partial list of which reads:
Youre sick! While you were up in the Tree in your love scene, you should have STAYED. Quit Wasting RAND Paper and Time. The Air Force needs thinkers where do you t in? The world has moved up a level. They now call stag movies ART. GO TO HELL MISTER!! An artist in residence is a waste of money.21

RAND corporation, Credit: 2003 John Chamberlain /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


And then there were those responses all the more striking for their abruptness. Drop dead, one reads atly. Such replies neatly illustrate the usual batch of prejudices that obtain between art and industry. Artists were seen to be loopy or decadent, whereas technologists were considered white-collar squares stuck in the Eisenhower fties, clichs that seemed to nd visual conrmation with the cover of the LACMA catalog itself. With the letters A&T printed discretely in the upper left corner, it presented a grid of sixty-four black-and-white portraits of its participants, all of whom were men (apparently technology was irrelevant to women) and all of whom were white (ditto the case for people of color). One neednt consult the books legend to determine who fell on the side of technology and who fell on the side of art. It seemed that the technologists sartorial imperative was to wear ties or thick glasses or sports coats, hair neatly dressed with Bryll cream, whereas the artists were almost categorically dressed down, sporting long hair and open collars. But there was more to this split than appearance or selfpresentation. If the catalogs cover represented the supercial distinctions between artists and industry types, its back pages revealed something far more critical at stake in the collaboration. They illustrated the progressively spectacular relationship between art and


I.5 Back pages from Maurice Tuchman,

A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 196771 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971), p. 375. Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Norris Trademark courtesy NI Industries; Rockwell Trademark courtesy Boeing.

corporate sponsorship in the 1960s, not to mention the decisive role that technology played in mediating those exchanges (gure I.5). To leaf through the last twenty or so pages of the document is to survey the state of the branding eld at the end of the decade and to confront the necessarily ambivalent partnership between art and advertising. Here the blank face of modern typography is meshed with the icons of late capital, whether those of the media or the aerospace industry or the military. All those corporate logos, so clean and so cold in their graphic presentation, dramatize the sense that Tuchmans program was as much business venture as it was aesthetic experiment, a remark cheerfully echoed by many of the sponsors themselves. As the president of the Lockheed Corporation wrote in a press release for the show, Industry today is increasingly aware of the importance of relating technology to human needs. It is good business as well as good citizenship. The sensitivity of the artist should contribute signicantly to these developing relationships.22 Such proclamations fed directly into the belief that A&T was little more than corporate art or that the real experiment behind the program had less to do with advanced technology than advanced capital. It was, to follow some critics, an experiment in the business of sponsorship. Perhaps none of this reads as especially shocking to anyone with even the dimmest grasp of art history and its Byzantine record of patronage. Art and the market have long been faithful if uneasy partners; and Tuchman wisely acknowledged such implications at the beginning of the catalog, glancing as the perspective was. This was as true for LACMAs program as it was for organizations such as E.A.T., whose reputation for landing substantial grants and corporate support would prove infamous. As the artist, curator, and critic Jack Burnham described it, E.A.T.s
greatest success was its ability to extract relatively large sums of money from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Arts Council, large corporations and various patrons of the arts. . . . If business had been the business of the United States in the 1920s, surely in the 1960s the business of the United States was to acquiesce to the mystique of technology, as epitomized by the uses of the automated battleeld and systems analysis during the Vietnam War.23


Experiments in Art and Technology was hardly immune to the criticism attached to such associations. Only a year before LACMAs program, Klvers organization came under attack at Expo 70 in Osaka, due to the progressively ugly turn in its relationship with the Pepsi-Cola Corporation. In attempting to stage its Buckminster Fullerinspired pavilion there and after many delays and nancial ascoes, E.A.T. presented Pepsi . . . with a maintenance contract for $405,000, although the previously proposed sum had been $185,000.24 Pepsi would soon pull out of the deal, but E.A.T. would suffer an even greater blow in the battle over public opinion. To follow some, this was an elitist organization, focused more on securing grants for a few blue chip artists than facilitating genuine dialogue between art and technology.25 The LACMA program, although different in its nancial specications, was no less problematic, but it was problematic in ways that went beyond the standard accusations that art was bedding down with industry. It was perhaps best summed up, however elliptically, by one of the many charges made against John Chamberlains project at the RAND Corporation. An artist in residence, the anonymous response to Chamberlains memo reads, soothes the conscience of the management. That message channeled the profound distrust harbored by many around the art and technology nexus in the sixties; and it is that much more acutely felt because delivered from a RAND insider. Because, of course, RAND and Lockheed (not to mention Rockwell, JPL, and HP) were among the least neutral corporations based in the West at that moment, their tools deeply entangled with the war in Southeast Asia. The history of RAND, after all, was inseparable from that of the postwar American military. The Corporation is sponsored chiey by research contracts with agencies of the United States Government, such as the Air Force, the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration a RAND bulletin blandly states.26 Lockheed, for their part, was enjoying a windfall in the aerospace industry with the introduction of their Cheyenne helicopters in 1967. It is important to stress here that neither RANDs history nor Lockheeds production was privileged information. A Lockheed advertisement from Newsweek from the fall 1967, for instance, pairs a graphic Cheyenne with a future Lockheed invention, a Poseidon ballistic missile (gure I.6) and a Lockheed press release in the LACMA archives


I.6 Lockheed advertisement in

Newsweek, October 30, 1967, p. 7. Courtesy Lockheed Martin.

proudly states its success in this endeavor. Combining the speed and maneuverability features of a xed-wing airplane and the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter, it reads, the new U.S. Army Cheyenne adds up to the worlds fastest, toughest and most agile rotorcraft gunship.27 These observations cut a little too close to the remark that an artist in residence soothes the conscience of the management. For that comment stops just short of a guilty confession, and its culpability, we shall see, reduces to the profoundly ambivalent status of technology in the 1960s. It is as if the management of RAND, deadly aware of its role in international politics, pressed art into the service of a public relations coup, as if to render its technology happy and user friendly. Art, in other words, might be exploited to soften the hardboiled, militaristic reputation of such corporations in the public sphere, which is not to say that artists were innocent of such charges themselves. During the term of the project, Max Kozloff wrote in a withering article in Artforum on the LACMA program,
there occurred the My Lai massacre, the Chicago Democratic Convention riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the invasion of Cambodia, and the student killings at Kent and Jackson state. While these convulsions were taking place, inaming the radicalism of our youth and polarizing the country, the American artists did not hesitate to freeload at the trough of that techno-fascism that had inspired them.28


Kozloff was clearly outraged, and his words are outrageous. To his thinking, the artists who participated in LACMAs program were wholly complicit with the corporations who sponsored such technological violence. Even still, there is a more fundamental level at which the art and technology relationship might be open to criticism in the 1960s. There is a deep structure that suggests the collaboration is troubling not only because of the specic business ventures of the industries participating, a rogues gallery of the violence industry.29 Submitting the relationship to critical analysis reveals something about technology in excess of its particular hardware or toolsdangerous as those tools might besomething about the power of its logic, organization, and


control. Attending to one inuential reading from the period, we come to see the limitations of the Two Cultures model for treatments of art and technology at this moment. More and more, in fact, Snows narrative might even read as a red herring. Art and technology, it turns out, were not just separate elds to be bridged or traversed, although such institutional distinctions clearly existed and differences in protocol were unimpeachable. Instead, perhaps technology had long begun to ll the gap through the force of its reason. Perhaps it had already begun to colonize art through its administrative logic.

About a two-hour drive south of the RAND Corporation, one response to this issue was taking shape. Down at the University of San Diego, the Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse was beginning his tenure as the Father of the New Lefta title foisted upon him by his countercultural acolytes, if a somewhat uncomfortable t for the old Berliner. Even still, Marcuse would prove a decisive inuence upon a generation of radicals ranging from Angela Davis to Abbie Hoffman to Kate Millett. Seventy years old at the time of his arrival, Marcuse rst set foot on San Diegos campus in May of 1965. Earlier that year his contract at Brandeis University had failed to be renewed. This, as anyone in academia well knows, is polite speech. Marcuse was effectively red from the university due to his increasingly contro-versial (read: politicized) prole within it. That the Frankfurt School stalwart would wind up in San Diego in the 1960s is perhaps no less absurd than imagining his former colleague Theodor Adorno living in Los Angeles in the 1940s. The contradictions of their respective environments could hardly be ignored by either. The dialectics of Southern California living seemed especially urgent at the time, at once calling up the golden pleasures attributed to the states mythic lifestyle and its darker entanglements with the military industrial complex of the postwar moment.30 San Diegos general afuence, after all, could hardly be separated from its militaryparticularly naval historyits ports, and historic airstrips; nor from the conservative sector of its population, which would mount a challenge to Marcuses presence on campus.31 To envision Marcuse taking up residency


thereambling the gentler trails of Torrey Pines or taking in the refreshments of the Pacicmight seem a gross paradox in light of his politics. And yet his presence, as well as that paradox, would prove critical. For in 1955, Marcuse published Eros and Civilization, a book of signal importance for the Counterculture. In it he attempted to read the history of civilization through the history of repression in what was then a particularly innovative marriage of Freud and Marx. The goal was to treat repression and domination as historical and material phenomena in their own right and to offer prescriptionsof a sortfor a social therapeutic, even an erotics of liberation. Following Freud, Marcuse arrived at the conceit that civilization had progressed by its suppression of sexuality.32 Even before childhood and birth . . . repression was a matter of the species.33 The dialectic of civilization was one in which culture was afrmed and therefore contained with the sexual drives scientically managed and rationalized.34 Yet the dialectic was not so neat. Some forms of work, Marcuse noted, were pleasurable; and however qualied, they granted the subject some space of the imagination. The making of art, rst and foremost, was that which refused the libidinal economy of advanced industrial society. Artistic work, where it is genuine, Marcuse wrote, seems to grow out of a non-repressive instinctual constellation and to envisage non-repressive aimsso much so that the term sublimation seems to require considerable modication if applied to this kind of work.35 Some eighty pages into Eros and Civilization, Marcuse mentioned art for the rst time in his book. Less than one page later, he introduced another concept for the rst time: the notion of technics. If the making of art arose out of the nonrepressive drives for Marcuse, the evolution of technics represented the partial sublimation of the aggressive impulses. The development of technics and technological rationality absorbs to a great extent the modied destructive instincts, Marcuse observed, following Freud.36 Technics provides the very basis for progress; technological rationality sets the mental and behaviorist patter for productive performance, and power over nature has become practically identical with civilization.37 Marcuse was at pains to qualify such developments, acknowledging the catastrophes of recent technological history: the fact that the destruction of life (human and animal) has progressed with the progress of civilization, that cruelty and hatred and the scientic extermination of men have




increased in relation to the real possibility of the elimination of oppression.38 The progress of technics, in other words, had far from wholly integrated the destructive instincts. In too many dangerous ways, those instincts found their counterparts in mid-century technology. That position set the tone for things to come. In 1964, Marcuse published One-Dimensional Man, a book described as having the value of a portenta manifesto of sorts for the U.S. student movement.39 At equal turns indebted to C. Wright Mills, Freud, and Marx, Marcuse endeavored to speak to the dialectic of rationality and irrationality in advanced industrial society: the more humanity was enslaved to the forces of progress and reason, he argued, the more irrational was its psychic character. One-dimensional man is the product of onedimensional society, a wholly integrated society under the sway of technological rationality. A multidimensional society is that in which the negation of social realitywhether expressed as politics or art or critiquestill retains some possibility. One-dimensional society, by contrast, is a unication of opposites, a false totality. Following Marcuse, the rise of One-Dimensional Man was a function of changing models of control in advanced industrial society control of an altogether different cast than earlier forms of historical oppression. Rather than assert its authority through brute violence and its visible presence within the public sphere, the new control stems from a comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom, which prevails in advanced industrial civilization, as a token of technical progress.40 Notably, this kind of control has a distinctive relationship to modern temporality. The apparatus imposes its economic and political requirements for defense and expansion on labor time and free time on the material and intellectual culture, he wrote.41 For Marcuse (and to a different degree, the Adorno and Max Horkheimer of The Dialectic of Enlightenment) the rational character of irrationality in advanced industrial society was a partial function of changed modes of techne. He argued that the prevailing forms of social control are technological in a new sense in the contemporary period, for the technological controls appear to be the very embodiment of Reason for the benet of all social groups and intereststo such an extent that all contradiction seems irrational and all counteraction impossible.42 Such remarks offer a useful, if highly debated, prcis on

the issue of technological rationality in the postwar era.43 This is not simply a matter of technology controlling the subject through physical dominancethe dystopian vision of humanity enslaved to factory production. It is, rather, an internalization of these principles at the level of the unconscious. As in Eros and Civilization, Marcuse articulated this process through the language of psychoanalysis: social control, as he put it, has been introjected.44 From this perspective we cannot understand technology in the 1960s merely as the stuff of inventionits objects or engineeringnor can we treat it as operating from the usual bases of political authority. Technologyand for the purposes of this book, its historical relationship to the art of this momentis far more formidable because far more subtle than that, increasingly organized around an administrative logic. We could put it crudely: postwar technology is organization. Functioning at all levels of the social relation, it takes on its own psychic character and leads to change in attitude and consciousness of the laborer.45 Here, to follow Marcuse, domination is transgured into administration. This is the dialectic of progress and unfreedom.46 With chapter 3, The Conquest of the Unhappy Consciousness: Repressive Desublimation, Marcuse described the effects of technological rationality on art and literature and its larger impact on patterns of cultural behavior.47 Its relevance to our discussion of LACMAs program is unavoidable, for it uncovers an especially troubling aspect of the art and technology relationship and implicitly suggests the shortcomings of the Two Cultures mandate. Here Marcuse echoed other Frankfurt School critiques in articulating how the objects of high culture stand as gures of alienation under capital: how works of art, in expressing some ideal world, represent the negation of social reality. But in the One-Dimensional society, there occurs a corresponding integration of culture with technological society to the extent that the progress of technological rationality is liquidating the oppositional and transcending elements in the higher culture.48 Higher culture was always in contradiction with social reality, Marcuse wrote,
and only a privileged minority enjoyed its blessings and represented its ideals. The two antagonistic spheres of society have always coexisted. Todays novel feature is the attening out of the antagonism between culture and social reality through the obliteration of the oppositional,



alien and transcendent elements of the higher culture by virtue of which it constituted another dimension of reality. . . . This liquidation of two-dimensional culture takes place not through the denial and rejection of the cultural values but through their wholesale incorporation into the established order, through their reproduction and display on a massive scale.49

Marcuse acknowledged that alienation is not the sole characteristic of advanced art. Nevertheless, he insisted upon how historically art had represented the Great Refusalthe protest against that which is.50 But technological rationality was now closing the gap between this great refusal and social reality, the result of which is a newly emerging form of aesthetics under the One-Dimensional Society. It is what he called the aesthetics and language of total domination or total administration. Domination has its own aesthetics, Marcuse wrote,
and democratic domination has its democratic aesthetics. It is good that almost everyone can now have the ne arts at his ngertips, by just turning a knob on his set, or by just stepping into his drugstore. In this diKusion, however, they become cogs in a culture-machine which remakes their content.51

It is almost a little too suggestive that Marcuse drew upon the example of the RAND Corporation to make his argument about art and technology. In the corporations laying claims to the neutrality of its technics, it effectively performs the new forms of social control in the One-Dimensional Society.52 Speaking to the ways in which such corporations absorb and therefore contain any possibilities of critique soothe the guilty conscience of the management, as Chamberlains astute interlocutor put itMarcuse argued that they
arrange games with death and disguration in which fun, team work, and strategic planning important mix in rewarding social harmony.

The RAND Corporation, which unites scholarship, research, the military, the climate and the good life, reports such games in a style of absolving cuteness. . . . [I]n this picture, RAND has transgured the world into an interesting technological game, and one can relaxthe military planners can gain valuable synthetic experience without risk.53

One might as well add art to the list. In doing so, we take measure of the powers of integration constitutive of the One-Dimensional Society. We see it as a strategy of absorption and containment rather than the neutral meeting of two cultures, the sciences and humanities on equal footing. These remarks shed a cold light on LACMAs technology project beyond the already unattering one cast by the notion of its dependence on corporate sponsorship. For if artists had believed they were using technology as tools in the service of their production, here the tables have been completely turned: art was now the tool of technology. This would seem to support, on the one hand, the deeply technophobic belief of an ultimately autonomous technology, a kind of technics out of control, as Langdon Winner has importantly described it.54 On the other hand, it represents the most perverse literalization of the philosophical understanding of techne. If all art is a kind of technology, to follow the Aristotelian formulation of the term, at this historical moment art has now been fully subsumed under the logic of technological rationality. Perhaps the Art and Technology Program was most complicit with such charges in its failure to acknowledge there was anything to be complicit about. Helicopters for Vietnam or game theory for Cold War maneuvering were all to be shrugged off as business as usual. The language employed throughout the catalog further conrms such tendencies: it suggests the peculiar closing of the universe of discourse constitutive of a society in which radical negation has lost its force. It is a language of total administration that corresponds seamlessly with the exhibitions aesthetics of domination. For language under technological rationality is functionalized, rendered pure instrumentality; and its repeated use is also internalized as social behavior.55 Nowhere is this more evident than in the radical abridgement of language in postwar corporate culture, as witnessed in the proliferation of the acronym and the stunted syntax associated with the rhetoric of advertising. For Marcuse this syntax of abridgement proclaims the reconciliation of opposites; it is a telescoping and abridgement of discourse that cuts off development of meaning by creating xed images.56 Abridgement of language, in short, signals abridgment of thought. Grammar becomes technologized. So, for example, the acronym NATO reads with all the nesse of corporate



branding; and there is a concomitant projection, on the part of the reader of NATOs unity as an organizationa monolithic totality that obscures both the complexity of its political motivations and the cultural specicity of its historical actors. Flipping through Tuchmans catalog is to take stock of this phenomenon as it circles back upon the very industries that give rise to it. IBM, JPL, TRW, GE, HP, RCA, ICN: all of these corporations make their way into the Art and Technology program, and were it not for the ne print, one would be hard pressed to identify ICN as the International Chemical and Nuclear Corporation or even RAND as standing for Research and Development. Nor were the participants themselves absolved of this technocratic language. The program is designated throughout the catalog as A&T; whereas Maurice Tuchmanas if playing the role of corporate entity himselfwas consistently referred to as MT in its pages. But what was to be done? With what other means might we parse the relationship between art and technology in the present, or rethink the ways in which art could productively pursue an understanding of technologys terms? The situation, as formulated by Marcuse, was to varying degrees taken up and disseminated widely by the New Left. One such preliminary response was Theodore Roszaks 1968 The Making of a Counter Culture, a book that grew out of his inuential essay rst published in the Nation. His argument seems impossible without Marcuses example, for in using the term the counterculture Roszak described the emergence of a youth movement (notably, a white, middle- to upper-class youth movement) as the product of postwar afuence. The counterculture, he argued, emerged as a reaction to the technocracy of Eisenhowers military-industrial complex, and its very ignorance of history and radical politics was, in some respects, its strength. Ironically, it is the American young, Roszak began,
with their underdeveloped radical background . . . who seem to have grasped most clearly the fact that, while such immediate emergencies as the Vietnam war, racial injustice, and hard core poverty demand an ideal of old-style politiking, the paramount struggle of our day is against a far more formidable, because far less obvious opponent, to which I will give the name technocracya social form more highly developed in America than in any other society. . . .


By the technocracy, I mean that social form in which an industrial society reaches the peak of its organizational integration. It is the ideal men usually have in mind when they speak of modernizing, updating, rationalizing, planning. Drawing upon such unquestionable imperatives as the demand for egciency, social security . . . the technocracy works to knit together the anachronistic gaps and ssures of industrial society.57


Roszak could easily be taken to task for generalizing the degree to which American youth in the 1960s lacked knowledge about the tradition of radical politics, but his assimilation of Marcuses account struck a deep chord nonetheless. With an argument that pays direct tribute to the critical theorist (he would devote a chapter to both Marcuse and Norman O. Brown), he presented his challenge to the Counterculture. The challenge is how it might mount an affective front against the technocracy and its larger appeals to scientic authority, for the technocracy easily eludes all traditional political categories. . . . [I]t is characteristic of technocracy to render itself ideologically invisible.58 The answer, so it would seem, could not simply take the form of polite or even unruly protest. Opposition, if it were to have any impact at all, had to recognize that radical negation had been progressively weakened under technocracys regime. Technocracys children, as Roszak described them, would need to nd other means to challenge its seemingly monolithic force. To return to Marcuse briey and nally: one such mean might have revealed itself in the philosophers critique of the language and aesthetics of total administration. Weve noted that Marcuses analysis of technocratic language cleaves well with the pretensions of LACMAs program; and it could just as easily apply to any of the countless other art and technology collaborations that ourished in the eraE.A.T., GRAV, USCO. Writing on the rampant deployment of the acronym in the 1960s, Marcuse attended to the political nature of its grammar, organized around the temporal logic of its condensation. I have alluded to the philosophy of grammar, he argued, in order to illuminate the extent to which the linguistic abridgments indicate an abridgment of thought which they in turn fortify and promote.59 In contracting or abridging language, rendering it one-dimensional, so to speak, something else gets repressed in the technological picture: The suppression of this dimension and in the societal universe of operational


rationality is a suppression of history and this is not an academic but a political affair.60
The functional language is a radically anti-historical language: operational rationality has little use for historical reason. . . . Remembrance of the past may give rise to dangerous insights, and the established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive contents of memory. Remembrance is a mode of dissociation from the given facts, a mode of meditation which breaks, for short moments, the omnipresent power of the given facts. Memory recalls the terror and the hope that passed.61

History, in other words, is obscured by the language of technological rationality as is the subversive potential of memory along with it. And memory has an especially important role to play in this scenario. For memoryand perhaps more critically, its larger relationship to time might well counter the ideological force embedded in notions of progress, technological reason, the fallout of which is the culture of technocracy. Marcuse cited Adorno on the issue:
The spectre of man without memory . . . is more than an aspect of declineit is necessarily linked with the principle of progress in bourgeois society. Economists and sociologists such as Werner Sombart and Max Weber correlated the principle of tradition to feudal, and that of rationality to bourgeois, forms of society. This means no less than that the advancing bourgeois society liquidates Memory, Time, Recollection, as irrational leftovers of the past (my emphasis).62


To this statement, which opposes bourgeois notions of progress to Memory, Time, Recollection, Marcuse added another layer of critique. If the progressing rationality of advanced industrial society tends to liquidate, as an irrational rest, the disturbing elements of Time and Memory, he wrote, it also tends to liquidate the disturbing rationality contained in this irrational rest. 63 Time, to follow both Marcuse and Adorno, is a disturbing irrational rest. It disturbs the seamless image of things. Its liquidation reveals dialectically, something of its critical potential, its historical charge; and so it follows that a provisional recovery of timeand the analysis of how it models our understanding of historygrants insight

into advanced industrial society and the character of its technological reason. As this book wants to demonstrate, this is especially true in the relationship between art and technology in the 1960s. Time comes to signify things that the literal image of technology cannot.


Art and technology rarely works, I think, and it has to do with the element of time, the surprise situation when timing becomes absolutely the most important thing. Maurice Tuchman64 Time is political. Like technology, it is not neutral. The metaphysics of capital is a technology of time, Jean-Franois Lyotard once observed, an enormously resonant phrase in the context of the 1960s. It was thenwith Apollo 11, with Vietnam, with the historical emergence of what has come to be known as the Information Agethat the contest for time assumed a decidedly technological aspect. Whether liquidated or celebrated, whether sped up or slowed down, time is understood as an irrational restan irrational leftoverwhose movements and motion in the 1960s some sought endlessly to transform and control. To track those movements through the work of art, its criticism, and reception is the project of this book.


It is certain with me that the world exists anew every moment; that the existence of things every moment ceases and is every moment renewed.1 Thus with this epigraph from Jonathan Edwardsa promise of renewal and therefore redemptionMichael Fried introduced one of the most important essays of art criticism of the 1960s, Art and Objecthood. At rst it seems a strange way to begin his canonical attack on minimalist sculpture. Those dumb, repetitive objects Fried would reject as literalist or theatricalso obdurate in their industrial manufacture and yet so obsequious in their appeal to the spectators lived experienceseem worlds apart from the temporal prescriptions of the eighteenth-century theologian. But that contrast is just so. And by essays end, Fried returned to that very point. The essay begins with a reference to Edwards and so too would it conclude with a theological pronouncement. Fried ended with a message as if delivered from the Very Judgment Seat of art: We are all literalists most or all of our lives, he wrote, before bestowing the now infamous Edwardsian edict Presentness is grace. The reader, then, has come to view the world anew. Come full circle to a temporal imperative about art. As Fried was to explain it over thirty years later, his initial reference to Edwards in Art and Objecthood was intended as a gloss on the concept of presentness . . . as suggesting that what was at stake (in modernism) was something other than mere instantaneousness.2 It was not just mere modernisms sense of the instantand only the moral authority of an Edwards could do justice to this condition. A more pressing battle was being waged in the service of modernism, one with its own chiliastic implications. For just as Art and Objecthood is a championing of a mediumspecic art, it is just as much a championing of presentness. And just as

it is an indictment of theatricality, it is just as much a condemnation of duration, of time. Hence the intractability of time and medium for the critic; and there is no doubt that Art and Objecthood inscribes a marked anxiety about time. Time in the work of art; time in the experience of minimalism as quotidian; time experienced as the endless, on and on of a new kind of art making. Time as the foundation of what Fried called theatricality: the staging of minimalist sculpture as contiguous with the actual conditions of the beholders surroundings. This is what interests me in Art and Objecthood: the Edwardsian bookends that would uphold the virtues of modernist presentness against the debasements of temporality found in the gallery and elsewhere. Time not just as it is thematized in the conict between modernism and minimalism, but time as it is inected by, and inects in turn, the larger arena of cultural production of the sixties. For in Frieds fear of timehis chronophobia evenlies an implicit concession to the weakening status of the purely present work of art. And this fear further suggests, unintentional as it may be, conditions of art making that intersect with the discourse of postwar technology. Of course few essays on the art of 1960s have received as much attention or generated as much hostility as Art and Objecthood, and there are few lines in the history of art as imminently quotable, as famous or infamous, as presentness as grace.3 To revisit Fried at this moment would seem to belabor the point, a calculated redundancy: how many times must we return to this canon text? Yet as many critics and historians have noted, such attention is deserved, for no text articulates the peculiar mechanics of minimalisms reception as brilliantly as its does, in spite of its antagonism toward the work in question. In acknowledging both the essays centrality for postwar art, not to mention the importance of its critical reception within theories of postmodernism, my goal in this chapter is both simple and speculative in its address. My argument is roughly organized into two parts. First, I offer a close reading on the problem of time so critical to Frieds account. Submitting his text to its own temporal logic, I wend a few paths around modernist criticism in both art and lm along the way. Hence we encounter interlocutors as diverse as Clement Greenberg and Robert Smithson, Stanley Cavell and Rosalind Krauss, all of whom weigh in on the problem of time and medium; and all of whom wrestle with the implications of that relationship for modernism.



Second and more expansively, there is the speculative dimension, in which I read Frieds obsession with time against the grain of other temporal phenomena within the larger culture of the sixties. Just as Frieds essay has been deployed to unmask the logic of postmodernism, however negatively, so too does it offer a counterexample for understanding a new model of time at work in the art of that moment.4 Here questions around the discourses of emerging technologies assume priority. Without making claims to a direct or even symptomatic relationship between Fried and such discourses, I want to suggest that the time Fried condemns in literalist art can tell us something about the question of endlessness encountered in the natural and social sciences of the day. We will nd that this time is explicit to the rhetoric of much art of the period as well, including minimalism. It is the time of the work of art now understood as a system, recursive and shuddering like an echo, the time of an expanding new media and the articulation of its logic within and by art. What follows, then, might be characterized as a dialogue of sortsat rst glance an apparent confrontationstaged between two parties seemingly at war with one another. Provisionally, we could call this a dialogue between medium and new media. In my arguments unfolding, however, it becomes clear that the dialogue between art and technology in the 1960sin this case, that between minimalism and technologyis not a matter of medium reduced to its material essence. Time comes in to mediate that dialogue; and that mediation takes on its own circular logic, its own recursive force.



None of this is to say that Art and Objecthood is a thinly veiled diatribe against video art or new forms of computer graphics or new media, loosely dened. Nor is it to propose some relationship between the text and technology that is iconographic or repressed. To make such claims would be to miss the point entirely of Frieds endeavor. Thirty years after the fact, Art and Objecthood may read as one of modernist sculptures last stands, a erce polemic against the plodding, in-yourface banality of minimalism. But to the extent that this perspective is one of hindsight (Fried argued that the situation of modernist sculpture

back then was not nearly as desperate as some suggest), we might reverse its temporal ow and argue for the anticipatory status of the essay.5 In its defensiveness about the sculptural medium and its relationship to time, it anticipates, if phobically, the integration of media as a function of time. Published in the June 1967 issue of Artforum a special issue devoted to sculptureFrieds text was one of a cluster of essays confronting the staggering array of new work of the mid-sixties that begged the category of sculpture itself: primary structures, yes, but also Oldenburgs deated, even lugubrious soft machines; the dissolute funk of West Coast assemblage; Sol LeWitts seemingly invisible conceits; Smithsons proposal for an airport terminal. Fitting, then, that a Larry Bell cube in Plexiglas graces the magazines cover (gure 1.1), emblematic as it is of the contents held within.6 In its blankness of form and liquid translucency, a thin veil of iridescence skimming its surface, it suggests a critical starting-from-scratch. This, then, is sculpture at its zero degree, sculpture as tabula rasaawaiting new thoughts to be impressed upon it. And inside the magazines covers, many critics and artists would projects such thoughtsand with a vengeance. That vengeance had to do with rethinking sculpture itself, or better put, rethinking the language used to dene it. For what was to count as sculpture nowwhat criteria could be used to determine its aesthetic normshad proved among the more vexed issues for critics of contemporary art. In comparison to painting, after all, postwar sculpture was characterized by formalist critics in the mid-sixties largely in secondary terms: it was thought of as pictorial or parasitic to the achievements of Abstract Expressionism and the later generation of hardedge painting. Fried, who had spent the better part of the early sixties writing mostly on painting (with, of course, the profound exception of Anthony Caro) was no different in this regard. He was to follow the example of his former mentor Clement Greenberg, whose thinking on sculpture was always in partial thrall to the dictates of high modernist painting and whose verdict on minimalism was summed up in the damning (if at other moments, ambivalent) phrase that it was little more than good design.7 Greenbergs words will come back to haunt us, as will his buried attitudes toward time in the work of art. But his hostile stance toward minimalism would nevertheless seem representative of a whole range


1.1 Larry Bell, Memories of Mike,

cover of Artforum, June 1967. Courtesy Artforum and the artist.

of criticsmany of whom would be loathe to characterize themselves as high modernistsseeking to reinvent an appropriate vocabulary for the new sculpture. This was as true for Fried as it was for any artist or writer, even as Fried had begun to distance himself from Greenbergs particular modernist polemic around 1966.8 Undoubtedly the summer 1967 issue of Artforum sought to clear the ground in many respects. Yet even among textual company that included LeWitt, Robert Morris, and Smithsonsome of whom Fried would attack in his own contribution to the issuehis was the clear standout. Not only was this the case because its antagonism toward minimalism was so deeply felt but also arguably because it opened onto another kind of shift in artistic culture. That shift is best understood through the progressively environmental reach of three-dimensional work from the mid-sixties to the present; its extrinsic coordination of mixed media, even intermedia; and crucially, the structure of time that organizes it. There is no shortage of close readings of Frieds text, but we need to review his argument in order to establish its formative role with respect to the temporal context. Fried began by calling the enterprise of minimalism (ABC art, primary structures, specic objects) a largely ideological one. Ideology, of course, equals false consciousness, is mainly a term of abuse, to follow Raymond Williams; and minimalist or literalist art is such a falsifying (rationalizing) of thought around the gestures it performs. What Fried seemed to object to at the outset was the works position on taking no position, its neither/nor-ness in relation to how it was dened against the classic genres of painting and sculpture. That neither/nor-ness, we shall see, concealed a larger problem that couldnt be easily brooked. For all intents and purposes, it reduced to the knotty relationship between medium and time. To make that point, three texts in particular provoked the critics ire, all written by artists with whom he has some truck: Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Tony Smith. As James Meyer points out, these were gures who diverged signicantly in both their artistic and critical practice even as Fried identied a unifying logic between them.9 Famously, Fried lambasted Judds formulation of the specic objecta work of art that occupies a liminal zone between the traditional categories of painting and sculpturefor violating both media at the same time.10 Robert Morriss Notes on Sculpture comes under additional attack, principally because of the artists explicit understanding of the new




works reexivity and its reference to the beholders situation: duration would underwrite this situation. And Tony Smiths account, taken up shortly, perhaps thematizes the time problem most explicitly for Frieds argument. The artists acknowledgment of the changed status of sculptural objects only conrmed Frieds worst suspicions. I didnt think of them as sculptures, Smith offered, but as presences of a sort. Theres no need to detail the ner points of Frieds discussion of Judd and Morris here. It sufces to recall that Fried rallies against minimalisms objecthood and the twinned condition of its theatricality: the sense in which the object is concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder encounters literalist work.11 To gauge something of the force of this remarkand highlight its relevance to the subsequent concerns of this chapterwe need to gloss modernisms project of self-criticism, that which would effectively save art from the forces of banality or theatricality. And we should state, in no uncertain terms, that Frieds modernism in Art and Objecthood departs considerably from Greenbergs. Nevertheless, rehearsing a more global account of this narrative, oft repeated and itself banalized, underscores the core issues at work in Frieds essay. Indeed, it suggests that painting take up an analysis of its own conditions from the insidethrough the procedures themselves of that which is being criticized, as Greenberg put it.12 Through such procedures, painting reentrenches itself in the area of its own competence; it shores up its painterly status against the extra-aesthetic. By now the argument is familiar if no less startling. It describes nothing so much as the modernist objects profound antipathy to the beholder, a resistance that describes the avant-gardes turn away from the popular. For some historians, this is, in its most schematic representation, the philosophical conviction of an Adorno as routed through the painterly prescriptions of a Greenberg. It is one versionamong the most insistent versionof the story of modernism. Far less discussed in the literature around Art and Objecthood is the degree to which the limit condition of Frieds critique is time. In this context I use the phrase limit condition to underscore the foundational status of time in the discussion of theatricality; but I also mean to stress, dialectically, its conditions of possibility. This is also to say that time is too often regarded as secondary to the spatial considerations of minimalist sculpture as it is also to suggest a model of time

that haunts the margins of Frieds discussion.13 Rightfully, the literature on minimalism has taken up its phenomenological turn as articulated by Fried, seizing upon its environmental dimensions as central to its art historical legacy. Time, though, is indivisible from any experience of art, minimalist or otherwise, conceived of phenomenologically. For the objects demands upon the beholders actual circumstances necessarily links it to his or her relation to time. Fried was explicit about this, adamant even, when he wrote on the interpretive stakes raised by Tony Smiths cubes and the way in which these blank-faced objects project a peculiar air of endlessness:
Like Judds Specic Objects and Morriss gestalts or unitary forms, Smiths cube is always of further interest; one never feels that one has come to the end of it; it is inexhaustible. It is inexhaustible, however, not because of any fullness that is the inexhaustibility of artbut because there is nothing to exhaust. It is endless the way a road might be, if it were circular, for example. Endlessness, being able to go on and on, even having to go on and on, is central both to the concept of interest and to that of objecthood. In fact, it seems to be the experience that most deeply excites literalist sensibility, and that literalist artists seek to objectify in their workfor example, by the repetition of identical units (Judds one thing after another), which carries the implication that the units in question could be multiplied ad innitum.14


Fried addressed the experience of duration engendered by the minimalist object. The object produces an experience that manages to be both anticipatory and repetitive, a time that is at once proleptic and endless. In its dependence on the beholder, the minimalist object has been waiting for himanthropomorphicallybut once the encounter is made, the work refuses, obstinately, to let him alone. Minimalist sculpture is a badgering, unavoidable presence, waiting to be acknowledged.15 It is telling, for all these reasons, that Frieds account ends decisively with a consideration of time and theater, as if his argument were reaching its logical crescendo. And so it is worth noting the way in which he italicized his nal remarks about minimalist sculpture as a matter of time:


Here nally I want to emphasize something that may already have become clear: the experience in question persists in time, and the presentment of endlessness that, I have been claiming, is central to literalist art and theory is essentially a presentment of endless or indenite duration . . . The literalist preoccupation with timemore precisely, with the duration of the experience is, I suggest, paradigmaticality theatrical, as though theater confronts the beholder, and thereby isolates him, with the endlessness not just of objecthood but of time; or as though the sense which, at bottom, theater addresses is a sense of temporality of time both passing and to come, simultaneously approaching and receding, as if apprehended in an innite perspective.16

Frieds argument links the open endedness or sense of duration of the minimalist object to its violation of medium as theatrical. His anxiety about this endlessness is so deeply feltso inimical to what he regarded as modernisms project of radical self-criticismit takes on a moralistic charge by the essays last sentence, in which, citing Jonathan Edwards, Fried proclaimed, presentness is grace. But presentness is grace not just because the work of art is grasped as the instant or now. What the modernist work of art seeks to accomplish is an experience of time independent of the beholders presence that would complete it. Modernist painting and sculpture has no duration, to follow Frieds terms; the view of Anthony Caros sculpture is . . . eclipsed by the sculpture itselfwhich it is plainly meaningless to speak of as only partly present. It is this continuous and entire presentness, Fried claimed,
amounting, as it were, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness, as though if only one were innitely more acute, a single innitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it.17


This is the language of belief at workof convictionand it too subscribes to its own temporal reasoning. In opposition to the endlessness of minimalist sculpture, that sense of conviction is equivalent to the objects presentness. The modernist work of arts presentness is no less than a function of its self-criticality. In order to

propel conviction, in order to maintain its status as modernist painting or sculpture, the work of art must always be vigilant about what constitutes its terms through repeatedly testing its limit conditions. In part this is what is meant in saying the perpetual creation of itself. For Fried, this is a perpetual revolution. Its all a far hue and cry from the notion of a timeless and transcendent work of artof some irreducible essence to be mined in painting and sculptureand it tells us something about both the urgency and moral tone of Frieds text. James Meyers scholarship on minimalism explores this moralizing turn; and his argument will help us understand the considerable threat posed by temporality later discussed in this chapter. Through his careful analysis of the expression presentness is grace, Meyer describes the way in which Frieds essay is at once informed by the Stanley Cavell of Must We Mean What We Say? (the Harvard philosophers rst published collection of essays) and Jonathan Edwardss Puritan theology. In balancing the doxa of eighteenth-century religion with the decidedly secular worldview of a twentieth-century philosopher, Meyer restores to the text its larger project for modernism, what he calls Frieds Ethics of Communication. Meyers essay foregrounds the signicance of Cavells dialogue with Fried in the 1960s, a dialogue that is also critical to important readings by Rosalind Krauss and Stephen Melville. Cavell, whose writing on lm will be explored subsequently, was both friend and mentor to Fried, whom he met when joining the Harvard faculty in 1963. Their bibliography is a dialogue of sorts: Cavells thinking radiates throughout the art critics work as much as Frieds inects his own. For convictionin the Friedian sensebears parallels to conviction in the antiskeptical sense of Cavells philosophy. A brief on the subject not only demonstrates this connection but will later inform our reading of the time problem in the visual arts of the 1960s more generally. Cavells project of diagnosing and defeating skepticism was born of his study of the ordinary language philosophy of his teacher J. L. Austin and his reading of Ludwig Wittgensteins Philosophical Investigations.18 He would counter the skeptics doubt, shore up conviction, through his inheritance of Wittgensteins formulation of criteria and the related notion of acknowledgment.19 Skepticism, following the tradition inaugurated by Ren Descartes and David Hume,




rejects the belief that our habituation in language can provide epistemological certainty or knowledge, and it rejects further the logic of induction to make such claims. Cavell challenged the skeptical attitude through his philosophical appeals to everyday speech, which is not at all to say that he believed skepticism can either be proven or repudiated by ordinary language.20 The gesture of acknowledgment enables conviction, for acknowledgment crystallizes ways in which communities of speakers produce meanings, consensus, and judgment through language. As a commentator on Cavell puts it, humans are able to transcend their own isolation . . . though not on the base of knowledge alone. What knowing presupposes is acceptance and acknowledgment ways of responding that, though epistemically unassured, secure our habituation with things and others (my emphasis).21 We will take up Cavell in more depth in the following discussion, but rst we need remind ourselves of the rhetorical pitch of Frieds essay. In discussing the essays moral tone, Meyer pays equal attention to Jonathan Edwardss theology as to Cavells antiskepticism, and it bears saying that their respective attitudes on time converge in signicant ways.22 Here the question of redemption for the Calvinist theologian was by no means guaranteed by either good works or proclamation, but, following Protestant doctrine, was secured by faith and faith alone, that is to say, conviction. Presentness is hardly secured, Meyer reminds us, grace is not a given but rather is the exception.23 And so it is with Frieds modernism. In distilling what was to count as a modernist work of art, Fried understood that each instance, each iteration, raised the stakes as to what modern painting or sculpture could be or do. Most efforts were doomed to fail; a rare few would achieve that elusive presentness.24 For all its appeals to said state of grace, Frieds own antiskeptical account is necessarily a historical argument. Close readings of Art and Objecthood allow us to approach his language critically and parse the operations internal to the wholly present work of art. To read Frieds text only at the level of his arguments elaboration, however, is to repress its external motivations: its awareness that time has encroached upon the viewing of art and from the outside no less. This is, I will argue, as much a historical proposal as it is an ethical or epistemological one. Embroidering upon Meyers reading, we shall see that Frieds ethics of communication run up against a different logic of communication,

altogether subject to new conditions of temporality. Time, then, becomes an unavoidable problem for anyone confronting mid-sixties art, minimalist or otherwise. And who better, or more prescient, than artists to get this notion right?



[T]here will be no end to this exquisite, horrible misery, when you look forward you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts. Jonathan Edwards25 Thus with this epigraph from Jonathan Edwardsa vision of hell as a long foreverRobert Smithson threw down the gauntlet in his published response to Art and Objecthood. Appearing not long after Frieds text, Smithsons letter is lled with the usual good stuff we attribute to the artists critical pursuits: a dark and incisive wit, a uid sense of word play, and most of all, an attention to the dialectical ipop works of art and art criticism perform. Whats more, in seizing upon the long forever or endless duration represented by the serial works of Judd, Morris, and Smith, Smithson identied Frieds thesis as a temporal problem. Even the critic graciously acknowledged the artists canniness, although he recalls it took him many years to reach this conclusion. Smithsons writings of the late sixties, he would concede, are by far the most powerful and interesting response to Art and Objecthood. 26 It is important that Smithson does not respond to Frieds essay as a personal attack against his community of artists. Instead he nds striking that the critics hostility toward minimalism closes in on the matter of time, a sense of fallen time in the work of art (fallen because in the works appeal to the phenomenal rather than the aesthetic, it no longer offers the modernist objects redemptive promise). Theatricality is the term that provides entrance into the debate: Michael Fried has in his article Art and Objecthood, Smithson argues,


declared a war on what he quixotically calls theatricality. In a manner worthy of the most fanatical puritan, he provides the art world with a long-overdue spectaclea kind of ready-made parody of the war between Renaissance classicism (modernity) versus Manneristic anticlassicism (theater). . . . What Fried fears most is the consciousness of what he is doing namely, being himself theatrical. He dreads distance because that would force him to become aware of the role he is playing. His sense of intimacy would be annihilated by the God Jonathan Edwards feared so much. Fried, the orthodox modernist, the keeper of the Gospel of Clement Greenberg, has been struck by Tony Smith, the agent of endlessness. . . . This atemporal world threatens Frieds present state of temporal gracehis presentness. The terrors of innity are taking over the mind of Michael Fried.27

For Frieds purposes, reviewing Smithson some thirty years after the fact, a few key sentences in the artists response (which Fried italicizes) identify the critics own peculiar repression of time in his account.
At any rate, eternity brings about the dissolution of belief in temporal histories, empires, revolutions and counter-revolutionsall becomes ephemeral and in a sense, unreal, even the universe loses its reality. Nature gives way to the incalculable cycles of nonduration. Eternal time is the result of skepticism, not belief. Every refutation is a mirror of the thing it refutes ad innitum. . . . What Michael Fried attacks is what he is. He is a naturalist who attacks naturalist time. Could it be there is a double Michael Friedthe atemporal Fried and the temporal Fried? Consider a subdivided progression of Frieds on millions of stages.28


Smithson was nothing if not wholly immersed in the problem of time and technics in the sixties (this is the subject of chapter 4). Certainly, he saw its iterations in the work of the artists he supported: Morris, Judd, Tony Smith, Eva Hesse, Serra, LeWitt. Hence he calls the critics bluff. Every refutation is a mirror of the thing it refutes ad innitum. What Michael Fried attacks is what he is. Smithson implies that such temporal enemies are in fact the critics uncanny double: the

doppelganger that prophetically foreshadows a symbolic death, in this case, the twilight of the purely present work of art. Artists would get it right in other ways. Of all the texts Fried would attack in his essayand one Smithson himself seized upon in his letter to the editorperhaps Tony Smiths famous interview with Samuel Wagstaff best allegorizes the problem of time and medium that Smithson underscores. Well rehearsed as they are, Smiths words demand to be revisited in this light.
When I was teaching at Cooper Union in the rst year or two of the fties, someone told me how I could get onto the unnished New Jersey Turnpike. I took three students and drove them somewhere in the Meadows to New Brunswick. It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all except the dark pavement moving through the landscape of ats. . . . The drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was articial, and yet it couldnt be called a work of art. On the other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At rst, I didnt know what it was, but its eKect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. . . . The experience of the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear thats the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that.29


I have used this quote in the preface to this book; repeating it here stresses its urgency relative to the question of time and medium in the work of art. Indeed the literal refusal of the road to signifyof Smiths object to be clearly readis crystallized around the indeterminacy of both the site and the experience it produces. At the same time, the drive is nothing short of a revealing experience. Not quite a work of art, it nevertheless did something for Smith that a work of art could never fully accomplish. This oddly paradoxical encounterof failing to recognize the contours of an object (the Turnpike) while at the same time gaining insight into the very limits of the traditional work of art is expressed, metonymically, through the sheer banality of a night drive on an unnished freeway. Openendedness of interpretation is analogized to the business of incomplete road construction. And yet, as discussed earlier, Smiths discourse on a literal passage analogizes the question of a temporal passage, of duration, before and


around the autonomous work of art. Regard, for example, the nal claim of his highway epiphany: The experience of the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized, he wrote, I thought to myself, it ought to be clear thats the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that. For Smith, the end of art approached: at least the end of art that looks pretty pictorial after that or, by extension, sculpture that looks pretty sculptural after a long drive on a night freeway. Implicit in these commentsand explicit in the reception of minimalist sculptureis the way in which the staging of the object as a temporal unfolding violates a reading of the work of art as static, as ontologically secure, and as either genre or medium specic. The car literally drives this sense of medium. Smiths narrative conveys a sense of openendedness around the work of art that is a function of the organization and expansion of its media. Something that dees not only the categorization of the discrete work of art but signals the very end of art itself because, paradoxically, it is endless. The question can now be put bluntly: what is the nature of the relationship between time and medium? And following on this, why does this question become so pressing in the art criticism around sculpture in the 1960s, as effectively demonstrated by Frieds protests against minimalism, Smithsons riposte to the critic, and Smiths meditation on the New Jersey Turnpike, his open highway a gure of a long forever?



Some notes toward a preliminary account of this relationship: Medium, from the Latin, from neuter of medius, middle. Date: 1593. Something in a middle position: a middle condition or degree. A means of effecting or conveying something. A channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment. A mode of artistic expression or communication. Reciting a dictionary denition amounts neither to writing history nor to proposing a genealogy. Yet Merriam Websters is to the point in its main entry on medium. In its etymological roots as a middle condition, the word medium foregrounds a liminal stance at its heart. The term underscores process or mediation, is a vehicle of communication

rather than the fact of communication itself. This is an important distinction, for though the word medium is most commonly understood as the physical basis of a work of art (a denition we could hardly dismiss), a more fundamental reading of the term emphasizes its formative value as a communicative agent between two points. Medium is always already in between; becomes like a speech act, is performative in staging a dialogue between work of art and beholder. And in this sense medium always internalizes a singular engagement with time. For the act of mediation is a process, and that process (because in the middle of things) is necessarily partial. Hence Tony Smiths allegory of the New Jersey Turnpike as a model for rethinking the sculptural medium. Something about that drive dramatizes for the artist the communicative contingency of the work of art. Hence Frieds claim that much minimalist work is anthropomorphic, as if its encounter with a beholder in space is that which completes it, as if in a dialogue. Note also that when the dictionary entry on medium gets down to the business of art, it refers to medium as a mode [that is, a use, method or practice] of artistic expression or communication. It is less so the rigid determinations of painting and sculpturedeterminations based exclusively on the works material properties. Not that materiality gets thrown out of the picture by any means: this is not to reinvent the wheel for modernism. If anything, it is to restore to the word medium its sense of communicative and therefore temporal contingency, whether or not that of painting or sculpture or drawing or some other middle condition.30 To be sure, the relationship between time and medium has been a long-standing problematic within modernism: for modernity itself folds into its understanding the emergence of a new time.31 Ever since G. E. Lessing published his famous Laocon in 1766, we have been heirs Enlightenment heirsto a thinking about the arts judged not only through the laws of their respective media (the separation between the temporal and spatial arts) but the importance of time in passing such verdicts.32 Famously, Greenbergs well-known account of 1940, Towards a Newer Laocon, revisits Lessings formulation in an effort to justify the evolution, and by extension, autonomy of abstract painting.33 An unpublished draft of the essay, introduced with a passage from Paul Valrys Eupalinos, the Architect, reveals the very matter of media to be a



matter of time. So, then, at the start of this formative essay, Greenberg gave us a dialogue:
SOCRATES: Whether that singular object was a work of life, or of art, or

whether one of time, and a sport of nature, I could not tell. . . . Then, suddenly, I threw it back into the sea.
PHAEDRUS: There was a splash, and you felt relieved. SOCRATES: The mind does not dismiss an enigma as easily as that.34


The passage seems brusque, mysterious, in the context of Greenbergs discussion. Yet Valrys prose piece speaks precisely to the question of medium and time suggested by the critic. Presented as a pseudoSocratic dialogue, it sees the shades of Socrates and Phaedrus, drifting in the Elysian Fields, discoursing on the architect Eupalinos. In an especially resonant moment of their conversation, Socrates recounts a pointed, and poignant, episode from his youth. Walking along the seashore, he stumbles upon a singular object that is at once so compelling and ambiguous, so enigmatic in form, purpose, and origin that it presents an ontological dilemma.35 Here, a mysterious thing inspires a philosophical turn on the nature of medium itself. So absorbing is its hold over the young Socrates that he has no choice but to it ing into the sea, as if its power to control him were itself dangerous. For whether a work of life, or of art, or whether one of time, the status of that singular object is a question not easily dismissed. The attractions of these lines for Greenberg are obvious. Positioned at the opening of his essay, they express a confusion about an object as a matter of production, medium, and, by extension, time. If, as many critics argue, Eupalinos concerns the relationship between knowing and constructing in making works of art, here time gets folded into the equation. Had the object been made purposefully, by human hands, according to the logic of techne; or was it the chance accident of nature, a readymade produced through the roiling motion of the sea? As if to foreshadow discussions of the art/life thematic so popular in the postwar era, Valrys mysterious object anticipates the Friedian sense in which a literalist object ranges anthropomorphically, and therefore dangerously, on the limits of our actual space.

But something is missing in both Greenbergs discussion of painting (and Frieds subsequent essay on sculpture) and for the purposes of twentieth-century art, the silence that surrounds this lack is critical.36 For when we gloss the relationship between time and medium in the visual arts, painting and sculpture is hardly the rst thing that springs to mind as much as lm and its parent medium, photography.37 (Video, of course, also applies here, if with some structural distinctions from lm; performance will also prove relevant.) We think, for instance, of Erwin Panofskys characterization of lm as the dynamization of space or the spatialization of timeproperties that are self-evident to the point of triviality.38 Perhaps we think of Roland Barthess account of the photograph, invariably crystallizing around it being an art of time, an art of the that has been. The conjunction between time and medium is so intrinsic to the cinematic imagethe movement image as Gilles Deleuze felicitously called itthat lm is reexively called a time-based medium. Given our previous reading of the term medium, it is a buried tautology but a signicant one for thinking about the static arts relationship to temporality. But what can this tell us about sculpture? How is Frieds thinking on the topic inected by the more obvious relationship between time and medium within lm? The critic, signicantly, does not offer a formulation for the term medium itself within Art and Objecthood, and he would later acknowledge that the notion remains undertheorized in his account. In the course of his argument, he would employ the term to describe the medium of shape as much as the medium of painting or sculpture as such. But Fried let dangle a rather mysterious caveat about lm in Art and Objecthood. The passage is worth citing in full, as it unintentionally points to the time problem in the visual arts of the moment more generally.
It is the overcoming of theater that modernist sensibility nds most exalting and that it experiences as the hallmark of high art in our time. There is, however, one art that, by its very nature, escapes theater entirelythe movies. This helps explain why movies in general, including frankly appalling ones, are acceptable to modernist sensibility whereas all but the most successful painting, sculpture, music, and poetry is not. Because cinema escapes theaterautomatically, as it wereit provides a welcome and absorbing refuge to sensibilities at war with theater and



theatricality. At the same time, the automatic, guaranteed character of the refugemore accurately, the fact that what is provided is a refuge from theater and not a triumph over it, absorption not convictionmeans that the cinema, even at its most experimental, is not a modernist art.39

There is much to parse hereperhaps too much for the immediate concerns of this chapter. The passage itself is dense, its vocabulary elliptical. But in reading these lines through the temporal framework of Art and Objecthood, one cant help but feel confronted by that same singular objectthat enigmathat begins Greenbergs Laocon. For lm (or, more pointedly, the movies with its popular cultural associations) makes an abrupt but signicant appearance in this Friedian context, and it casts a peculiar light on the remainder of his discussion on sculpture. Theatricality is that which the movies would effectively defeatindeed, cinema escapes theater automatically, is an automatic, guaranteed form of the refuge. Yet Fried qualied this defeat by suggesting that it offers a refuge rather than a triumph over theater as such. And though even frankly appalling movies are acceptable to the modernist sensibility, Fried was not willing to concede to cinema the imprimatur of modernist art form. Nevertheless, something about the ontology of lm for the criticsomething about its automatic qualityallows further speculation on the problem of time as it relates to other artistic media of that moment.



Cavell might shed light on the matter. Maybe Frieds friendship with the philosopher suggests a thinking of time specic to lm and, through its inverse, other contemporary media, both time based and static. Already weve noted that Cavells interest in modernist painting was shaped by the Fried of Three American Painters. Its not hard to imagine the art critic similarly inuenced by the philosopher. The debt is reciprocal. Of course, Art and Objecthood appeared a few years before The World Viewed (1971), Cavells rst contribution to the literature on cinema. But as Rosalind Krauss has argued in an extraordinary series of essays on the post-medium condition, Cavells reections on lm particularly his readings of automatismare instructive for the

problem of medium in contemporary art.40 The title of the book reveals a certain afnity: Cavell had been reading Heideggers Being and Time around the period; had avoided and then taken up The Age of the World Picture; and had hoped to dramatize the sense of Weltanschauung that lm provided as suggested by the title of Heideggers essay.41 Questions of timeautomatism, rst, followed by the twinned concepts of total thereness and the instancewould indeed prove critical, revealing the decisive role Frieds theory of painting played in Cavells reading of lm.42 To unpack the concept of automatism, we need rst gloss Cavells thesis. At its most fundamental level, The World Viewed is an ontology of lm, one in which the projection of the world by the moving imageits projection of realityis a world viewed without the viewer being seen. Film satises our wish to view, unseen, the world recreated in its own image, as if we, its viewers, were invisible. The concept stems from our fundamental displacement from the world as modern subjectsfrom the larger philosophical acknowledgment, steeped in Cartesian doubt and Kantian epistemology, that it is impossible to know the world in its totality, to see everything.43 Hence to view the world unseen, as we do in the movies, is a mode of perception (that) feels natural to us,44 for we can no longer claim to see or know the world as a whole. Film, though, magically fullls that wish. As Cavell himself wrote, The world of a moving picture is screened. . . . A screen is a barrier. . . . It screens me from the world it holdsthat is, makes me invisible. And it screens that world from methat is, screens its existence from me.45 For Cavell, the notion that one wishes to view the world as if from behind a screen (or from behind the self) is an issue of modern subjectivity; and it cleaves suggestively with Frieds later art historical account of the absorptive powers of modernist painting, already at work in Art and Objecthood. But Cavell dramatized the extent to which we have naturalized our desires and fantasies as private, invisible. Watching movies conrms this sensibility by externalizing, and quite literally projecting, what is in essence internal to the self.46 Cavells book is rigorous, difcult. Attuned though it is to the subtleties of ordinary language, the vast implications of his text go well beyond the commonplace. To say that The World Viewed is just an ontology of lm is like saying Art and Objecthood is merely reportage



on minimalist sculpture. In its wide ranging meditations upon cinema what constitutes the medium, why its appeal is so broad, its relationship to audience, the shortcomings of the criticism surrounding it, and so onCavells is a larger treatment on both modern subjectivity and the modern work of arts capacity for self-criticism or acknowledgment. Earlier we discussed how acknowledgement, for Cavell, leads to the kind of conviction necessary to overcome philosophical skepticism. In the context of the visual arts, acknowledgment might mean how a serious work of art recognizes the conditions of its possibility through the medium and thus restores its sense of conviction and connection to the viewers reality as a function of presentness. The concept of acknowledgment is immediately related to issues of presentness, Cavell wrote; acknowledgment within modernist painting refers not just to the work of art but to what the painting of them is. At some point the work must be done, given over, the object declared separate from its maker, autonomous.47 It is at this juncture that Cavells formulation on automatism enters the argument, and it is signicant that it immediately precedes his chapter Excursus: Some Modernist Painting. For Cavell automatism was dened largely in relation to a mediums manufacturing mechanism: what is automatic to the medium, how the medium can reproduce within itself its own mechanism, in short, a mediums recursiveness. As Krauss notes, the term automatism resonates signicantly with other dimensions of modernist art history, calling up the surrealist notion of psychic automatism, while at the same time invoking the modernist objects impulse to autonomy. Film and, even more fundamentally, photography suggest a particular relationship to automatism in their presentation of reality. Like the term automation, to which it is also etymologically close, automatism describes a mode of production of a wholly present character. Photographs are not hand-made, Cavell offered, they are manufactured. And what is manufactured is an image of the world.48 Because lm nds its basis in photography, it relies upon this mechanism to an even greater degree. As Cavell noted on automatism:
I said also that what enables moving pictures to satisfy the wish to view the world is the automatism of photography . . . Reproducing the world is the only thing lm does automatically. I do not say that art cannot be


made without this power, merely that movies cannot so be made . . . It may lose its power for us. For what has made the movie a candidate for art is its natural relation to its traditions of automatism. . . . One might explain the movies natural relation to its traditions of automatism by saying that a given movie can naturally tap the source of the movie medium as such. And the medium is profounder than any of its instances. . . . One might say that the task is no longer to produce another instance of an art but a new medium within it. (Here is the relevance of series in modern painting and sculpture, and of cycles in the movies, and of the quest for a sound in jazz and rock.) It follows that in such a predicament, media are not given a priori.49


For Cavell, medium was not a given, is not an a priori; a point that will prove critical for his reading of the work of arts relationship to time as well as those practices that depart from his model. I characterized the task of the modern artist as one of creating not a new instance of his art but a new medium in it, he wrote. One might think of this as the task of establishing a new automatism. The use of the word seems to me right for both the broad genres of forms in which an art organizes itself . . . and those local events or topoi around which a genre precipitates itself.50 Automatism, then, is the mechanism intrinsic to a mediums self-productive logic; but its importance extends beyond its generative capacities. Indeed, in line with the notion of a world viewed from behind the self, automatism underscores something about modern subjectivity as well. As Krauss points out, automatism not only names the mechanical, automatic dimension of photography or lm but mechanically assures that as spectators our presence to that world will be suspended.51 Film, in other words, automatically suspends the presence of the beholder in her confrontation with the medium. To follow Frieds account, it offers a guaranteed form of refuge from theater, for the world of the lm does not appeal to the actual circumstances in which the viewer encounters it. Cavells subsequent chapter Excursus: Some Modernist Painting makes even more explicit the temporal prerogatives so crucial to Art and Objecthood. In discussing Frieds own aesthetics of presentness, Cavell elaborated on what he calls the total thereness of painting, by which he meant how a painting is wholly open to you, absolutely in front of your senses, of your eyes, as no other form of art is.52 It is an


event of the wholly open, and of the declaration of simultaneity.53 In an astonishing passage, Cavell articulated the function of the series within modernist painting with respect to the instance; and this instance, one gathers, is not unlike the self-productive logic of a movies automatism. The acutely Friedian tenor of his reading stems from the way he thematized the moment of the instance as a certain loss: a loss of the world, perhaps, or the lost beauty or youth. It is precisely that recognition of loss that demonstrates the fragilityand therefore the preciousnessof the instance, something deeply rened. There is the ring of the Edwardsian in Cavells language; it shimmers with the sense of a fallen time and the possibility of a redemptive temporality along with it, one in which each new instance restores conviction to the viewer. A new medium establishes and is established by a series, Cavell wrote. Each instance of the medium is an absolute realization of it; each totally eclipses the other.54
The fact about an instance, when it happens, is that it poses a permanent beauty, if we are capable of it. That this simultaneity should proKer beauty is a declaration about beauty: that it is no more temporary than the world is; that there is no physical assurance of its permanence; that it is momentary only the way time is, a regime of moments; and that no moment is to dictate its signicance to us, if we are to claim autonomy, to become free. Acceptance of such objects achieves the absolute acceptance of the moment, by defeating the sway of the momentous. It is an ambition worthy of the highest art. Nothing is of greater moment than the knowledge that the choice of one moment excludes another, that no moment makes up for another, that the signicance of one moment is the cost of what it forgoes. . . . In its absolute diKerence and absolute connection with others, each instance of a series maintains the haecceity (the sheer that-ness) of a material object . . .55


The instance for Cavell is a kind of Friedian presentness, and in this lies its importance for both lm (as it applies to its automatism) and modernist painting (in its exploration of medium through the series). In A Voyage on the North Sea, her account of Marcel Broodthaers, Rosalind Krauss takes up the question of automatism to turn the received

wisdom of medium specicity on its head. For Krauss, Cavells reading of both lm and painting offers a way out of modernisms mediumspecic essentialism, those readings that reductively emphasize a mediums physical properties as timeless and unchanging. This standard reading of medium may tally with some of the Kantian aspects of Greenbergs writing, if not the Fried of Art and Objecthood. As Cavells thinking reveals, however, the success of an art form, whether painting or lm, lies in its capacity to restore conviction through the instance or its total therenessa kind of event organized around a medium that is not a priori, as he writes. Krauss will nd something especially provocative in these remarks; they line up with the notion that the medium is internally differentiated. What automatism thrusts into the foreground of this traditional denition of medium, she writes,
is the concept of improvisation, of the need to take chances in the face of a medium now cut free from the guarantees of artistic tradition . . . The attraction of Cavells example for me was on the internal plurality of any given medium, of the impossibility of thinking of an aesthetic medium as nothing more than an unworked physical support.56


Krauss underscores further the notion of medium as something that is madenot givenand thus points to the possibility (as in the lm and mixed-media work of Broodthaers) of its aggregative or heterogeneous quality. Krausss reading of medium highlights a key feature of Cavells thinking with respect to time: automatism is internal to the medium of lm. That is, lm internalizes time automatically. Intrinsic to its structure, time is lms one constant. Perhaps one reason Fried could provisionally accept lm in Art and Objecthood, even though a timebased medium, is that its self-reproductive mechanism is not unlike what modernist painting attempts to do repeatedly in a series; and through that very mechanism automatically keeps at bay a sense of the viewers presence. Each new instance, then, offers the potential state of presentness; each new work attempts to sustain that sense of conviction. For in this formulation, medium builds, improvisationally, from a set of rules that came before. Critically, Krauss identies this as the recursive structure of medium, and this identication allows us to identify a parallel reading of time at work in another context.



The term recursion names an increasingly important model of temporality in the postwar era, one with peculiar implications for the art of the 1960s.57 Although the concept by no means originated in the period, its applications grew exponentially at the time. The word derives from the Latin for a return and implies a process of running back, marking a decisively temporal relationship to problems of self-reference and, one might add, self-criticism or self-reexivity. Recursion refers to the process of repeatedly applying a set of rules, operations, or conditions to a given thing in order to dene or test it. It can be applied indenitely. Practically speaking, it is a principle most commonly applied to mathematics (set theory or recursion theory), linguistics, and computer science: it is bedrock to the logic of programming, for instance, even as it generates its own problems of computability.58 But as Krausss reading of automatism makes clear, the implications of recursion extend well beyond algorithms and software to a problem of time more broadly understood, in this instance, organized around the question of medium. And if recursion refers to the process of circling back to a given set of conditionsconditions, we might add, that with each instance restore themselves through that very process of running backwardthe mechanism behind that bears a distinct relationship to automatism. We might also refer to this process as autopoiesisself-production or self-making, or self-organization. That neologism, coined by the Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana in the 1960s and elaborated on further in collaboration with Francisco Varela, was itself born of postwar science and progressively employed with respect to that eras technology. Its formulation, coupled with the notion of recursion more generally, might tell us something about issues of time so pressing to the art of the sixties.59 For it is within the discursive sphere of systems theory that we see how a class of objects selfreproduces a temporal logic not dissimilar from the mechanism of automatism described by both Cavell and Fried. In fact, we will see this kind of time in a great deal of sixties art: the work of serial systems and of systems aesthetics. Its modeling of time bears a peculiar family resemblance to Frieds, suggesting that sense of presentness so esteemed by the critic may not be forthcoming after all. To borrow from Smithsons letter on the art critic, every refutation is a mirror of the thing it refutes . . . What Michael Fried attacks is what he is.

So, then, we turn to the second party in this dialogue, bracket Frieds reading for a moment to gain insight into a notion of time beyond presentness. Frieds atemporal world, to invoke Smithson once more, nds an inverted model of itself outside itself in systems. It is one that will talk back.


1.2 Pages on Whole Systems, from

Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Catalogue, 1969, pp. 89. Courtesy Stewart Brand.


What does it mean to speak of a work of art as a system in the 1960s?60 To invoke the word system as it applies to the culture of the sixties and early seventies is to solicit a range of competing associations. Viewed against the activist backdrop of the era, the phrase the System may resonate with political implications of a totalitarian or sinister nature, calling up a dark social machinerya monolithic authority against which the counterculture variously rallied. This would be the position advocated and popularized by Students for a Democratic Society. For others yet, the systems view of things granted a more ecological perspective on the world at large: the sense of interdependence or mutual causation organizing operations of both the social and biological. The Whole Earth Catalogue (1968) for instance, described by Todd Gitlin as The Sears Catalogue for the New Age, promoted dozens of books and products under the rubric of systems with the result that texts by the cybernetician Norbert Wiener bumped up against paperbacks on tantric art, John Cage, and yoga, while Buckminster Fullerinspired domes shared space with tepees and kerosene lamps (gure 1.2).61 Yet systems analysis, systems discourse, General System Theory, or just plain systems theory refers to something quite historically specic at the same time as it signals a certain openness in the study of scientic, natural, and cultural phenomena. Historically coincident with what Norbert Wiener called the Second Industrial Revolution of the computer and automation era, not to mention the military technology of the war effort, the expression has a scientistic or bureaucratic ring to it. And that is to the point, for systems theory is a theory of organization and communication. In the pithiest terms, systems theory, in part descendent from the life sciences, is the study of an organism as an organized complexity. In parallel fashion, cyberneticsreductively put, the

science of circular causal mechanisms or feedbackwas devoted to thinking about bodies through the terms of organization and information exchange. Here, organization refers to the patterning or conguration of relationships that constitute a certain unity; it means to highlight relations that dene a system as a unity, and determine the dynamics of interaction and transformations which it may undergo as such a unity.62 This covers a great deal of ground for a denition so succinct, but the elasticity of the term was critical. As the English physiologist Ross Ashby described it, cybernetics treats not things, but ways of behaving.63 Not semantics, in other words, but grammar. Not a what but rather a how.64 Or, as it is applied to a recursive universe, not ontologywhat things are, but ontogenesis how things become. Although generally treated under the rubric of systems discourse, systems theory and cybernetics are not wholly congruent terms, and their institutional histories diverged in signicant respects.65 Nor, as we shall see shortly, is systems theory a unied eld in its own right: its rst-order and second-order manifestations are organized around a distinct understanding of the role of the observer in each. A closer reading of cybernetics follows in chapter 4; what concerns us here are the issues explicit to the broad cultural reception of systems discourse. Following a reading by the Austrian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory is an organicist approach to the sciences, which posits an isomorphism between the structure of communication and events in bodies typically thought of as distinct and autonomous from one another. Its earliest proponents acknowledged a growing specialization within the sciences, to the extent that engineers, physicists, and biologists, in spite ofor because oftheir training, could no longer efciently communicate their interests across disciplinary lines. Yet developments within the computer technology of the forties and the postwar era, von Bertalanffy writes, placed new demands on heterogeneous technologies and obliged an approach that transcended the authority of a specialist in one eld.66 Von Bertalanffy also spoke to the world-historical implications of system discourse as emerging out of and responding to the technological catastrophes of mid-century.67 As such, General System Theory is seen to recast the relationship between the sciences and other disciplinesclearing the lines of communication, so to speakso as to avoid the kind of technocratic reason that culminated, to follow some, in the Bomb. Noble as such intentions are, the



irony is not lost in translation: systems discourse was in certain respects intended to humanize the sciences, but it does so through effectively colonizing other disciplines. As systems theory works to undo the aggressive tendency of the scientic professions toward autonomy, it is necessarily environmental in its scope and interdisciplinary in its reach, if initially embedded in the hard sciences. In this capacity, it reproduces, at the level of its institutional and professional motivations, the demands of its object of inquiry. As von Bertalanffy wrote in his introduction to his volume of collected essays General System Theory of 1968,
What may be obscured in these developmentsimportant as they are is the fact that systems theory is a broad view which far transcends technological problems and demands, a reorientation that has become necessary in science in general and in the gamut of disciplines from physics to biology to the behavioral and social sciences and to philosophy. It is operative, with varying degrees of success and exactitude, in various realms, and heralds a new worldview of considerable impact.68


Systems theory initially did nds its applications in the sciences; as mentioned before, it was closely linked to the contemporaneously emerging eld of cybernetics as well as the war-connected game and information theory of John von Neumann, Oskar Morgenstern, Warren Weaver, and Claude Shannon. In the fties and sixties, though, its operations were neither restricted to the Pentagon nor the scientic elite but were meant to account for the interrelationship of all types of cultural and natural phenomena. Its list is a disparate one. Psychology and modern religion; anthropology and urban planning; business management, cognitive science and the ecological movement: all nd their place under the systems umbrella. It is a testament to the reach of system analysis that one might count, among the vast literature on its applications, examples ranging from Buddhism to Alcoholics Anonymous.69 Indeed, by 1972, systems theory would be seen as a model for conceptualizing the art world.70 As a theory of organization and communication, von Bertalanffys biological account of systems discourse concerned itself principally with open systems.71 Open systems exchange matter and energy with their environment in the maintenance of a steady system: they are self-

regulating. Physics, on the other hand, deals largely with closed systems; and following the Second Law of Thermodynamics, those systems demonstrate the will to disorganization known as entropy.72 (Open systems, by contrast, function through negative entropy, meaning they become more and more differentiated and more organized over time.) The later generation of systems theorists, inuenced largely by Heinz von Foersters notion of second-order cybernetics, would nd General System Theory increasingly problematic, instead emphasizing the role of the observer on the system. Second-order cybernetics rests with the idea that the person who engages the system fundamentally alters it, or perhaps more radically put, constructs it, by virtue of the language used to describe its operations or ask its questions. The system is autonomous insofar as it is implicitly constructed: it is what von Foerster refers to as cybernetics of cybernetics.73 Secondorder observation observes only how other observes, Niklas Luhmann remarks. The rst-order observer concentrates on what he observes, experiences, and acts out within a horizon of relatively sparse information.74
The activity of observing establishes a distinction in a space that remains unmarked, the space from which the observer executes the distinction. The observer must employ a distinction in order to generate the diKerence between unmarked and marked space, and between himself and what he indicates. The whole point of this distinction (its intention) is to mark something as distinct from something else. At the same time, the observerin drawing a distinctionmakes himself visible to others. He betrays his presenceeven if a further distinction is required to distinguish himself.75


In other words, the system is necessarily bracketed by the acknowledgment of an observers construction of the system itself, as well as the observers self-construction (or even acknowledgment) as an observer. The epistemological dimension of systems theory is paramount in this sense: the observer is implicated as that systems rst principle, its structurating mechanism.76 Whether the systems are closed or open, whether environmental or wholly autonomous, the impact of systems discourse within both the



sciences and humanities is immeasurable. My argument is that its rhetoric informs and certainly facilitates a new understanding of many of the artistic practices of the 1960s, notably those that Fried would identify in terms of their theatricality. For both systems theory and cybernetics are fundamentally engaged with problems of time, a notion critical for our revisionist appraisal of Frieds text. If systems theory is concerned with the communication and patterning of relations within an organization, in both its rst- and second-order approaches, time would play a formative role in that behavior. Here the reader might be inclined to see such behavior as deeply theatrical theatrical in its expansiveness; in opening itself to those very things that admit to the systems impurity; or alternately in acknowledging the observers construction of the system from outside it. It is in that systems extended (and extensive) relation to time that we confront such theatrical behavior, perhaps viewing it as a kind of dark mirror to the automatist mechanism inherent to lm and modernist painting. Recursion, after all, is a form of circular organization; autopoiesis is self-producing, repetitive. As one commentator of autopoiesis put it, one reason the concept of autopoiesis excites me so much is that it involves the destruction of teleology. When this notion is fully worked out, he continued, I suspect it will prove to be as important in the history of the philosophy of science as was David Humes attack on causality.77 The cybernetic account of causality and teleology in the communication of a message is critical here.78 It focused on how the type of message or variable introduced into a system constitutionally alters it, a point subsequently taken up in terms of feedback. Indeed systems theory and cybernetics devoted themselves to predicting results in systems, attempting to regulate the future behavior of a system by anticipating both the type and quantity of messages or information introduced at a given moment. Both, then, are probabilistic sciences oriented toward questions of temporality, futurity, and ux: endlessness, in short.79 Crucially, however, those predictions are not determined through principles of linear causality but are arrived at negatively or recursively. As the anthropologist Gregory Bateson described them:
Causal explanation is usually positive. We say that billiard ball B moved in such and such a direction because billiard ball A hit it at such and such

an angle. In contrast to this, cybernetic explanation is always negative. We consider what alternate possibilities could conceivably have occurred and then ask why many of the alternatives were not followed, so that the particular event was one of the few which could, in fact occur. . . . In cybernetic language, the course of events is said to be subject to restraints, and it is assumed that, apart from such restraints, the pathways of change would be governed only by equal probability.80


Causation and causality, of course, are hardly novel problems within either philosophy or the history of science: from Hume to Heisenberg to Karl Popper, challenges to causal determinism have been central to the discourse of scientic modernity.81 But the negative or recursive aspect of Batesons example spins this history in a slightly different direction. What this may represent, to borrow Luhmanns more contemporary reading of systems discourse, is a recursive universea universe always subject to the laws of autopoiesis.82 It is recursive insofar as a system always returns to its own patterns of behavioralways runs back to themas much as it projects itself into the future through the input of new messages. Conceit in hand, we are now positioned to read the art of the 1960s relative to systems theory and the question of time. For in the spirit of its interdisciplinarity, systems topics found a ready audience with much art of the period, much as it had an impact on other branches of the humanities. When, for example, we read of serial systems, systems aesthetics, or even real-time aesthetics in the art criticism of the moment, we are in direct confrontation with its rhetorical legacy.83 Not surprisingly, the new time-based media of video fell under its purview as did the newly emerging eld of computer graphics; so too would early experiments in cyborg art and articial life. But this is not my interest here, crucial as it is to the art of the late twentieth century. Systems theory was applied to emerging forms of digital media, yes, but it also served to explain art not expressly associated with technology today: conceptual art and its linguistic propositions, site-specic work and its environmental dimensions, performance art and its mattering of real time, minimalism even.84 Given our investment in the Friedian narrative so far, the particular association between minimalism and technology might not seem immediately obvious. When the relationship is discussed, more often



than not some acknowledgment is paid to the representation of industrial manufacture and labor: Carl Andre and his railroad ties, for instance, or Serra wielding his molten lead at the blast furnace.85 When such work is treated through systems analysis, however, we highlight the kind of time problem Fried found so pressing in Art and Objecthood and the deep structurethe communicative structureof a recursive temporality by implication. We also put some pressure on the word medium in the broader cultural context of the 1960s and we begin to see how it becomes progressively permeable to other uses of the term within the culture, namely, the temporal implications that derive broadly from the expression new media. Medium/New Media: the pairing is etymologically close but may seem art historically tenuous, calling up a host of morphologically skewed comparisons. In what art historical universe, for example, might a Kenneth Noland coexist with silicon and punch cards? Posing the relationship in these terms, though, is to miss the point; bluntly put, it is to mistake hardware for software, to hypostatize objects over information. As Lev Manovich makes clear in his genealogy of new medias language, however, the term media necessarily internalizes something of its communicative function. In attempting to dene what it is that makes media new, he speaks to media transformations from the historical avant-garde to early cybernetic culture to our present digital one. If the popular understanding of new media revolves around everyday things, Manovich emphasizes its productive and communicative logic. Today, he writes, we are in the middle of a new media revolutionthe shift of all culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution and communication. The computer media revolution affects all stages of communication.86 Manovichs denition is suggestive in rethinking the historical convergence between medium and new media in the 1960s. In fact, many artists and art critics elaborated upon the nexus between the two, some originating in the hotbeds of technological and scientic inquiry. At the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, for instance, Gyorgy Kepes fostered a community that by all appearances may seem to subscribe to the conventional understandings of art and technology partnerships. Founded by the former Bauhaus associate in 1967, the centers residency program brought together artists, engineers, and mathematicians in a seeming effort to bridge the Two Cultures divide

articulated by C. P. Snow. Yet it was with Kepess important edited publications, the Vision + Value series, that the systems ethos became explicit. There, in his seven-volume set dating from 196566, artists and critics expounded on the notion of art as communicationas language and symbolic systems, as structure and environment, as module and proportionin no uncertain terms. The book jacket for Sign, Image, Symbol (1966) (cover pictured in gure 1.3) speaks explicitly to such concerns. Communication, in the very broadest sense of the term, is the subject of this volume, it begins.
Everything that exists and happens in the world, every object and event, every plant and animal organism, almost continuously emits its characteristic identifying signal. Thus, the world resounds with these many diverse messages, the cosmic noise, generated by the energy transformation and transmission from each existent event.87


1.3 Book Jacket, Sign, Image, Symbol,

ed. Gyorgy Kepes (George Braziller, 1966). Courtesy George Braziller, Inc., Publishers.

Hardly the stuff of traditional art criticism, this was systems speak addressing the question of the visual arts as a sign system. From a contemporary perspective, the contents of the book are all the more surprising in this light. Appropriately enough, the prominent cyberneticians Lawrence Frank and Heinz von Foerster contributed the opening salvos. But in the rareed mix appeared Saul Bassthe graphic designer best known for his title sequences to Alfred Hitchcock and James Bond icksas well as Ad Reinhardt, at the time painting the blackest blacks. As if to close the circle, von Bertalanffy offered his own take on visual symbols and The Tree of Knowledge. The relative success of Kepess series (that is to say, the fact of the series existence itself) demonstrates the relevance of such concerns for certain art communities of the mid-sixties. But there was no betterknown supporter of this tendency than the artist, critic, and curator Jack Burnham, author of the volume Beyond Modern Sculpture and organizer of the Jewish Museums exhibition Software: Information Technology. Its New Meaning for Art of 1969. Even more explicitly than Kepess project, Burnham argued that the systems perspective allowed the artist to move beyond the formalist legacy of art criticism, with its emphasis on the autonomy of the discrete and singular object, and by extension, the value of a work of arts presentness championed by Fried (and further explored by Cavell with respect to lm). On the

contrary, Burnham and others saw the best new art as a kind of organism, indivisible from other contemporary sign systems, open to variables (to use one of systems discourses most cherished terms) or messages from the outside world, and no longer subject to linear models of historical development. As Burnham described its emergence, a polarity is presently developing between the nite, unique work of high art, i.e., painting or sculpture, and conceptions which can loosely be termed unobjects, these being either environmental or artifacts which resist prevailing critical analysis.88 Burnhams perspective on the art and technology nexus in the 1960s was wide ranging. He could deliver the most withering critiques of its spectacles: as noted in the introduction, he wrote punishing essays on E.A.T.s infamous 9 Evenings and LACMAs A&T program. In his role as a curator, his conception of what constituted the relationship between art and technology was expansive, in large part due to the systems perspective he was mining in the eld of contemporary art. In writing on the Software exhibit, for example, he stressed that he made no distinction between art and nonart and that the show did not represent a synthesis of art and advanced information-processing technology.89 In just the past few years, he wrote in the catalog of that exhibition,
[t]he movement away from art objects has been precipitated by concerns within natural and man-made systems, processes, ecological relationships, and the philosophical-linguistic involvement of Conceptual Art. All of these interests deal with art which is transactional; they deal with underlying structures of communication or energy exchange instead of abstract appearances. For this reason, most of Software is aniconic; its images are usually secondary or instructional.90


Burnhams statement attests to the expansive and largely nonrepresentational character of systems theory, given form in the contemporary work of arts transactional dynamics. Its communicative or ecological dimensions effectively render the work aniconic: without iconic reference or ostensible sign character and without the traditional look of painting or sculpture. Hence the checklist for Software might feature the usual batch of now-old-then-new-media experiments. Sonia Sheridans Interactive Paper Systems, for instance, involved a



3M Thermofax machinea primitive photocopierexploited for purposes that might now seem like little more than water cooler high jinks. Participants could make prints of their hands and face through use of the machine. It was this kind of art that earned exhibitions such as Software their hi-tech pedigree; and undoubtedly such then-spectacular effects were what drew the lions share of attention in the popular press. But Burnhams thesis also accommodated Douglas Hueblers Variable Piecesconceptual propositions that highlighted the temporal and spatial organization of its participants through linguistic documentation and the affectless look of newspaper photography, pieces that, in other words, bore little if no resemblance to the iconography of tech art. Should anyone miss the point, Hueblers catalog statement implicitly brought home the attractions of systems theory for a conceptual artist, emphasizing the autopoietic nature of the work, its interconnections to extra-aesthetic systems (namely, the perceiving subject) and the objects decidedly nonaesthetic quality. Huebler put it thus: Reality does not lie beneath the surface of appearance. Everything looks like something: everything is accessible to the purposes of art. No thing possesses special status in the world: nor does man.91 No thing possesses special status in the world. What statement could be at a greater remove from the Friedian mandate of presentness, to say little of a work of art that propelled conviction? Clearly, for Huebler, there is no singular thing that can inspire conviction, achieve presentness; and the Variable Pieces dramatize this sensibility in their decisive projection of the spatiotemporal coordinates of the artist and audience. Staged in the context of Software, Hueblers statement underscores the peculiar equivalence that obtains between bodies in systems discourse, a nonhierarchical relationship. For Burnhams larger reading of contemporary art, that equivalence between bodies was also at work in the anthropomorphic tendencies attributed to modern sculpture. Anthropomorphizing art signaled the relationship between humans as organized complexities and other systems. In part, Beyond Modern Sculpture outlines an uncanny narrative of modern sculptures history as progressively anthropomorphic. Including automata, kinetic art, the new eld of cyborg, and robot art, it points generally toward the potential meeting of art and articial intelligence. Yet though Burnham identied

work that literally moved, aped the human bodys range of motion, he was just as likely to describe nonobjective, static work as satisfying these system-based principles. Following both the Greenbergian and Friedian critique of presence within the new sculpture of the sixties if to radically different purposesBurnham too saw analogues to the anthropomorphic within minimalism. And so Art and Objecthood, which had only appeared a short time before the publication of Beyond Modern Sculpture, served less as critique of such work than a means to diagnose its anthropomorphizing logic, providing a new vocabulary for such tendencies as they found their articulation in systems discourse. Citing Fried within the body of his text, Burnham wrote,
Since the creation of the rst nonobjective and Constructivist sculptures in the early part of the twentieth century . . . [a]rtists have consistently denied the anthropomorphic and mimetic content of their works. Each successive generation of non-objective (or to use the most recent term: literalist) sculptors has accused the previous generation of anthropomorphism. Even the present generation of Object sculptors do not escape this charge. (Fried, Summer, 1967, p. 19)92


There was, however, more to Burnhams attraction to the Friedian argument than the notion that minimalism was anthropomorphic, a system analogous to the human body. From Burnhams perspective, Frieds reading (and formalism more generally) itself paved the way for a systems-based account of the arts. It did so through taking the ideational out of the analysis of works of art, deemphasizing content, theme, and expression for structure, pattern, and organization. This is, to borrow Harold Blooms formulation, a strong misreading if ever there was one: Burnham inverted Frieds stake in objecthood in the service of his stake in systems theory. Fried could only be horried by the prospect. But the misreading is a productive one as well, as it claims turn around the matter of temporality. A passage is worth citing at length to understand the train of Burnhams thought:
It is the peculiarly blind quality of historical change that we only grasp the nature of a political or cultural era after it has reached and passed its apogee of inuence. Certainly the materialist properties of modernist sculpture have been evident to the thoughtful observer for more than


half a century. Yet the total awareness of what formalism implies has only been recently encapsulated into a single term objecthood by the critic Michael Fried. As the masks of idealism have dropped from sculpture, the process of inverse transusbstantiation completes itself: sculpture is no longer sculpture, but mechanistically an object composed of inanimate material. Still, if we are to obtain aesthetic and spiritual insight from contemporary sculpture, it must be achieved within the context of objecthood. Fried responds that sculpture must resist becoming theater in order to remain an independent art. Yet it is more probable that the acknowledged theatricality of present modes of static sculpture are preparatory steps toward the acceptance of a systems perspective.93

Not only did formalist criticism prompt new ways of engaging the work of arts medium, a medium that, in the context of Burnhams analysis, pregures the very logic of that which would effectively overtake it. Rather, its self-reective mode opened onto a self-generative logic: the recursive logic of autopoiesis. Burnham articulated the closing gap between artistic modes of production and the work of arts own self-reproduction:
They are theatrical not only in their implicit phenomenalism, but also in the sculptors mock aloofness and objectivity toward the process of fabricationwhich are, in fact, parodies of the industrialist doing business. The shifting psychology of sculpture invention closely parallels the inversion taking place between technics and man: as the craftsman slowly withdraws his personal feelings from the constructed object, the object gradually gains its independence from the human maker; in time it seeks a life of its own through self-reproduction.94


When Burnham spoke to the shifting psychology of sculpture invention and its close parallel to the inversion taking place between technics and man, he was giving voice to systems discourse. The timeliness of the minimalist objectits endlessnesspermits that reading: for the new sculpture in time seeks a life of its own through self-production. Automatism, in other words, squares off with the autopoietic: ever expanding, ever generating, and so on.



1.4 Hans Haacke, Grass Cube, 1967.

2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


Here, then, minimalist objecthood assumes a new contextual meaning: Frieds theatricality gets recoded as Burnhams systematicity. Objects, too, take on different readings. They are caught up in a dialogue between minimalist criticism and systems discourse. To illustrate this point, our nal case study is Grass Cube (1967) a work by Hans Haacke (gure 1.4). A Plexiglas box, a few square feet, is set directly on the oor; on top rests a patch of grassy turf. It produces a strange visual disconnect at rst, prompts readings of nature/culture confrontations. A cube is modeled in plastic, the medium of institutions, new technologies, new business, hygiene, and economy. Its hard, dumb, and empty that minimalist cube, quite literally vacuous. But with the addition of grass, it becomes an especially strange thing, a strange presence, even. That earthy earth, those unkempt bladeslike a shock of tousled hairmight appear to sully the chill formalism of the minimalist box. Put in these terms, Haackes gesture seems a violation. Its as if he dragged the formal purity of that box through the dirt. In fact I want to suggest that the meeting of such media is less iconoclastic than systematic, less about confrontation than analogy. And time is what links those seemingly disconnected media together. In its stark simplicity, the cube tallies with the formal operations of minimalism; in using grass, it appeals to the thematization of time in process art or even the ideational principles of conceptual art. And that, too, suggests one the fundamental laws of systems theory: its all part of a piece. Haackes object plays upon the communicative contingency of all of these various art systemsthe extent to which they are indiscrete, permeable, and open to one another. Systems analysis provides recourse to that discussion and recasts Frieds text as anticipating such developments, however unintentionally. It forces him into the dialogue. But back to Haacke. Since 1963, Haacke had been producing art indebted to his own reading of von Bertalanffy, a tendency Burnham immediately seized upon in his work.95 The working premise is to think in terms of systems; the production of systems, the interference with and the exposure of existing systems, Haacke wrote about his conceptual gesture. Such an approach is concerned with the operational structure of organizations, in which the transfer of information, energy and/or material occurs. Systems can be physical, biological or

social; they can be man-made, naturally existing, or a combination of any of the above.96 Haackes well known real-time systemsworks from the end of that decade and the early seventiespay literal homage to his involvement with General System Theory and have likewise been considered with respect to Luhmanns social systems.97 In his presentation of word and image, photographic and textual documentation, graphs and statistical data, Haackes art spoke to its environmental, that is, institutional, underpinnings. So, for instance, his contribution to the Museum of Modern Arts 1970 exhibition Information could consist of little more than a visitors poll: guests to the museum were solicited to cast ballots into Plexi boxes on a question referring to a current sociopolitical issue.98 (gure 1.5) The question, phrased as a double negative, addressed the political demographics of MoMAs audience and implicated the work of art in an ever-widening circle of external inuences. In the neutral aesthetic of its sans-serif typography, Haackes question to the poll read as follows: Would the fact that Governor Rockefeller has not denounced President Nixons Indochina policy be reason for you not to vote for him in November? The strategy would come to be known as institutional critique, for it sought to highlight the range of institutional networks that accorded both meaning and value to works of art. It is a reading that lines up seamlessly with a systems approach to art making: it emphasizes the audiences (or observers) role in the construction of the work of art, how the audience brings information to its production and how the object changes with the input of their perceptions as information.99 And this is presented by Haacke as a democratic process, a social process of casting ballots in an empty (perhaps minimalist?) box. Thus art is understood as a social systemsocial in the sense in which it literally internalizes the perceptions its audience brings to it and self-organizing in the sense described by second-order cybernetics. Far more reductively, Haacke would come to be known as a political artist: political in thematizing such issues as the subject of his practice. His systems approach, though, is as irreducible to the matter of content as it is to the matter of form. For Grass Cube is necessarily expansive in that regard, and it achieves its expansiveness, paradoxically, through the brilliant economy of the minimalist cube. Produced within a year of Larry Bells Memories of Mike (196667)the Plexiglas box that graced


1.5 Hans Haacke, MoMA Visitors Poll,

1970 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

the cover of Artforums special sculpture issue Grass Cube does not so much parody the formal vocabulary of minimalism as it uncovers its recursive impulses. It fullls the Friedian critique of time and theatricality by turning the cubes presence into something literally alive. If the minimalist box threatened to spill over into the real space and time of its beholders as theatrical, Haacke allegorizes those terms in stressing the environmental dimensions that underwrites that relationship. A piece of sod, some grass make plain the works embeddedness in that environment. Its life depends on that environment and the various bodies that support it. Simply put, it grows. It expands into its surround. And what of that relationship to its surround? Benjamin Buchloh has written of the semiotics of the square and its stereometric rotation as a cube within the conceptual art of the mid-sixties. It was then that LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Barry, and Robert Morris produced so many squares to reckon with. This was a moment, as Buchloh describes it, when a rigorous self-reexiveness was bent on examining the traditional boundaries of modernist sculptural objects to the extent that a phenomenological reection on viewing space was insistent on reincorporating architectural parameters into the conception of painting and sculpture.100 The cube would play a central role in that exploration, reexively signaling the spatial coordinates of its environment. The white cube of the gallery would contain yet another cube within, thus nesting within its interior space a demonstration of its own organizational complexity. Point to point and plane to plane, the boxes would line up. Like the girl on the Morton salt box, her image ever collapsing into itself as a mise en abyme, Buchloh describes such operations through the structural mechanics of tautology. Grass Cube is such a tautology, but it goes even further than that. Not only does it reect upon its environment as a transparent box; it seems to mediate a dialogue between minimalist criticism and systems discourse, a mediation on the self-productive and temporal character of medium itself. Not only a tautology, then, but something which admits to its recursive temporality: this structure is akin to what Bateson has called a metaloguea dialogue on a dialogue.101 Introducing the rst section of his inuential volume of collected essays, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Bateson described a metalogue as a conversation about some problematic subject. This conversation should be such that not only do



the participants discuss the problem but the structure of the conversation as a whole is also relevant to the same subject. Grass Cube is metalogical. Its a self-generating dialogue about self-generation: about the recursive, autopoietic relationship between media and the environment. Grass and Plexi are two sides of the same coin. They are parties to a conversation about time and media through the works expansion in the gallery. It is, perhaps, some version of this metalogical sensibility that converges most signicantly with Friedian theatricality, that shuddering expansion ever outward, that endless presence in time. For that dialogue might devolve into inexhaustible chatter, might resonate and echo if never to resolve itselfa kind of no exit to history that some might damn with faint praise as postmodern.102 Well get to this question in due course, but for now the legacy of Friedian presentness will haunt our discussion on time and technology in the art of the 1960s, no matter how distant from the minimalism he so criticized or the modernist works he so respected. Chronophobic for some, liberatory for others, the stakes will be high indeed. Grace may not be forthcoming after all, for redemption is hardly possible without an end. Begin the begin.




Rien est plus inepte quune horloge. Jean Tinguely1


1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . On the evening of April 6, 1962, the NBC broadcast of David Brinkleys Journal opens to an inauspicious soundtrack. In a European accent of ambiguous national origin, a man counts out his activity with the slow and measured pace of a metronome. As if to grant some authority to the ritual taking place, his tone is incantatory 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . .broken now and again by some off-camera mumbling. The ritual itself, however, betrays the seriousness of his inections. For there, in the midst of the Nevada desert, the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely is busy at work. About an hour away from the radical excesses of Las Vegas, and even closer to the wastelands of atomic bomb test sites, he has set himself to the most ridiculous task. He is collecting junk (gure 2.1). Something was afoot. It had to be for a television crew to follow Tinguely into the middle of nowhere, a landscape strewn with car parts and toys and old plumbing, so much spent mechanica. Preparations were at hand for the artists vision of the End of the World (to be more precise, his Study for an End of the World, No. 2), and for both art-world cognoscenti and followers of popular culture alike, the occasion could only signal a Major Television Event. Since the late fties, Tinguely had been known as one of the most infamous artists in both Europe and the United States, at once reviled and acclaimed in the popular media for his startling kinetic objects. These were noisy, erratic, mechanized works, assembled from scraps of metal and wire, pieces of junk, springs, the occasional feather. Some of themespecially comic in their frenzied paroxysmsspat out abstract drawings for the cost of a few cents. Others led short, pathetic lives only to go up in smoke in large-scale performances. One event staged outside Copenhagen in 1961, for


2.1 Jean Tinguely, still from Study for

an End of the World, No. 2, 1962. 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP (Socit des Auteurs Dams les Artes Graphiques et Plastiques), Paris. Copyright NBC News. Archive.


example, witnessed Tinguely set a group of his swaggering, cacophonous automata ablaze as his rst study for the End of the World. This time, however, would be the most spectacular, perhaps because the most fatal. This time, the work would be documented by David Brinkleys popular telecast so that the artists peculiar, or better put, comic message of destruction could be beamed into living rooms all across America. Fantastic, thats great . . . thats what Americans do. Styled as an archaeologist amidst the killing elds of consumption, Tinguely begins hoarding trash while his partner, the American-raised artist Niki de Saint-Phalle, surveys the scene from behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Formidable, she exclaims at the sight of a blue toy automobile, a miniaturized complement to the vehicle she occupies. Brinkley then narrates Tinguelys activity in mock-serious tones (gure 2.2). He found a square mile of junked automobiles, toys, tin cans, he states archly. He nds beauty in these things because they are the refuse of our age, used, lived with and discarded . . . symbols of our prosperity and materialism.2 The message is grave, serious in its testimony against American culture, but the journalist can barely mask his skepticism toward the artist. His words resound with a smirk. This skepticism haunts the visual presentation of the scene as well. An event as cataclysmic as the End would seem to demand an appropriately mordant backdrop; and the parched, almost Biblical terrain of the desert might appear to t the bill nicely. But for all the landscapes stark brutalityand for all the violent associations the site bringsthe image of the artist at work unfolds with the eye-popping crispness of a cartoon.3 Colors are pure Pop, a little too condent in their blinding intensity. The sky is a postcard blue, the pickup truck saturated like a paint chip. Even the eyes of Saint-Phalleincessantly referred to in the American press as Tinguelys pretty young assistantare as crystalline in their clarity as Technicolor. Ambling across the landscape in a bright orange shirt, Tinguely himself appears a laughable clich of the cowboy artist and perhaps this was to the point. Out in the heart of the American West, the renegade vision he was about to stage would assume both mythic and comic proportions. We will have to stay tuned for the conclusion of this event, but for now, one last exchange will do before the camera cuts to another locale. Sifting through the debris, Tinguely stumbles across an especially


pathetic object, which he waves proudly like a trophy. An old dollone leg missing, its remaining limbs splayed, its head lost to the desert is offered to Saint-Phalle as a kind of nal, ridiculous sacrice.
Nikki . . . look . . . the End of the World! he calls out in accented English. Boom, she replies atly, and with a smile.

2.2 Jean Tinguely, still from Study for

an End of the World, No. 2, 1962. 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris. Copyright NBC News. Archive. Image of David Brinkley courtesy Estate of David Brinkley.



And with that smile, at once sly, knowing, and ironic, begins an investigation into the paradoxical nature of Tinguelys endeavor: its comical seriousness; its made-for-television artiness; its sense of humor coupled with its deeper ambivalences; and the social and technological issues of the period it both purposefully and inadvertently dramatizes. For what would it mean for an artist of the early sixties to perform a Study for an End of the World, No. 2 on American television? What would such an event suggest for a kinetic artist of European descent in particular? And what of the place of kinetic art in the sixties in general, not to mention its longer history within the twentieth century as the machine age art form par excellence? Played out for the benet of an U.S. television audience, and accompanied by a press corps at once amused and outraged by Tinguelys actions, Study for an End of the World, No. 2 might appear, at a distance, to be an episode in studied self-promotion: the artist at the cusp of his fteen minutes of celebrity. This was a moment roughly contemporaneous with Warhols ruminations on fame and popular culture after all; and the press had already mounted their attacks against Tinguely as a ludicrous emissary in European avant-gardism, a huckster, or an artworld sloganeer.4 So what better forum for the artist than to broadcast his work on American television? What more efcient way to pull the wool over the publics eyes than on a show preguring the infotainment phenomenon of a few decades later? There is much truth to claims about Tinguelys showmanship claims that will be confronted in this chapterbut it is still too easy a read to accommodate a reception as dense and various as his, not to mention the larger history of postwar kinetic art to which his work

belongs. The reading is too at for a character whose contours were so wildly uneven, and too stabilizing for an art that militated noisily against the static. Tinguelys work and its criticism remain an art historically undecidable affair, whatever its apocalyptic pretensions. Yet in this undecidability lies my argument, which underscores something of the historical unknowing of the period, a moment when the social and technological worlds of the United States and Europe were at a peculiar turning point, but to what end? Here we could claim that this undecidability speaks not to the End of the worldthe inexorability of the End as chiliastic or as catastrophic in its design as the Bombbut an end, as Tinguely chose to call his Las Vegas event. His work revels in the possibility of not one but multiple ends and therefore multiple worlds. By implication, he opens onto the beginning of worlds that are indissociable in the late fties and sixties through the temporal conditions that serve as the connective tissue between each. Now the notion of world takes on deep resonance for larger considerations on art, time, and technology within late modernity, for it is a cornerstone of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Heidegger wrote of worlds on several occasions, beginning with Being and Time (1927) and his lecture of 1935 The Origin of the Work of Art; and though he may seem a provocative gure to recruit for an analysis of kinetic art, it is his take on world in the postwar era that renders his position so critical. Though that trope in his thinking the work of art confronts the logic of time and technology. Because for Heidegger, world is not to be understood as merely a collection of tangible things or a physical environment to be inhabited, sourced, mined, and enframed. World, rather, is the intricate net of our everyday activities our dealings, our use of languageand how we are enmeshed in a series of meaningful relationships with things and beings.5 As one commentator put it, the concept of world rst means the how of the beings taken as a whole,6 stressing the process-oriented or even performative dimension of world. In his earlier work, Heidegger was particularly interested in worlds relationship to his formulation of Dasein the particular existence that belongs to us as beings in time, beings oriented toward our own nitude. And it is precisely when part of that world ends or breaks down that the connections and processes that constitute world are made wholly obvious to us. Indeed we tend to take world for granted as we move within it, as if its operations were invisible.



In The Origin of the Work of Art, Heidegger regarded art as opening up such a world. Art reveals the unity of those paths and relations in which birth and death, disaster and blessing, victory and disgrace, endurance and decline acquire the shape of destiny for human beings.7 His famous (or rather, infamous) example is that of the Greek temple: the temple discloses a world that was not there before it. Without the temple bringing forth the landscape, he argued, the landscape wouldnt exist; nor would the practices and relationships established in and around the temple as a work of art. Heideggers discussion on the artwork as world dovetails with his larger critique of technological reason. To follow the thinker, world is increasingly displaced by objects of quasi-scientic description or technocratic rationality within modernity; for him, the technological attitude is the very foundation of modern consciousness. As opposed to a work of art that opens onto a worldlet things be, to use his jargontechnological thinking is a dangerous, calculative kind of reasoning, one that saw all being as standing reserve: something to control, consume, enframe (Gestell). Heidegger wrote especially vehement polemics on information processing and cybernetics in the postwar era, which represented for him the logical terminus of the Wests technological rationality. As he put it in the later essay The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking (1966),
No prophecy is necessary to recognize that the sciences now establishing themselves will soon be determined by the new fundamental science which is called cyberneticism. . . . [I]t is the theory of the steering of the possible planning and arranging of human labor. Cybernetics transforms language into an exchange of news. The arts become regulated regulating instruments of information.8


This Heideggerian prcis stresses the notion of the work of art as a world: its resonance as both an opening and a process, a how rather than a what, a worlding in time as opposed to an enframing of a material thing in space. We might speculate on Tinguelys worlds as such a process, a kinetic process even, that discloses the relationship between time and technology, and how art might become regulated regulating instruments of information, to borrow Heideggers phrase. A charting of Tinguelys worlds, interconnected as if in a Venn diagram,

will be traced in the reception of his work. Those worlds might read as follows: 1. An end of a world formerly supported by a Machine Age ideology, now at the cusp of an automation revolution, one that offered both a promise and a threat to traditional notions of labor and time. 2. An end of a world measured strictly by the compass of national borders, now moving decisively toward new geopolitical recongurations shaped by emerging communications media and postwar Americas example. Although positioned at the historical crossroads of Cold War politics, what this end anticipates, to borrow Jamesons prcis on globalization, is the sense of an immense enlargement of world communication, as well as the horizon of a world market.9 3. An end of a world annihilated in the moment it takes to push a button. Or, to be more accurate, a world that has collective knowledge of that possibility. All of these worlds are virtually collapsed into one another, and that collapse is more often than not accompanied by a certain condensation of time, both its withering and attenuation as inescapably transient. That transience, however, is a historically material phenomenon. Kinetic art, we shall see, would go far to make it literal. It may seem a great deal to ask of Tinguelys art, that it speak to such matters of historical and conceptual weight. Yet when we treat the Study against the backdrop of kinetic art in the late fties through mid-sixties, we gauge how this complex of historical issues returns insistently in the works reception. Thus I also consider two bodies of kinetic art that act as dialectical complements to Tinguelys output: the exercises in slowness offered by the Belgian artist Pol Bury and the global propositions around movement, invisibility, and energy put forth by various artists associated with the Signals group in London. Both serve to rupture any notion of kinetic art as a seamless and unied affair. None of the artists is American, an observation that will register its importance shortly. Finally, serious as such topics may be, they are leavened by the laughter erupting from both artists and audience alike in the face of



much kinetic work; or the surprise of the sheer visual pleasure granted by its more elegant locutions. When Tinguely was not being hailed as the savior of postwar European art, he was seen by many as an artworld hustler, his work little more than bells and whistles and puffs of smoke. That many critics saw his work as descending to whimsy or curiosity or just plain silliness is not to be taken lightly, however. Complaints of this sort demand a certain straight-faced scrutiny, as if Tinguelys ironies (or even gallows humor) contained a distorted image of the world within them. If much of this artTinguelys and others was greeted by the popular media as a joke, perhaps the joke was at everyones expense. Historically speaking, that is.



An abbreviated history of postwar kinetic art leads us to the heart of the problem for Tinguely, a problem that might be summarized as both the speed and direction of history itself. I am concerned here with the question of kinetic arts regressiveness and forward motion, the conicted glance it offers on its own aesthetic and social ambitions. This conictedness, organized around its scientic attitudes on the one hand, and its reception as so much art-as-entertainment, on the other, alerts us to a split history accompanying its reemergence following the war. Admittedly, it rst seems an exercise in irrelevance, the discussion of such art today. For when we think of kinetic work, particularly as it is encountered in the public sphere, more often than not we recall objects that elicit a faint tinge of nostalgia, a futurist vision of the fties and sixties that no longer upholds its vanguard promise. Or perhaps we conjure the image of something cold and corporate, a cube stationed in a civic plaza, say, or those seemingly endless numbers of Alexander Calderesque constructions that dont quite approximate the masters sense of tension and balance. In all instances, generalized as they are, the viewer is struck by precisely how inanimate and stiff such objects appear, the very antithesis of kinetic. How stilted and mannered. Dead even. Such associations make it difcult to imagine the excitement that greeted kinetic work in the postwar era; how radical this work was considered by many; and its currency as a sixties phenomenon as new,


2.3 Len Lye, Universe, 196376.

Courtesy the artist, Plymouth, New Zealand.

as fashionable, and as experimental as any other form of popular culture. (The kinetic kraze, Time magazine breathlessly called it, as if reporting on the latest dance steps.) Indeed, from the mid1950s to roughly the end of the following decade, countless works of art moved. They moved in disparate and sometimes disorienting ways. Almost all of the work was abstract and largely nonrepresentationalseparating it from the larger eld of automatabut the quality of the movement itself exhibited dramatic range.10 Some of the movement was actual. Bolts of satin rippled and seethed like waves, billowed up by the lowtech support of a fan. Strips of metal shuddered and bowed, producing their own quavering and resonant music (gure 2.3). Surfaces seethed and receded as if caught in mid-breath. Objects whirred above magnetic elds (gure 2.4). Cybernetic towers twinkled and beeped. If silence once communicated its gravitas upon the museum and the gallery, now the clatter of gears and the hum of electricity represented a wholly different turn. Another kind of movement presented by and within kinetic art was virtual.11 In these instances, the literal movement of the spectator animated the virtual (and internal) dynamics of the work, seeming to


2.4 Takis, Ballet magntique, 1961.

Courtesy Private Collection, London.


alter the space of the object as one passed around or before it. Some work demanded an even more collaborative partnership if it was to exist at all. A limp Mobius strip set on a table, for instance, only sprang to life as it was coupled with the play of curious hands (gure 2.5). In both actual and virtual movement in kinetic art, motion and time signaled an acute, perhaps less hierarchical relationship to its audience than traditional sculpture or painting, either set at a distance from its viewer on its pedestal or colonized and neatly sealed up within its frame. Kinetic art, by contrast, seemed to crystallize the phenomenal experience of viewing art as material and embodied, as contingent and site-determined. It did so through its explicit address to the timeliness of the audience, whose encounter with the work mirrored its eveructuating congurations. Not for nothing did the popular press christen this the Movement movement, although there was clearly no single leader, manifesto, nor aesthetic to establish a set program for the work. Even so, for a moment in the two decades following the war, it seemed that few artistsin countries ranging from Greece to Czechoslovakia, Taiwan to Venezuelacould escape kinetic arts almost gravitational pull. Kinetic art appeared to offer a vision apart from the seeming hegemony of the New York art world, occupied as that world was with the continuing legacy of Abstract Expression or the emerging phenomena of Pop and minimalism. In contrast to the relatively scattered number of individuals


2.5 Lygia Clark, Dialogue of Hands,

1966. Photo: Courtesy Cultural Association The World of Lygia Clark. Credit: Family Clarks Collection.

working kinetically in the United States, a high concentration of this work in Europe took shape as a kind of group activity, as much directed to the ethos of the laboratory as to the studio. The implications of this split between American artists and nonAmericans working in a kinetic idiom will be taken up shortly. For the moment, tracing a brief genealogy of postwar kinetic practices yields a relatively consistent history that rests with two European exhibitions. The rst, dating from April 1955, was hosted at the Galerie Denise Ren in Paris and was simply entitled Le Mouvement, a pun on both the motion of the work in question and an attempt at conveying the art historical coherence of the artists grouped together. Organized by the Hungarian painter Victor Vasarely and Ren, its roster of eight artists (Tinguely, Yaacov Agam, Bury, Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Jacobsen, Jesus Rafael Soto, Vasarely ) furnished an international and cross-generational perspective on movement in abstract art. Its



organization was less bent on establishing a strict set of aesthetic rules than acknowledging a broad continuum between all types of kinetic practice in the twentieth century. There is little doubt that the presence of Duchamp and Calder helped legitimize the cluster of younger artists who had, for the most part, shown in Paris for a year of two at most: all were born a good generation or more apart from the grand pre gure Duchamp came to represent.12 Vasarely himself contributed a quasimanifesto to the accompanying catalog, referred to by some as the Manifesto jaune for the bright yellow paper on which it was printed.13 Relying heavily upon scientic jargon to stake his claim (in subsequent years he would lean on the discourse of optics in particular), he betrayed a marked condence about the uses to which science could be put for art.14 His is a language of a certain bravuraan insistence upon the promise of technologybut it is also the outworn rhetoric of an avant-garde barely resuscitated one short decade after the war. Such talk persisted within discussions of kinetic art all the same, which is not to say that many of its earliest practitioners had a sophisticated grasp of physics or engineering. Nonetheless, allusions to the fourth dimension served as code for the problems of time and movement within kinetic art; while whole paeans to speed appeared in the press as the raison detre of the work.15 As one French critic put it in his review of Rens show, La vitesse est la caractristique de notre sicle, suggesting that kinetic art was perhaps the most relevant form of contemporary art making by extension.16 Regarding the work as a kind of weather vane for postwar scientic tendencies, both critics and practitioners suggested it had picked up technological currents yet to be fully expressed in everyday life. Tinguely himself remarked, Im trying to meet the scientist a little beyond the frontier of the possible, even to get there a little ahead of him. Thats the world Im trying to live in.17 As we push deeper into the twentieth century, the art critic Katherine Kuh wrote, what recently resembled haphazard art symptoms are now taking shape to predict the future.18 Kineticists are space-age artists, the San Francisco-based artist Fletcher Benton also reported in the midsixties. [W]ere the pioneers, but think of the artists growing up today. They will know about computers, programming and electronics. Think of what theyll be able to do. Buck Rogers is coming to life.19 Benton concluded his remarks on the works vanguard status with a suggestive reference: an allusion to a sci-, comic-book hero.

This tongue-in-cheek aside would seem to undermine the case he was building for the seriousness of kinetic art, namely, its self-appointed allegiance with science and its implicit gesture of technological forecasting. But he was by no means at odds with other contemporary readings around the work. For also at stake in kinetic arts reception was the sense of entertainment, play, and humor that it engendered in many of its viewers, as if its objects were gigantic, overwrought toys and its exhibition spaces were playgrounds for a new kind of art audience. The public, so long shut out of the private worlds of the abstract painters, one offered, is now being urged by kinetic artists to come in and have a rattling good time.20 To be sure, after the success of Rens relatively modest offering, the group shows of kinetic art became increasingly more ambitious and sensational. Some exhibitions had the air of traveling carnivals, showcasing their spectacular effects to a number of institutions across Europe. By 1961, when K. G. Pontus Hulten staged his massive exhibition Art in Movement (also known as Bewogen Beweging) rst at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and then at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, where he served as director, the roster of eight artists in Le Mouvement had expanded considerably to sixty gures from twenty countries. It was a testament to the currency of the work that an exhibition as grand in scale and as difcult to mount as Hultens also traveled to the Louisiana Museum outside Copenhagen and nally the Muse dArt Moderne in Paris.21 Back then, as now, this could not have been an easy undertaking. Things broke down time and again. Motors, nuts, and bolts went missing. Even still, it was an enormously popular affair, and how could it not be? That kinetic art was the stuff of play is supported by the visual record, which frequently turned around Tinguelys work. One image captures brilliantly the sense that this was so much art as entertainment, but it also begs the question: Entertainment for whom? A photograph taken from the opening of the exhibition at the Moderna Museet stages an odd encounter between a proper haute-bourgeois woman and a bicyclelike contraption by Tinguely known as the CycloGraveur (gure 2.6). In her veiled hat, neatly appointed dress suit, and ladylike pumps, she wears a costume betting a vernissage, communicating in its details the marks of privilege, urbanity, Culture. And yet there she is, astride the work of art. She is seated on high,


2.6 Jean Tinguely, Cyclo-Graveur, 1961.

2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris. Photo Lennart Olsson.

but ever precariously, as if her dignity were itself in the balance. Her laughterperhaps a bit nervous, certainly loudseems to usher from the corners of her mouth and the drop of her jaw, here stretched cavernously, embarrassingly wide. The ridiculousness of the situation is conveyed further through her efforts to pedal Tinguelys object-goingnowhere. Its multiple gears, wheels, and chains seem to defy any attempts at a seamless passage, and her shoes, with their ornamental heels and neat trimmings, could only signify a compromised athleticism. Focusing our attention on this absurd detail, a young boy provides a subtext to the event. His eyes are xed on the bicycles mechanisms, as if to avoid looking at its passenger. There is a certain tentativeness to his interaction with the worknote how he leans forward to investigate, but just barelythus resisting the invitation the artist has set into motion. The image conveys a skewed message. In the most literal fashion, it serves as an artistic emblematizing of Johan Huizingas Homo Ludens: here is a person at play atop a work of art that has invited her to play, to indulge in a space otherwise reserved for aesthetic contemplation. It calls upon her to accept the work as a child would, releasing her from any critical distance or any inhibitions about her experience of the object. The woman seems to be enjoying herself completely, and why shouldnt she? The ring of her laughter reminds us of our presumptions about what works of art are supposed to do. Should we always presume, for instance, that our art viewing be a serious, chin-stroking affair, devoid of any playfulness? The photograph implicitly asks us to shift our expectations of the object in question, just as it positions the young boy near the center of the image as a metaphorical surrogate for the kind of behavior that would have been expected of the woman. If the picture registers a sense of surprise and then amusement, perhaps it is because so much art of the period was lacking in both. And yet the works sense of humor also stems, uneasily enough, from the quality of its embarrassment. Our passenger is laughing and delighting at her new-found toy, but we, in turn, might be laughing at her. Something of a social disconnect is at play here, for there is no doubt that this womans art world pretensions are a bit laughable, clashing up against the strange object that has made her an unwitting player in its spectacle. That the participant happens to be a woman serves to feminize the reception of the object as nonserious and



acritical. The object seems to revel in a complicitous kind of humor, and we are made to bear uncomfortable witness to its joke. Entertainment, then, acts a double-edged sword for reading kinetic art, at once the droll material of New Yorker cartoons but something a little more menacing as well, slightly sadistic even. Taken together with the other pole of its general reception (kinetic art as scientistic), a strikingly odd picture of its postwar history emerges, seemingly divided between high seriousness and sheer gooness, daunting futuristic ambition, and infantalizing regression. Such a split in the general perception of this work went far to support George Rickeys claim that an artist who uses movement may behave like a clown or a philosopher or a school teacher or a research scientist.22 But far from being merely pluralistic, this split also attests to a dialectical turn with marked historical reverberations. Consider how both positions coincide roughly with points on a developmental trajectory, one futuristic and forward looking, the other atavistic and primitivizing. Not unlike the movement of many kinetic works themselves, there is a temporal pull between these positions, a see-saw motion between futurity and pastness. Pointing forward and backward simultaneously, the movement betrays an uncertainty about the presentness of kinetic art, perhaps the present tense in general. No clear balance is struck in the present, but its opposite extremes coexist. I would argue that these dialectical poles serve notice to a far longer history of kinetic arta doubled historythat appeals to the clashing and embeddedness of worlds new and old, worlds that are revisited and imagined by Tinguelys example. Here, then, we need focus our attention on an earlier narrative around kinetic art, as if the clock were somehow turned backward, with the more recent postwar work auguring its regression.



By now the reader is justied in wondering about the prehistory of kinetic art glancingly acknowledged in my offhanded references to Duchamp and Calder, not to mention my passing remarks on the attempted resuscitation of the avant-garde. Weve noted that curators often invoked such historical gures, perhaps in the interest of art

history, perhaps also to legitimize their postwar progeny by establishing a virtual genealogy for the newer work. As such, the short history of postwar kinetic art just described is only half of a story, one that alerts us to the problems of history and time that mark considerations of Tinguelys project. Certainly postwar kinetic art represented a peculiar revival of an earlier art historical moment, a backward glance at the Machine Ages.23 No artist or critic could rightfully claim that the new kinetic art was produced ex nihilo; and in the new writing on kinetic art a roll call of its prewar predecessors was inevitably rehearsed. A short list of these developments, repeated over and over again by writers and curators, would read as follows: Italian Futurism awakens an interest in virtual movement in 1908. Duchamp mounts a bicycle wheel on a stand in 1913, followed by his roto-reliefs in 1935. Vladimir Tatlin imagines his Monument to the Third International in 1920. Naum Gabo motorizes a rod to produce his Standing Wave the same year. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy constructs his Light-Space Modulator a decade later. Calder invents the mobile around 1932. And there was no shortage of primary texts in support of the visual evidence. Yet neither a list of objects nor a batch of random quotations can stand for history. Few artists dened themselves principally in terms of kinetics; and movement seemed a secondary concernperhaps even epiphenomenonto some of their larger aesthetic and conceptual criteria. The breathless recitation of these developments by the postwar critics was both historically pat and culturally totalizing, as if no difference existed between a Duchamp and a Gabo or no aesthetic, political, or theoretical positions separated the futurists from Tatlin.24 Still, the list has the benet of demonstrating, in rhetorical fashion, the extent to which these writers produced a certain image of the avantgarde. If they recognized an inexorable relationship between prewar gures and postwar kinetic art, perhaps it was because they naturalized its history as linear and unbroken. And yet this backward narrative, meant to furnish a seamless continuum between prewar kinetic forms and postwar ones, remained unquestioned as a historiographic phenomenon. Kinetic art seemed to advance without interruption, with virtually no acknowledgment of the world historical disaster of the war to say little of its implications for industrial production, scientic endeavor, and technological progress.




The war was treated as little more than an inconvenience for some of these writers, a pause button in the greater evolution of kinetic art. Critics appeared untroubled by the fact that the work seemed to carry on in its implicit faith in machinic forms and the potential of science, in spite of the Bomb and in spite of the Holocaust.25 Yet the reception of Tinguelys work, we shall see, allows us to interrogate kinetic arts business-as-usual attitude, disclosing the problem of worlds his work would address, not to mention issues of temporality that postwar kinetic art introduces more generally.26 Was there, then, a prewar history of kinetic art? Yes, in a manner of speaking. Was it the one endlessly rehearsed in the countless books and catalogs published on this work in the sixties. Probably not. Its the art of our time, proclaims Willem Sandberg, director of the Stedelijk Museum in 1959.27 Clichs notwithstanding, the statement permits some speculations on the works timeliness. Perhaps its backward and forward glance spoke to a deeper structure within the culture, a problem, in short, of representing history. One of the few critics to tackle this issue with any modicum of seriousness was not an art historian at all but the social critic Alvin Tofer. In his best-selling book of 1970, Future Shock, Tofer described information in contemporary society as being a kinetic image, moving with blinding speed in and out of consciousness. In hyperbolic, even alarmist rhetoric, Tofer wrote of the transience of late twentiethcentury life as presented by equally ephemeral images. Instant food, instant communication and even instant cities28 all underscored the speed with which cultural information was reproduced, distributed, internalized, and rendered obsolete in the sixties. And this was as true for art as it was anything else. In the past, Tofer argued, one rarely saw a fundamental change in an art within a mans lifetime. Today the pace of turnover in art is vision-blurringthe viewer scarcely has time to see a school develop, to learn its language, so to speak, before it vanishes.29 For Tofer, kinetic art in particular allegorized the mounting acceleration of the art world and its movements. Kinetic arts raison dtre, as he saw it, was transience itself. Like other artistic developments in the sixties (most notably the Happenings), it represented a historical moment that could not quite keep its bearings straight could not quite determine its trajectorybecause the moment itself

was rushing by so fast. Tofer echoed, in this sense, John Canadays words on Tinguely a decade earlier, in which the critic sees the subject of his art the transient and inchoate nature of much contemporary art.30 Although Tofer emphasized the forward-looking motion of kinetic art, he did not so much conrm the progressivist or scientistic view of many kinetic artists as he spoke to the sense of historical uncertainty it evokes:
Kinetic sculptures or constructions crawl, whistle, whine, swing, twitch, rock or pulsate . . . arranging and rearranging themselves into evanescent patterns within a given, though sometimes concealed, framework. Here the wiring and connections tend to be the least transient part of the structure. . . . The intent of kinetic work . . . is to create maximum variability and maximum transience. . . . Thus we nd artists from France, England, the United States, Scotland, Sweden, Israel and elsewhere creating kinetic images. Their creed is perhaps best expressed by Yaacov Agam, an Israeli kineticist, who says: We are diKerent from what we were three moments ago, and in three minutes more, we will again be diKerent. . . . The image appears and disappears, but nothing is retained.31


Tofer underscored the international dimension of kinetic art. As we shall see, his comments also suggest the global dimension of the phenomenon of transience. Tofers words would resonate with both Tinguelys pronouncements and his journalistic reception. Here we are confronted with an art that appears to charge forward into the future with such gathering velocityand that analogizes its own movement to the speed of the contemporary art world itselfthat its sense of the present is severely, perhaps fatally, compromised, its worlds rendered increasingly unstable. And yet transience, in and of itself, seems a mere symptom of a larger historical undercurrent pulling at the edges of Tofers discourse. That his writing has the ring of both the inevitable and apocalyptic should sound warning bells to both reader and historian to slow down a bit.32 His prognosis for the future demands a historical parsing of sorts, a clearheaded perspective that enables the reader of Future Shock to consider more fully her particular place within its network.


And so too does this apply to Tofers reading of kinetic art, which, suggestive as it may be, neither reects upon the heady rush of its own prose nor on the technological determinism that underwrites his method. The sense of virtual transience projected on kinetic art, after all, was born of deeply material conditions of postwar European and American culture; and Tofers approach, described by one detractor as schlock sociology is hardly historical in any scholarly sense. As we move chronologically toward discussion of Tinguelys Las Vegas Study, beginning with his works known as the Meta-matics, we are now better positioned to contend with the historical specicity of these worlds and the progressively global phenomena of transience.



Let me return to a world articulated at the beginning of this chapter, one at the cusp of an automation and media revolution. Tinguelys art of 1959, I want to argue, is caught up in a peculiar debate about shifting technologies, namely, the relationship between mechanization and automation in the postwar era: the historical confrontation between the machine and the computer. But just as it is difcult to distinguish backward and forward motion in kinetic art, so too does this world embed itself in another previously described. For the reception of Tinguelys work also discloses a world in which the status of the European nationstate was put under increasing pressure with the emergence of incipient global technologies, more often than not linked to the cultural and military prominence of postwar Americas example. I am suggesting that an anxiety around what will subsequently be described as global technocracy is inchoate in the criticism of Tinguelys art. His reception anticipates at least two understandings of that ubiquitous, even amorphous term globalization, one that hinges upon the marked Westernization of the world, on the one hand, and the cultural and economic preeminence of global communication media, on the other.33 Globalization is a word we will use with some caution in this context: we cannot ignore the desperate stakes at play in the Cold War politics of this moment. Yet Tinguelys example foreshadows many of the issues attending its contemporary discussions nonetheless, revolving largely around the technologies supporting the rise of postwar communications industries.

In the late fties, a few short years after his Paris debut, Tinguelys star was ascendant, his name synonymous with postwar European avant-gardism in both its best and worst incarnations.34 In March of 1959 Tinguely inaugurated one of the rst in a series of events that earned him the reputation as little more than a publicist to his own cause. On the occasion of an exhibition in Dsseldorf, he hired an airplane to y over a neighboring suburb and cast out 150,000 handbills, his Manifesto for Statics (gure 2.7). The gesture functioned in a quasi site-specic way. The action of a Swiss artist dropping literature over Germany carries with it patently militaristic associations: namely, that of Americans and Allied forces leaeting occupied countries during the war years and the Eastern Bloc countries that emerged in the Cold War.35 That the distributor in question was Swissof politically neutral backgrounddoes not so much disqualify these associations as amplify its sense of psychological warfare through parody. Nonetheless, the message delivered went beyond the iconography of military strategy. It reads:


2.7 Jean Tinguely, distributing the

Manifesto for Statics over Dsseldorf, March 1959. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo Charles Wilp.

Everything moves continuously. Immobility does not exist. Dont be subject to the inuence of out-of-date concepts of time. Forget hours, seconds and minutes. Accept instability. LIVE IN TIME. BE STATICWITH MOVEMENT. For a static of the present moment. Resist the anxious fear to x the instantaneous, to kill that which is living. Stop insisting on values which cannot but break down. Stop evoking movement and gesture. You are movement and gesture. Stop building cathedrals and pyramids which are doomed to fall into ruin. Live in the present; live once more in Time and by Timefor a wonderful and absolute reality. March 195936

Tinguelys is a reformulation of the classic Heraclitean dictum that the only thing that remains constant is change.37 Unfortunately for the artist, these words were to bear practical consequences. As reported by Hulten, none of Tinguelys yers actually landed on Dsseldorf, for the currents of warm air . . . blew the leaets far out into the surrounding countryside.38 The manifesto, in other words, quite literally obeyed its author in refusing to stay putto be static.

In spite of its outcome, the action dramatized the peculiar convergence between the work of art, the spread of information, and the question of time within Tinguelys practice. We could say it allegorized his message on time itself. The marriage between the twothe artists use of media as a form of artistic labor coupled with his thinking on temporalitymay, in fact, place stress on a larger phenomenon attending the historical reception of his work: information processing. Following the Dsseldorf event, Tinguelys art would progressively address the speed with which information became a kind of kinetic image, to borrow Tofers words. It was under the rubric of automation that this discourse ourished. In the postwar era, the term automation has been subject to considerable debate, its implications, as well as its very denition, achieving a weak consensus at best. And that failed consensus about automation was organized largely around issues of labor and time. The postwar use of the term itself has a decidedly American pedigree. According to one author, it was popularized in the late fties by a works manager at the Ford Auto Plant in Detroit in order to dramatize a scale of technological change . . . so vast that (the word) automatic was no longer sufcient to describe it.39 Automation was fundamentally an issue of time, both in terms of the historical change it represented and the speed of production it offered. In a rigorous and technical sense, one critic wrote,
[automation] should refer only to those forms of technological change or mechanization which combine the elements of the computer, transfer devices and automatic controls. The central idea is that mechanical or chemical processes are directed, controlled and corrected within limits automatically, that is, without further intervention once the system is established.40


According to this denition, automation signals an acute synthesis of mechanical processesmachine manufacture most notablywith computer-based ones. It is in this sense that automation brings together a Machine Age paradigm of production with the postwar emergence of cybernetics. But the extent to which automation is wholly the product of computer culture is a matter of degree. One British economist


emphasizes the cybernetic dimension of automation at the expense of the mechanical.

It is a concept through which a machine-system is caused to operate with maximum egciency by means of adequate measurement, observation and control of its behavior. . . . Automation in this true sense is brought to full fruition only through exploitation of its three major elements, communication, computation and control.41


Automation, as such, is the exact opposite of mechanization. Taken together, these perspectives demonstrate that the two components of production within automation are not readily disassociated technologically, historically, or socially: they cannot be neatly historicized as prewar or postwar technologies, nor strictly characterized as machinic or digital. The terms do not separate so easily. To be sure, the belief that the Machine Age of the prewar era was fully superceded by the so-called automatist (i.e., computer) era also betrays a marked ideological perspective. It is to make claims for a whole and complete transition from an industrial economy to a service economy and, by extension, a radical shift in the character of labor that attends that transition.42 Indeed, the strongest supporters of automation believed that the new information technology would solve a variety of managerial problems precisely by eliminating unnecessary labor. An automated or cybernated system effectively cut costs, cut bureaucracy, andmost important for issues of efciencycut time. One critic suggested that the the distinguishing quality of the computer controlling an automated system is a speed beyond human imagination, a speed measured in nano-seconds. . . . A higher speed in computers means that their complexity can increase very rapidly, and that they can more easily engage in activities in what we call real time.43 Here, the Taylorist paradigm of scientic management, historically linked to the Machine Age, accelerates to the point of its own nullity. Yet for all its promise as a postwar model of efciency, automation simultaneously represented the most dangerous threat to traditional conceptions of labor, for some contributing to the progressive dehumanization of all social life. For many people, one writer suggested, automation is a terrifying word. It conjures up visions of

tyrannical machines reducing man to the status of a mere pusher of buttons or watcher of dials.44 Dystopian as such visions are, they also found their practical counterpart in issues of policy, issues far from obsolete within the current climate of labor politics. The major domestic challenge of the Sixties, John F. Kennedy said at a press conference on the theme of automation in February 15, 1962, is to maintain full employment at a time when automation is replacing men. It is a fact that we have to nd over a ten-year period 25,000 new jobs every week to take care of those displaced by machines and those who are coming into the labor market.45 Kennedys tone was sanguine and proactive, but for many others, automation augured the progressively hostile confrontation between humanity and machine. Hence the gure of the robot came to represent the greatest danger posed to the individual worker, inspiring a kind of neo-Luddism ranging from the sophisticated polemics of Jacques Ellul to the cruder prognoses of a robotic takeover in the popular media. These debates, we shall see, are imperative to the contemporary understanding of Tinguelys work and its reception, but they are nowhere addressed in the artists historical appraisal. Marshall McLuhans remarks on automation, however, shed light on the ways in which the position of the artist and his labor is transformed in the age of automation.
The future of work consists of earning a living in the automation age. . . . This is a familiar pattern in electronic technology in general. It ends the old dichotomies between culture and technology, between art and commerce, and between work and leisure. . . . As the age of information demands the simultaneous use of all our faculties, we discover that we are most at leisure when we are most intensely involved, very much as with the artists in all ages.46


McLuhan suggested that a virtual collapsing takes place in the nature of work under automation: culture and technology, art and commerce, work and leisure (and by extension, entertainment) become one and the same. It is a lesson that could well hold true for Tinguely and his particular take on the end of worlds. His work of 1959 was consistently thought to emblemize the risks of automation and was linked further to the suspicion that the artist was a publicity machinean instrument of



informationin his own right. Starting with the Dsseldorf event, it would nd its crescendo with his Las Vegas performance, Study for an End of the World, No. 2. The Meta-matics, as the artist called them, were begun around 195556 (gure 2.8). Tinguely made about thirty in 1959 and their numbers were to exceed fty in the next two years. The works sold and sold very wellfor about $3,000 each at the beginning of the sixties, and they caused something of a media frenzy in Dsseldorf, Paris, and London. Described by one critic as weirdly handsome devices looking like a surrealistic cross between a block and tackle and a dentists drill,47 they were bent iron constructions shaped by an oxyacetylene torch, ranging in size from a table-top model to freestanding works of human scale. Painted a matte, uniform black, they were typically composed of a series of rotating discs, tangled skeins of metal, sharply drawn scythelike forms, and a miniaturized easel-like component to which a sheaf of paper was secured. Among the most important elements in the work were the small slot that accepted a slug or coin that read meta-matic: Tinguely and an arm that held up a marker pen to the attached paper. When a slug was inserted into the machine, the Meta-matic erupted into spasmodic ts that caused the pen to move, almost seismographically, across the papers surface. The resulting drawing was really more of an intense, tremulous scribble: concentrated, furious dashes of color delimited by the range of motion the artist built into the machine in advance. The Meta-matics came to be known as Tinguelys drawing machines, and they dramatized a critical paradox that runs throughout his practice. These were objects meant to facilitate artistic expression, but by the same time they were necessarily mechanical objects, denying its user the freedom mythically alleged to guide the creative process. The hundreds of yers Tinguely distributed to advertise his shows (both in Paris and London) implicitly call on this paradox. LIBREZ-VOUS EN CRANT VOUS-MME VOS OEUVRES DART avec les machines peindre Meta-matics de Tinguely, his yer for the Galerie Iris Clert reads. To free ones self, by creating do-it-yourself works of art through a machine strikes a somewhat dissonant chord with the contemporary debates on automation, and it is here collapsed within Tinguelys own promotional rhetoric.


2.8 Jean Tinguely, Meta-matic No. 9,

1958. Credit: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of D. and J. de Menil.


As it is, the phrase Meta-matics represents a neat contraction of the words metaphysics and automatic, as though the automatic (and by implication, automation) was a kind of modern metaphysics. Some critics suggested that the Meta-matics were ironic commentaries on European Art Informel or Tachisme, the kind of painting, with its thick swabs of impasto and blunt facture, often dismissed as avant-garde scribbling. Others made reference to the example of Duchamps readymades as the model for Tinguelys practice. Such allusions, however, bore signicance beyond their implicit stake in positioning Tinguely as heir apparent to the masters legacy. For Tinguely emphasized the absurdist tradition of the machine that gured into his work; he was adamant that the Meta-matics were deeply irrational in their movement, employing, as he put it, the functional use of chance.48 Thus Tinguelys apparent indebtedness to the prewar iconography of the machine centered less on its promise as a bearer of standardization than in its capacity to invert such ideals. Speaking on the drawings produced by the Meta-matics, he noted, their work is always different since their unusual controls and motors are constructed in such a way that they cannot produce that dull repetitive action so typical of ordinary machines.49 The Meta-matics were not, then, the mere repetition of the Machine Age art form par excellence, but in their convergence with the question of artistic production, they suggested a more ambivalent treatment of contemporary technology. Tinguely spoke to such thinking in commenting upon the audience response to the work. Most people have the same reaction, he said. [W]hile the machine is going, they smile, they think its ridiculous. Then it stops, and they begin to feel doubt, a kind of anxiety.50 This kind of anxiety undoubtedly stemmed from the equivocating nature of the Meta-matics. Cleaving to the larger debates within popular culture on the historical tensions between mechanization and automation, they were themselves undecidable objects, at once seeming to pay homage to Machine Age iconography and embodying the threat of cybernated technology. Never mind that the Meta-matics themselves were relatively simple machines, in no way subject to the complexities of taping, feedback, or computer programming. Never mind that the iconographic readings that followed were neither conrmed nor denied by the artist, who seemed content to watch the journalistic frenzy play

out without comment. It was, rather, the appropriation of the artistic process by the Meta-matic that caused many to cry the death of art by automation. In one of a number of pictorials published in Paris-Match on Tinguelys debut at the Biennale in October of that year, one journalist gravely intoned that in our epoch of electronic machines and jet airplanes, the arts themselves risk being automated. . . . Admirers of abstract painting have learned, with stupefaction, that there exists a machine which can, with the greatest ease, replace the creation of the painter.51 It was a theme that would run throughout the Tinguely criticism. Jean-Jacques Leveque edited an entire dossier for the magazine Sens Plastique inspired by the Meta-matics entitled Procs de lAutomatisme.52 In it, he gathered commentary by a number of French critics, most of whom were dismissive of the whole project: Tinguely nexiste que dans la mesure o les imbciles le font exister, one wrote, Quant lautomatisme, je prfre lI.B.M.53 The one contributor who did not reject the work out of hand suggested that the very presence of machinic technology in the Meta-matics sounded a cautionary note on the dangers of automation in the present day. In his suggestively titled piece ATTENTIONS: ROBOTS, he wrote: A mon sens, Tinguely, montant ses machines, a fait la oeuvre salutaire et saine de moraliste et de la penseur, en disant nombre de nous, peintres, par le truchement de ses ressorts et de ses crous: ATTENTIONS: ROBOTS!54 The rhetoric of robots taking over labor (as well as that which attempted to resist commodity fetishism altogether, the making of art) was repeated incessantly in the Tinguely literature over the next few months. The Meta-matics were willing participants in the capitalist economy, desirous of your participation in their creation and were therefore the rst primitives of the robot cole.55 They were the ideal representation of automations condensation of time.56 One British critic saw in Tinguelys Meta-matics a constructive, or edifying, failurea failure to approximate the conditions of a genuinely seamless automation process. In this failure, he claimed, lies the works great success: its capacity to ironize the process of automation. Yet if this reading was in opposition to most commentary on the Meta-matics, it shared with the French and German criticism a peculiar xation on the nationalist implications of Tinguelys art. It seized upon the artists heritage as offering a peculiar response to the contemporary



status of the machine; for who had more authority than a Swiss-born artist to counter such technology? As one writer remarked,
To comprehend Metamatics, one must consider Tinguelys origin. His native Switzerlandhis father is a chocolate workeris a country whose standard of excellence is the delicate precision of the watch. The national image is one of order and method. Thus if the artist is, as the maxim goes, always in rebellion against society, then irregularity, or organized chaosis the natural goal of the Swiss artist.57


The statement borders on parody in its marshalling of Swiss stereotypes: the exactitude and order (anality?) of the Swiss character, the precision mechanics of their watches, the inevitable reference to chocolate. Tinguely, to follow this view, would seem embroiled in a nationalistic Oedipal struggle. Yet there was little doubt he encouraged this reading: Tinguely had no interest in being regarded as a provincial Swiss artist. Far more pervasive than the Swiss interpretation of his art, however, was the belief that the Meta-matics were somehow a little too American, even for a European artist who may have implicitly been criticizing American culture. The works seemed taken with, or perhaps tainted by, American culture in myriad ways. They appeared as much engaged in a dialogue with Abstract Expressionism as with Tachisme, as if the automated hand of the Meta-matic offered a witty riposte to the automatist gesture of a Jackson Pollock. And then there was the nagging sense that the Metamatics were publicity-making machines in and of themselves, smacking of a particularly American fascination with specularity at the expense of culture. More than a few European critics remarked that the greatest market for Tinguelys works was American, and their journalistic statements could barely repress the vulgarity they attributed to the collectors.58 Leave it to an American to spell out the connection explicitly. In a Washington Post article entitled The Fine Art of Press Agentry, Waverly Root bemoaned the relationship between art and publicity in the era of Dali and centers on Tinguelys Meta-matics as the most pointed expression of this phenomenon. Noting the American vogue for Tinguelys work, Root began with a kind of allegory that Pablo Picasso had invented a painting machine to produce his art, a story that ies in

the face of the masters much vaunted genius. The story, of course, was patently false (and started by no less than Picasso himself), but it represented for the journalist a veritable act of treason to the loftier goals of art making. The gesture was subsequently related to recent developments associated with Tinguely. It was bad enough to have machines think, the critic noted before observing that Tinguely acted as if the fantasies of artists could be programmed on an electric computer.59 The implication is that automation and publicity go hand in hand, are handmaidens to the same cause. That American comedians and humorists engaged the Meta-matics for publicity purposes doubtlessly fueled such speculations. When, for example, Danny Kaye posed with one of Tinguelys works at the Paris Biennale for a glossy French pictorial, it was difcult not to draw a parallel between the show-biz motivations of the Hollywood entertainer with the boisterous antics of Tinguelys anthropomorphic objects.60 But the Americanist (and, as we shall see, ultimately globalist) reception of Tinguelys work would bear graver associations for his art that followed: the performances ending with their own self-immolation. Before moving decisively toward such a world, we might slow down and consider two ruptures into the narrative of kinetic art: the work of the Belgian Bury and the proposals of the international group, Signals. Both demonstrate, in their respective fashion, the historical tensions animating Tinguelys artproblems that reduced to the issues of time and technology.



To repeat: Tinguelys practice as a kinetic artist cannot be viewed in isolation, as a number of prominent artists active at the moment offered equal but opposite views on transience. In so doing, they throw into relief the web of concerns in Tinguelys reception as at once general and historical, while attending to aspects of that transience unexplored by the Swiss artists proposals. Bury, for instance, sustained a critical engagement with the notion of slowness, revealing attitudes about duration at some distance from Tinguelys headlong rush into automation. Burys work might appear to share little with the Swiss artists clanking mechanica, although the two were friends and converged in



their background in several ways. Both were born in the early twenties; both participated, to varying degrees of involvement, in liberation movements during the war years; both claimed strong allegiances to Dada and surrealism; and both appeared in the seminal exhibitions of kinetic art, Denise Renes Le Mouvement and Art in Movement at the Stedelijk. Likewise, the literature surrounding the two tends to begin with a kind of origin myth. Tinguely, to follow some biographers, took on a slavish, excruciatingly dull job in a department store, whereupon he tore down a wall clock and was summarily red. Burys story is no less ridiculous, centered on the space of the home and a paternal obsession with mechanics. To follow the artist, then very young (about four or ve years of age, as he recalls), his father, a garagiste, had somehow allowed his professional enthusiasms to spill over into his domestic arrangements.61 Nuts, bolts, and carburetors claimed any free surfaces to the point that part of a car appeared smack in the middle of an upstairs bedroom. Burys father had begun assembling the vehicle without considering the consequences, and sure enough, it soon came to colonize the space. However apocryphal, the story takes on an allegorical function for understanding Burys practice. It acknowledges the presence of machinic forms in an everyday capacity, sees them as ubiquitous but not in the spaces typically associated with them. Rather, it hidesor secrets them away only to reveal them at work in another context, perhaps more insidiously than in their blatant appearance elsewhere. Bury may have grown up in an environment in which machines took on a marked importance, and he would later have rsthand experience with mechanics before devoting himself completely to producing art. (In 1939, for instance, he spent time in a factory manufacturing, among the ultimate signiers of labor, the pick-hammer.) But the presence or representation of technology would not serve as the end goal of the work. Unlike Tinguely, for instance, Bury went to some lengths to obscure the mechanics behind his art, and throughout his continuing practice, the quality of movement his work registers is at some remove from the frenetic gestures of a Meta-matic. Deeply inuenced by Calder, he began producing abstract planar surfaces in 1954, which allowed the spectator to rotate their various components in a semi-interactive fashion. By the early sixties, Bury introduced the series known as the Vibratiles and the Punctuations: in both he dispersed the trajectory of

movement along numerous units or parts with the use of a motor hidden behind the work. In some works, dozens of balls migrated slowly along invisible axes, whereas in others, multiple ambiguous forms swelled and receded behind the pictorial surface. But whatever his chosen formswhether globes or cubes or brous threads or mirrored surfaceshis kinesis was not easily tracked. In contrast to the chaos, speed, and noise associated with most kinetic art in the popular press, Bury went to the opposite extreme. He slowed down the movement of his works to an almost mordant stillness. Consider a Punctuation from 1965 (gure 2.9). It sets a large cluster of blackish nylon laments, tipped with white, within the darkened recess of a painted wooden surface. There they lie, without apparent gestalt, around the mouth of the hole. But then slowly and without notice, one of the stems registers a twitch. Or was it? Was this movement incidental, the function, say, of a vibration in the gallery or a current in the air? Some optical trick caused by an errant eyelash? And then a few more twitches, although now it is hard to discern if the movement stems from the same thread or if it is actual movement in the rst place. After all, the white bulbs of the threads, seen across the black, produce their own kind of illusionistic icker, like a constellation traced against the darkened sky. It continues this way, this ever-so-slight twitching and ickering, not to mention the questioning by the spectator as to whether this movement is happening at all. And then one detects a shift among the laments, gradual as it may be, a kind of collective falling of the threads as if gravity were taking its course. Drawing nearer, the spectator is now made auditor to Burys work. There is movement, and its effects are heard as a mued clenching of bers. One begins to see this movement too between the threads. Here and there, movement seems to touch off corresponding movement. The vibration of one is met by the slight bending of another. Now the movement is generalized throughout, but it is not an organized movement. Watching the sequence of the objects small events over and over, taking close measure of its unfolding, one realizes that no one overriding principle guides this kinesis. Bury has built randomness into his work. Still, critics were quick to point out the gurative and naturalizing aspects of Burys art. They saw in his bending threads and lugubriously paced balls the evocation of natural phenomena: grasses swaying,


2.9 Pol Bury, 1110 Dots Leaving a

Hole: Punctuation, 1964. Collection Stdtisches Museum, Gelsenkirchen.

anemones opening, creatures wending their slow and deliberate paths along the ocean oor. His was like watching a time-lapse lm of some strange organism coming into blossom. Burys surrealizing tendencies lend the work a somewhat uncanny character, but his anthropomorphism, if one can call it that, is not the movement of automata.62 No robots here. The artist grudgingly acknowledged the winking and humorous allusions to the erotic in his art, particularly the Erectiles (a swelling breast, phallic tumescence, etc.) but denied that they were conventionally animated or anthropomorphic. If the work is gurative in any sense, it lies in its appeal to the spectators kinesthetic identication with the objects movement. It is a movement not like that of an animal, or human locomotion, but the sensation of an itch that travels seemingly without timealong the labyrinthine network of a nerve path. One knows its there, that it is happening, but it resists easy location. Even still, Burys kinesis can be read. Crucially, however, it can be read only as a matter of duration; for in order to grasp its full range of motion, one needs to attend to it for fteen minutes at the very least. Not that these are exercises in museological patience: there is no pedagogical motivation behind this work. Burys art demonstrates that movement, however small or frenetic, can only be registered over time; and it is in slowness (or rather, especially in slowness) that duration is revealed to be discontinuous. Burys movement is seen as random movement, and slowness is that which ultimately lies behind it. Slowness was for the artist the means to reveal times unevenness. In his 1964 essay Time Dilated, a text that stands as the closest thing to a manifesto in his long career, Bury wrote of the revelations intrinsic to an encounter with slowness.
Between the immobile and mobility, a certain quality of slowness reveals to us a eld of actions in which the eye is no longer able to trace an objects journeys. Given a globe travelling from A to B, the memory we shall retain of its point of departure will be a function of the slowness with which it achieves its journey. . . . The journey from A to B, perceived in terms of speed, is less a voyage than a confusion which can become so great that A and B approach close enough to each other to become indistinguish-



able. But perceived in terms of slowness A is no longer necessarily the point of departure towards B. . . . Thus, we can see that slowness not only multiplies duration but also permits the eye following the globe to escape from its own observers imagination and let itself be led by the imagination of the travelling globe itself. The imagined voyage becomes imaginative.63

Slowness, then, facilitates a process of imagination impossible for the observer in real time or accelerated time to grasp. Slowness reveals the ssures and gaps within duration that may otherwise appear without incident. Slowness was, for Bury, as much linked to mobility as immobilityand the extent to which the existence of immobility interrupted the apparently seamless ow of things. Immobility does exist, Bury argued. [I]t exists by contrast to movement as silences exist in music. It would be better to speak of some immobilities. I am searching for the point which exists between the moving and the non-moving.64 And slowness, for Burys supporters, also evoked a perspective on time that resonated with the generalized anxiety about the present shared by many commentators on kinetic art. On the occasion of Burys second one-man show in New York, Eugne Ionesco interpreted the artists movement in relation to the disquietude underlying all modern experience:
We are surrounded by people who forget. They tell us: the universe is the way it is, the way its made, the way its made once and forever, it is stability itself, everything is secure. . . . But then comes Pol Bury to disquiet us, to show us that this is not true. Society is not still, the pillars over which the sky, the universe, the certainty rest are not solidly rooted, and the earth itself is cracking. . . . For Pol Bury there is constant anguish originating from the basic intuition that everything might collapse under us at any moment.65


Ionesco sees in Burys work the undercurrents of the catastrophic. Slowness for him is a means to confront the unexamined life, to uncover in the rhythms of the everyday something far graver than the appearance of things might suggest. He was always so morbid, Bury recalls of his close friend and smiles, without wholly dismissing his

appraisal.66 The playwright, after all, was not alone in his reception of the artist as producing darkly critical work. Peter Selz suggested that the quality of slowness in Burys art was a response to its very opposite within contemporary society: the acceleration of culture by new technology, the rushing pace in our time.67 Slowness, then, was not only the revelation of the micromovements underwriting the appearance of things. It also offered a stern commentary on the accelerated pace of life as naturalized, as something internalized and thus taken for granted. In contradistinction to Tinguelys reading in For Statics, which argued for the embrace of instability and continuous ux, Burys critics would have us see it otherwise. For them, he would slow it down.68 Indeed, Burys conception of slowness participates in a thinking about duration that extends well beyond the immediate concerns of kinetic art, not to mention technologys look. Slowness, I suggested earlier, is only understood through duration, for duration serves as the backdrop against which our perception of movement and immobility is grasped. But what kind of duration? To make reference to duration would seem to invoke the philosophy of Henri Bergson, whose books Creative Evolution, Matter and Memory, and Time and Free Will were read closely by the artist.69 For Bergson, duration was the time of the lived body and subjective experience; it was that which militated against what he called spatial accounts of time. Spatial time, to follow the philosopher, was abstracted and rationalized, best represented by the form of the clock and its parceling of time into discrete and isolated units of experience. Real time, by contrast, was lived timethe time of succession without distinction, the time of mutual penetration and solidarity with the things of the world.70 As he put it in Creative Evolution (1911), we do not think real time . . . we live it. Perhaps Bergsons most famous demonstration of the succession of lived time is that of watching sugar dissolve in a glass of water. If I want to mix a glass of sugar and water, I must, willy nilly, wait until the sugar melts.
This little fact is big with meaning. For here the time I have to wait is not the mathematical time which would apply equally well to the entire history of the material world, even if that history were spread out instantaneously in space. It coincides with my impatience, that is to say, with a certain portion of my own duration, which I cannot protract or



contract as I like. It is no longer something thought, it is something lived. It is no longer a relation, it is an absolute.71

Bergson lay stress on the subjective experience of temporalitythe boredom or impatience, say, in waiting for water to melt sugar, a moment that is indivisible to the subjects relation to time (no longer a relation, it is an absolute). Yet it was not Bergsons contribution that bore upon Burys considerations of slowness, but the poetics and epistemology of Gaston Bachelard. In 1950, well before kinetic art enjoyed its postwar vogue, a young Bury wrote a letter of admiration to the philosopher of science, then at the Sorbonne, who in turn responded to the artist by acknowledging the importance of the artistic imagination.72 Bury was especially taken with three of Bachelards books: LIntuition de lInstant (1932), LAir et les Songes: Essai sur lImagination du Mouvement (1943), and, nally, La Dialectique de la Dure (1950).73 Bachelards rethinking of duration, as well as his epistemology of the new science, affords us a broader historiographic perspective on Burys slowness and its potential relationship to kinetic art and postwar technology. In both LIntuition de LInstant and La Dialectique de la Dure, Bachelard confronted Bergson at the outset, arguing that duration is neither the continuous nor seamless ow of time described in his texts. He was deeply opposed to Bergsons idealism, his conception of pure consciousness, of pure duration and particularly suspicious of the insistence on the priority of the body in Bergsons reading of lived time.74 Duration is, for Bachelard, multiply and consistently riven, fractured, discontinuous. Duration, in other words, is dialectically conditioned by that which interrupts it. As opposed to the theory of lived time as successive time, Bachelards duration is a series of microevents. When we still accepted Bergsons idea of duration, he wrote,
we set out to study it by trying very hard to purify and consequently impoverish duration as it is given to us. . . . Yet our eKorts would always encounter the same obstacle, for we never managed to overcome the

lavish heterogeneity of duration. . . . . . . In due course, as one might expect, we tried to nd the homogeneous character of duration by conning our study to smaller

and smaller fragments. Yet we were still dogged by failure. . . . However small the fragment, we had only to examine it microscopically to see in it a multiplicity of events.75


Bachelards thinking on duration as a lavish heterogeneity is consistent with his central contributions to the history of science. In The New Scientic Spirit (1934) and Rational Materialism (1953), he argued for the epistemological discontinuity in scientic progress . . . based on the history and teaching of science in the twentieth century.76 The very discontinuity of the new science (Heisenbergs uncertainty principle, Einsteins theory of relativity) inspired Bachelard to formulate an epistemology that might approximate its new spirit. His concept of epistemological break (rupture) was that which overcame epistemological obstacles, allowing the scientist to both answer and ask questions of material that was previously impossible with an earlier approach.77 This notion stemmed in part from Bachelards earlier formulation of approximate knowledgea form of knowledge that admits to the necessarily contingent relation between observing subject and object of inquiry. Writing against the notion of science as wholly progressive and teleological, Bachelard stated, It would be incorrect, therefore, to say, that real knowledge proceeds in one direction only. If we are to see knowledge at work, we must not hesitate to place it at the point at which it oscillates, where the mathematical and the intuitive mind converge.78 In another context, he put it in these terms: scientic progress always reveals a break, or better, perpetual breaks, between ordering knowledge and scientic knowledge.79 I want to suggest that Bachelards rethinking of duration, coupled with rupture, found its artistic analogue in the micromovements of Burys slowly moving objects, which internalize discontinuity and even randomness as their structural mechanism. Burys movement reveals that what appears to be without interruptionwhat might seem a prime example of Bergsonian durationis in actuality, a series of breaks, ts, starts. There is no pure sense of duration for Bury, just as there is no seamless historical (and scientic) trajectory for Bachelard. As such, Bury offers something of a microperspective on history (micro because isolated to a seemingly inconsequential segment of time) that provides a dialectical complement to that of his friend, Tinguely. Tinguelys reading of statics, in which change serves as the


only constant, cleaves well with Burys claim for discontinuity, disclosed only through the pacing of his slowly moving objects. The difference, of course, is that Tinguelys sense of movement is frenetic in both its futuristic and regressive allusions to automation technology and the historical Machine Age, whereas Burys perspective is more sober as it is slower, far less celebratory in its confrontation with the rhetoric of kinesis. It should come as little surprise for such reasons that Tinguely seemed to engage wholly the postwar rhetoric of technology whereas Bury bore no ostensible interest in it. For him, the ruptures that occurred in time were more insidious, always at work beneath the surface of things. If Tinguelys For Statics represented a paean to speed and duration, Burys Slowness was its cautionary tale. And so we come full circle to Ionescos account of Burys art. For Pol Bury, to repeat his claim, there is constant anguish originating from the basic intuition that everything might collapse under us at any moment: we are sure of nothing.80



Still, it was not all darkness for postwar kinetic art: neither for Bury, whose work is as whimsical as it is grave, nor others. The existential pronouncements of Ionesco could hardly pass muster with Tinguely, nor many other members of the younger generation of artists working with movement, particularly afliates of the Signals group based in London in the early to mid-sixties. With Tinguely they shared a conceptual interest in movement and its possibilities for scientic consideration. Nonetheless, their priorities were directed to far different ends from the readings of the Swiss artist within the popular press, assuming two intersecting propositions: rst, the exploration of matter as energy itself or as timeliness, expansive in nature; and second the expansion of the art world as increasingly global in character. Signals was a loose community of artists and critics that formed around 1964. For two years they published a newsletter and staged exhibitions of among the most important kinetic work of the era (their shows included Tinguely, Bury, and Takis but also a large constituency of Brazilian, Colombian, and Venezuelan artists, among them Lygia Clark, Hlio Oiticica, Sergio Camargo, Mira Schendel, Lygia Pape, and

others). Hardly a movement in the conventional sense, its kernel formed around the Filipino artist David Medalla, the critic Guy Brett, Paul Keeler (who served as director of the space), Gustav Metzger (best known for his work on Destruction in Art, or Auto-Destructive Art),81 and the Italian artist Marcello Salvadori. Brett made the acquaintance of Medalla at a party in 1960, when the young artist had just arrived in England by way of New York. The two were still in their teens. Something of a child prodigy in the Philippines, Medalla shuttled between London and Paris and New York in the early sixties. He made pilgrimages to sites once haunted by Arthur Rimbaud, studied at Columbia University as a special student, and for a time stayed at a progressive camp in Pennsylvania.82 He would also explore the respective art scenes of the major cities. Consistently subject to visa problems, Medalla was itinerant by necessity. On one trip to Paris in the early sixties, he happened upon an exhibition at the Galerie Diderot of works by the Greek artist Takis, the Belgian Bury, and the Venezuelan Jess Rafael Soto. The encounter proved catalytic. On returning to London, Medalla reported to Brett that he had seen the most amazing work in Paris by an artist using magnets, and he then announced that they must organize an exhibition of the work in England.83 Along with Paul Keeler, Medalla organized a show in Oxford entitled Soundings, an odd mix of kinetic artists and gures working in a more traditional expressionist idiom. Soon after Signals was founded in 1964, Medalla and Keeler began staging shows in their South Kensington at but were subsequently able to obtain, through Keelers father, use of a large empty building at 39 Wigmore Street. The group took its name following a work by Takis: it would also serve as the title of the newsletter. But the titular homage to Takiss workone of his well-known constructions with magnetsalso implicitly evoked the topic of communication over time and space, which in turn bore a marked relationship to the groups larger interest in the invisible energies of physics. In the rst issue of August 1964, the editors (but mostly Medalla), introduced the project in the following terms:
We hope to expand and increase our pages in the future: to include essays by architects, art historians, scientists, technologists, economists and town planners. Signalzs shall bring to the attention of the artist new



developments in technology and science which might be of assistance in the formation of the artists discipline. We hope to provide a forum for all those who believe passionately in the correlations of the arts and arts imaginative integration with technology, science, architecture and our entire environment.84

Key to understanding the relation of Signals to technology and science is its imaginative character. In contrast to the contemporaneous experiments of GRAV, whom Brett felt were a little too behavioristic, or the collaborative projects of E.A.T., or even Gyorgy Kepess think-tank like Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, Signals approached technology less through the terms of media than through the structural implications of quantum physics for the reception of works of art.85 The newsletter brims with discussions of the space race, disarmament, biological engineering, and robot art; excerpts from writings by Lewis Mumford and Bachelard were published alongside Russian and Latin American poetry. John Newell, the European science correspondent for the BBC, contributed a regular column entitled Science Today. For his part Medalla took a special interest in Heisenberg: having drafted a fan letter to the physicist, he was able to secure an excerpt from Heisenbergs Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science for publication in the bulletin.86 Even so, much of the art associated with the principle gures of Signals did not explicitly thematize technology or science as content. This was neither iconographic nor imagistic work; nor did it nd its historical genealogy in the usual batch of names and references cited by so many postwar kinetic artists. Rather, its interests were in articulating new perceptual models for the spectator, anticipating the effects introduced by modern science through seeing works of art as vehicles of energy. As John Gardiner suggested in his announcement for a Signals exhibition curated by Paul Keeler in the summer of 1965,
As its title implies, Towards the Invisible is an exhibition which will trace the development of modern art from the disintegration of RenaissanceCHAPTER 2 STUDY FOR AN END OF THE WORLD

type forms to the present-day researches of avant-garde artists into the . . . exploration of natural phenomena and formal relationships normally unperceived by the unaided human eye.

The natural phenomena and new formal relationships which todays artists are exploring in their work include energy (Takis, Medalla, [Eduardo] Chillida); dematerialisation and growth (Sergio de Camargo); vibrations. . . . The major aim of Towards the Invisible is to show that the apparent diversities of modern art are, in reality . . . united by at least one great theme: the search for dynamic structures underlying the visible world.87


2.10 David Medalla, Cloud Canyons:

Bubble Mobiles, 1964. Courtesy the artist, London.

The invisible, for Signals, was not a code word for the metaphysical or idealistic but suggested microscopic or cosmic propositions at play in the structural relationships of any work of art. The terms energy or dematerialization (the use of which predated Lucy Lippard and John Chandlers well-known discussion of conceptual art by several years) were employed in speaking to the dynamic principles of avantgarde abstraction and their subsequent legacy in postwar kinetic experiments. Not that this was a cryptoformalism. Energy, for many of its artists, suggested the radical breaks in twentieth-century physics as it did its demonstration within modern art. A good example of this phenomenon is Medallas Cloud Canyons: Bubble Mobiles (1964) (gure 2.10) and his attitude toward the very matter of art as energy itself. Medalla described himself in the bulletin as a hylozoist (in reference to the Old Ionian pre-Sokratic philosophersone of Those-Who-Think-Matter-is-Alive), and it is in this respect (along with his amateur appreciation of quantum mechanics) that one might regard this work. The notion that matter carries within itself a certain timeliness because energized and therefore alive was at the foundation of his earliest kinetic sculptures. The Cloud Canyons themselves appeared as a two-page spread in the Newsbulletin in September 1964, and they were exhibited widely in the following years. Black-and-white photographs picture coils of lmy, meringuelike soapnot quite opaque and yet not wholly immaterialushering forth from that most traditional signier of sculpture, a simple pedestal. The juxtaposition of the hard rectilinearity of the plinth with the distended form of the soap throws into relief the sense that the object is somehow energized and active, that its matter is subject to time and therefore serves as a mattering of time. Strict geometry is dissolved by the active expansion of the bubbles, leading ultimately to its breaking off into unforeseeable forms. One picture traces the ephemeral ight of a bubble

as it drifts over Cornwall Gardens; another image, taken from above, shows the dissipation of the soapy matter as it meets up against the hard surface of the brick pavement that supports it. Through photographic means, Medalla revealed how the object is always subject to a peculiar expansion. He demonstrated its slow and inexorable radiation into the viewers space, just as he signaled its transformation in time. The expansive dimensions of Signals practice had its logistical counterpart in the social organization of the group. Its history pointed to the precipitous erosion of the once nationally circumscribed elds of postwar art-making and its exhibition: if New York could still triumphantly claim its artistic predominance, Signals would see otherwise. As a Filipino living and working in London, Medallas consciousness of cultural difference within the art world was matched only by the peculiar disparities in technology he would confront internationally: he recalls, for example, the alienating experience of taking an escalator for the rst time in New York. And yet his passage between England, France, New York, and the Philippines (and, as we shall see, South America) quite literally dramatized the increasingly migratory practices of artists, their expanding networks of reception and distribution, and the technological means that made such movement possible at that historical moment. Complementing this progressive networking of the art world was the sense that the British art scene (for the members of Signals, at least) was largely parochial, presenting itself as a kind of reaction formation to activities in New York. To follow Brett, it was a period of the British love affair with American art. It was a time, he recalls, in which the word tough was oated around the rhetoric of British art journalism, a cipher for an aesthetic practice aspiring to the brute objectivity of minimalism, or even (and still) the machismo of abstract expressionism.88 Yet American art was regarded as boring if not outright dead by many associated with Signals. Save for the marked exception of the kinetic artist Liliane Lijn, who had spent much of her life in France and Greece up to that point, and who had aligned herself with an expatriate group of American poets living in Paris, few Americans were involved in the groups activities. Even American artists whom the Signals group admiredamong them Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns were thought to be a little too pictorial in their formal language, their objects perceived to be too self-contained to address the questions that




so occupied them. A short, unauthored editorial in Signals on the Venice Biennale, for example, suggests nothing so much as the regressiveness of new American work. The American pavilion, it reads, had the look and smell of built-in obsolescence.89 Signals turned to other places for inspiration. In 1964, Brett, Keeler, and Medalla met the artist Sergio Camargo in Paris, and the summit revealed for them the whole Latin American, but especially Brazilian art scene.90 Camargos studio served as an ersatz gallery in its own right, as the Signals artists encountered there for the rst time the work of Lygia Clark, among other Brazilian artists. The following year, Brett traveled to the So Paolo Biennale, where he met Clark and Oiticica. (Clark had her rst solo show in England at Signals that same year, and issue no. 7 of the news bulletin was devoted to her practice.) As a result of this exchange, revelatory by Bretts account, Clark would become among the most important gures in Signals exhibition history, her small constructions serving as invitations to act. Extremely reductive in their use of mediaand yet no less variable because of thisthese are kinetic works in the most expansive sense. Sometimes made of folding plates of metal, other times from rubber, they depend on a participant to animate their relatively simple forms if they are to exist at all. A small, inated bag with a stone placed at its dimple, for instance, becomes an allegory of kinesis. On its own, it is a lugubrious thing, resting accidly on a table. But as it is compressed between gathered hands, it transforms into an eloquent demonstration of weight, balance, and resistance: the lessons of phenomenology at their most critical and fundamental (gure 2.11). Clarks practice could well occupy the space of several books and it hasbut for our immediate purposes, it outlines both the aspirations and epiphenomena attached to Signals and its history. In Signals expansiveness toward the shape of the objecttoward arts endless temporal possibilities and toward the participant who comes to engage it as a matter of energyit expressed a deep optimism about the purposefulness of art, mirrored by its widening circle of international artists who regarded their practice as both politically and socially therapeutic. Brett recalls that the participatory nature of much of this work heralded a growing consciousness toward collectivism and activism. By 1968, when Medalla and others became involved in explicitly politicized activities around street theater and performanceall


2.11 Lygia Clark, Stone and Air, 1966.

Photo courtesy Cultural Association The World of Lygia Clark. Credit: Family Clarks Collection.

inclusive, nonhierarchical affairs subject to the shifting contingencies of its actorsit seemed, at least with hindsight, that the kinetic object anticipated these practices in condensed form. This is, of course, quite different from the cynical pronouncements attached to Tinguelys work, to say little of Burys bleak reception. It suggests that the subject of movement in kinetic art in the 1960s was anything but universalized, and its implicationsas seen through the lens of science and technologywere as plural as the movements themselves. This brings us back to Tinguely, the performances that followed his Meta-matics, and nally, explosively, his Las Vegas Study. The work of both Bury and Signals articulates important issues for understanding Tinguelys worlds: the temporal ruptures that disturb duration and the problems of history that attend it; the speed of that history as naturalized; the notion of movement and time as a signal itself; and the increasingly global dimensions of their shared interests and practices.


Si la scie scie la scie, et si la scie qui scie la scie, est la scie que scie la scie, il y a suissscide mtallique. Marcel Duchamp on Tinguely 91 For Tinguely, 1960 was not so much a beginning but an end. It was that year, in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), that the rst of three versions of the end would reveal itself. Just a few short months after the notoriety of his Meta-matics, Tinguely made his rst extensive visit to the United States in January for a one-man show at New Yorks Staempi Gallery. He also came at the invitation of the museum especially that of Peter Selz, then curator of Painting and Sculpture, and Alfred H. Barr produce his rst American performance. The context was paramount. Time commented that he could not have possibly conceived of a suicidal sculpture anywhere else.92 If Tinguely was both heralded and reviled in Europe for his references to automation, now the stakes seemed much higher. In the United States, a


country his art had been metaphorically linked to by the press, he would make a suicide machine: a machine that would destroy itself. For what could be more American than a machine that consumes itself as entertainment or an art that takes novelty as its rst and, no doubt, last principle? A number of critics suggested that the notion of an autodestructive art form (or a practice that thematized principles of destruction as art) was not new in itself: one journalist hailed the example of Piet Mondrian as engaging in a destructive practice, whereas the Signals afliate Gustav Metzger took the concept to another extreme in the sixties. But Tinguelys suicide machines would now unleash their specically nationalist associations on American soil, and they seemed to conrm the readings of the Meta-matics that saw the artist as both victim of and mouthpiece for the countrys postwar hegemony. For his rst American performance, Homage to New York, Tinguely assembled a most impressive theater of junk (gures 2.12 and 2.13). A spread some twenty-seven feet long and thirty feet high, it recycled scraps from the Newark dump for its armature: eighty bicycle wheels and a bassinet, washing machine parts and a weather balloon, pots and a piano, cable drums and a radio, oil cans, an American ag, a childs toilet. The whole construction was then glossed over in pristine white paint and was to be operated through the use of a relay system in part designed by Billy Klver, introduced to the artist through his Swedish countryman Pontus Hulten (the work was driven by fteen motors and eight timers).93 Tucked away in a Bucky Fuller dome in the museums garden, Tinguely set to work on his creation. He labored tirelessly for three weeks in late February with four assistants. The weather was cold and slushy, and the artist would succumb to a fever for his efforts. His idea was to let the thing destroy itself on March 17 before a large audience of museum executives, collectors, donors, journalists, and other assorted art-world types. The performance was set for 6:30 PM and would last half an hour. During that time, the gadget to end all gadgets, as it was repeatedly called by the press, would churn itself into oblivion as directed from the control panel designed by Klver. The trial balloon would be raised and inated, saws would saw, wheels would turn, a piano would play, and various Meta-matic-like mechanisms would dash off paintings on an expanded scale. And just like the Meta-matics that it followed by less than a year, the Homage would take on both grave and humorous readings, suggestions of both


2.12 Jean Tinguely, Homage to

New York, 1960. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo David Garr.


nuclear apocalypse and entertainment. As Selz argued in the museums press release,
Jean Tinguelys experiments are works of art in which time, movement and gesture are demonstratednot merely evoked. Being very much part of his time Tinguely uses machines to show movement, but he is fully aware that machines are no more permanent than life itself. Their time rubs out, they destroy themselves.94

2.13 Jean Tinguely, Homage to

New York, 1960. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo David Garr.


Within the very same press release, however, Tinguelys art also occasioned comparisons to Rube Goldbergs comic strip contraptions, fantastical, multipart things assembled from rubbish and designed for ultimately futile ends. Perhaps no document could attest more to the value of Tinguelys art as entertainment than a letter sent to the artist by the Walt Disney Corporation. They had read of the Homage in the press and were eager to secure a lm of the event.95 Whatever Tinguelys pretensions, the performance itself was a wash. Braving the March cold, some 250 guests assembled in the museums garden, awaiting the proverbial reworks associated with the notorious Swiss artist. It was a white-glove affair of the highest orderMrs. John D. Rockefeller III was herself in attendancebut the performance itself strayed far from the original script. The apocalyptic scenario envisioned by Tinguely, in which the machine would go out in a haze of gunpowder, ear-shattering noise, and precisely choreographed pyrotechnics, was dramatically undercut by the systems failure to act on schedule, to be on time. Designed to last an economical thirty minutes, the performance spun out to over an hour and a half, and rather than exploding on cue, the machine sputtered and hiccuped pathetically toward its own collapse, emitting the occasional puff of smoke along the way. A tube of paper that was to serve as the ground for Tinguelys automata, for example, rolled out of reach of the paint brushes, never to be painted; another section fell over before it was supposed to do so. Then a re broke out in the piano. As MoMA had been damaged by a re only two years earlier, museum ofcials had installed remen on the premises in the event of a recurrence. When remen stepped in to extinguish the blaze, the audience, now excited, booed their efforts, many chanting let it burn. Finally when it was all

over, the machine smoldered under a blanket of Foamite. Onlookers scavenged the wreckage for relics. Always his best adman, Tinguely proclaimed the event marvelous, marvelousa wild success that well demonstrated the unpredictable chaos of the machine. Others were far less condent in their assessment. The spectacle that unfolded that evening was variously called an unbeautiful joke with no punch line; while its machine wasnt quite good enough to make (the artists) point.96 Most reviews resorted to the kind of vulgarisms that plagued Tinguelys European reception: this was, pure and simple, a cultural asco better known as the avant-garde. But it was the peculiar nature of the asco, or the lengths to which Tinguely carried it out, that inspired some critics to see in the Homage a troubling, if unintended, commentary on arts relationship to its self-presentation: the medium, we could say, which delivered its message. On the front page of the New York Times, John Canaday wrote, the signicance of the event lies not in the fact that it was, over all, a asco, but in the intention of Mr. Tinguely, and the Museum of Modern Art, in staging it in the rst place.97 A far more damning verdict on Tinguelys MoMA spectacle came in the form of an editorial published in the Nation. Describing the rareed social world of its privileged audience, the authorless editorial lamented the diminished possibilities of a genuinely radical art practice at the time:
We feel great sympathy for Jean Tinguely, a Swiss artist who belongs to the noble company of missionary aesthetes whose lives are dedicated to outraging convention. Spiritual son of Marcel Duchamp, he has seized on the nihilism of Dada and added motors to ithis work is mockery in motion. . . . Most recently, M. Tinguely constructed a work of art that destroyed itself. . . . It was called Homage to New York. Powered by fteen motors, controlled by eight timers, the edice reduced itself to shambles in half an hour. Now this is outrageous behavior and right-thinking people should be made profoundly indignant; what are right-thinking people for if not to be made indignant at the appropriate moment? So you would expect that Tinguely set up his contraption in someones remodeled stable. You would be wrong. The occasion took place in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art and was attended by an invited audience



of the museums most cherished friends and patrons . . . [T]he performance was thoroughly ogcial. This is what protest has fallen to in our daya garden party.98


Although sympathetic to Tinguelys art, the editorial bemoans the state of affairs for avant-garde protest. It echoes Herbert Marcuses well-known prognosis on the state of modern cultural production in his inuential essay The Afrmative Character of Culture (1937), a text which argues that the allegedly radical gestures of politically inected art are necessarily afrmed and therefore contained by a dominant culture.99 Cutting as its judgments may be, the Nations editorial articulates the inseparability of Tinguelys event and the medium of its presentation, in this case, the Museum of Modern Art. It is an awkward, too-close-for-comfort relationship. Well before his Homage to New York, critics of Tinguely carped endlessly about his promotional tacticshis Meta-matics, his Dsseldorf eventeven as they contributed to the hype around him. By the time of Tinguelys early sixties performances, the link between the content of the work and the site of its mediation was more pronounced, as the Nation editorial demonstrates. Nowhere was this more perfectly dramatized than in Tinguelys Study for an End of the World, No.2, a performance whose reception speaks to the inseparability of those worlds in postwar art as much as it revels in their undecidability in its present. So to an End of the World. Tinguelys Study for an End of the World, No. 1 was performed at the Louisiana Museum at Humlebaek near Copenhagen in 1961. Held in conjunction with the exhibition Movement in Art, it was staged on the grassy banks of the park between the museum and a nearby river. Like the Homage two years before it, the Study consisted of the self-immolation of a clanking and sputtering arrangement of machines, here composed of ve central gures, again glossed over in white, and with the addition of reworks to round out the arsenal. For all the planning involved, an especially nasty accident occurred that quickly found its way into the press. A dove intended to soar above the spectacle during its ery conclusion was incinerated. When its carcass turned up at the end of the performance, Tinguely was charged with exploiting that most benign signier of peace for his own promotional (and violent) ends.100 Calling his work Study for an End of the World, after all, called up images associated with mass destruction,

and laying waste to the pacic iconography of the dove could only have supported such a reading. Even still, the rst Study was not unlike Homage to New York in its politesse, performed as it was before a decorous museum audience. As if challenging his critics on this front, Tinguely decided to return to the question of the end the following year but was now bent on staging an event far more cataclysmic in design. During a visit to Los Angeles, Tinguely was contacted by the producers of NBCs David Brinkleys Journal to commission such a spectacle for television.101 It seemed a logical extension of everything the artist had done up to that point: only four years earlier, he had dropped thousands of yers from a plane over Dsseldorf as a means to promote his thesis on statics. His relationship with the print media was, by now, well established. Television seemed the most obvious step for this most inveterate PR man. The invitation from NBC gave Tinguely the opportunity to scale up his performance to proportions betting the broadcasting capacities of televisionhis second end exceeded the demands imposed by his museum performancesas it did the most powerful forum to advance his career.102 In this sense it is fair to say that Study for an End of the World, No. 2 was ultimately media driven; television was at once Tinguelys vehicle, his audience, and his object of fascination. This statement demands further qualication, though, as Tinguelys showmanship carried implications beyond the vulgarities of his endless self-promotion. Clearly he was self-conscious about his exploitation of television in his second Study, but this self-consciousness about his chosen medium not only affected the scale of the performance: it seemed to complicate its implicit message about the end as well. For Study for an End of the World, No. 2 represents the most cogent collapsing of medium with message in Tinguelys practice; its reception seemed to treat the technology behind it as both point of critique and speculation. The work, in other words, cannot be read exclusively through the iconography of nuclear destruction, however critical to its understanding. Far more than any other kinetic work, the study illustratesthrough the question of timethe historical problem of worlds that augurs a global expansion of automation and mass communications, not to mention the Bomb around which these points also converge. In the process it reveals the extent to which art has become, following Heidegger, regulated regulating instruments of




information. To grasp this idea as it relates to Tinguelys practice requires a detailed exegesis of its unfolding. Upon accepting NBCs offer, Tinguely began to envision something created specically for the Nevada desert. Since January 1951, the veyear-old Atomic Energy Commission had begun atmospheric and underground bomb testing at the Nevada Test Site, a 123-square-mile dry lake bed some seventy-ve miles from Las Vegas. Between 1951 and 1962, a total of fourteen atmospheric bombing tests took place, and ve underground nuclear weapons tests were conducted between 1965 and 1968.103 The juxtaposition of Las Vegas with the Yucca Flats satised Tinguelys fondness for the extremes he saw as characteristic of American culture: its rabid consumerism, on the one hand, its rampant militarism, on the other. These were two kinds of stockpiling (of standing reserve, as Heidegger would call it) linked by consumption and destruction. Well in advance of the actual performance, the spectacle unfolds for the camera. After the rst frames of the broadcast, which witnessed Tinguely and Saint-Phalle scavenging junk in the desert, the camera cuts quickly to the gambling tables and glittering lights of the Las Vegas strip (gure 2.14). The blinding, ascetic whiteness of the natural environment nds its match in the glare of spotlights, dazzling in their intensity, ludicrous in their sheer accumulation. Brinkley has already launched into his rather starchy commentary, and he is quick to describe Las Vegas as famous for a great many natural and manmade things, but it has no reputation for cultivation of the arts.104 But nothing would compare to Tinguelys actions, unparalleled, so the narrator would have it, in their farce. The artist is variously lmed in and around the city doing his weird artistic things: here he is seen marveling at its casinos, a European explorer in the New World; there he is witnessed going to a toy store, gleefully stocking up on numerous props for his performance; somewhere else he is spied bargaining with a junk dealer, in fractured English, for a worthless item that might complete his Study. The quick cuts between these scenes, the popping and ashing of images, suggest a virtual acceleration of Tinguelys activities, as if all of this effort were rushing headlong into an inexorable climax. Not that there is anything marginally improvisational about this, of course. There is a staginess to the dialogue between Tinguely, Saint-Phalle, and those they encounter that betrays the deeply performative quality of their


2.14 Jean Tinguely, still, Study for an

End of the World, No. 2, 1962. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris.


actions, displayed for the benet of the camera. When Saint-Phalle attempts to bargain for some junk on behalf of her partner, she delivers a line that rings with all the spontaneity of a stand-up comedian. Could you make a cheaper price for him, she quips, if he brings you back all his junk after he blows up the world?105 The irony is a little too scripted, and it registers as at. All the while, the foreignness of the experience is communicated, but whether that foreignness is an attribute of Las Vegas itself, or Tinguely, or both, is a matter of debate. The broadcast goes to some length to estrange its viewer from the workaday aspects of its subject: as the clichs hold today, the city is treated as a vast and exotic wasteland, untutored in its principles and deeply atavistic in its behaviors. It is a place, to follow Brinkley, famous for its frontier freedom and gaudy newness. By the same token, Tinguelyhere playing the role of European anthropologisthimself becomes an object of scrutiny by the citys denizens. Installed at the Flamingo Hotel, he sets up shop in its parking lot, hidden away from curious onlookers by eight-foot walls of plywood. A sign announces the presence of the artist and his work-inprogress within, lending the proceedings a slightly cryptic air: perhaps a class-one secret with military implications. We are told that Tinguely labors from 6 a.m. to midnight for four days straight, and the rapid montage of images of the artist at workdrafting, hammering, forging, sawingsuggests he produced his machine with neither manual nor technical assistance. Only Saint-Phalle is allowed into the inner sanctum of his makeshift studio. Even the clusters of bombs used to ignite the machine were created by the artist, if in the comfort of his hotel room. One hundred sticks of dynamite are secured from a county sheriff, 20,000 recrackers are brought in from California, and some thirty electric motors are assembled for the task. Finally the walls come down, and the spectators descend upon the site like vultures. Some of the people thought he was crazy, Brinkley offers, but in Las Vegas that is a relative term. Everyone is an art critic. A man outtted in a cowboy hat and a bolo tie describes Tinguelys practice through a remarkable tautology. Press one little button, [and it] causes this huge idea that everything in the world will eventually destroy itself. . . . [H]e has managed to collect all of this material and it will destroy itself with the push of a button. Another onlooker, an African American man in shades, is more sanguine: I dont know if I go

along with this guy, Tinguely, or not. It is a mixed consensus, and appropriately there is an air of the traveling circus, of controlled anarchy, to the scene. Cars swarm around the Flamingo Hotel for a quick peek while lines of tourists scratch (or shake) their heads in amusement. Quickly, then, the scene cuts back to the desert, where a caravan of trucks transports Tinguelys creations out to the Yucca Flats. Streaming dust, it is a bizarre parade of the artist and some assistants, the local sheriff, policemen, and, most important, a media cortege: NBC, of course, but also the AP and UPI wire services, the Saturday Evening Post, Time, Life, and dozens of local papers. From this perspective, it seems possible that Tinguely was among the earliest artists of the sixties to exploit the media culture of the decade so intrepidly. It is open to further speculation whether his peculiar philosophy of kinetics gave him insight into that worlds acceleration and global reach. Tinguely was no naf about the commission of his study, nor the potential hazards resulting from a performance of its scale. Witnesses to the study were required to sign contracts absolving NBC and the artist of any liability in case of an accident. Yet when the camera pulls back, Tinguelys vision of the world presents itself with all the orderliness of a stage relief (gures 2.15 and 2.16). This is a world reduced to the atness of the television image. A neat row of four assemblages lines up across a seventy ve-foot stretch of desert, a picture as limitless, horizontal, and blank as a television screen. If once the site was thought to be stark and ascetic, conjuring for the public the blast of atomic cataclysm, now the gathering crowds suggest a perverse spectacularization of such an event. This is, in other words, Marshall McLuhans utopia of a global village turned desperately fatal, at once bathetic and entertaining; and it is this tension that underlies Tinguelys broadcast. The philosopher Samuel Weber reminds us that television quite literally means distance seeing; but he reminds us as well that TV is not an actual overcoming of distance and time but the illusion of making that collapse immediate and available to a general audience.106 Study for an End of the World signals both the gravity and ridiculousness of that very situation: it laughs at the sheer lunacy of representing such an event on television as it ironically highlights its very possibility.107 As for the Study itself, the actual arrangement was straightforward enough. Composed of a central grouping of four elements, the layout of


2.15 Jean Tinguely, detail, Study for an

End of the World, No.2, 1962. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo John Bryson.


2.16 Jean Tinguely, detail, Study for

an End of the World, No. 2, 1962 Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo Coliene Murphy.


the sculpture sticks close to the basic format of his earlier suicide machines and so too does it indulge equally in their cheap symbolism. There is a blue water tank with a long sticklike object protruding from a hole at the far right; when powered by a motor, the stick begins moving in and out of the recess, a frenzied, mechanical coitus. There is a refrigerator decorated in feathers and a toilet seat to its left, a bad metaphor of consumption and expenditure. A at painted sign representing a horn of plenty is positioned to its left in turn, and then an armchair appears to the side: as Brinkley puts it, the horn was to symbolize destruction of the worlds plenty, and the big overstuffed arm chair symbolized ease and comfort. Flanking the tableau is a shopping cart lled with explosives and a cement mixer, as if waiting in the wings of this virtual theater. And to the extreme right sits a little motorized cart intended to crash intoand then set offthe shopping cart and its contents. Up to the very last minute, Tinguely runs frantically about, checking the tangled network of cables at the control board, consulting the local police, and planting his homemade bombs in the desert soil (gure 2.17). Then the wail of an air-raid siren announces the beginning of the end, as police order the audience to move back. Images of cops scanning the horizon are intercut by pictures of Tinguely and Saint-Phalle donning hard hats and aviatorlike goggles, evacuating the vicinity, kicking up dust. It is perhaps one of the few, if brief, moments in the telecast that Tinguelys parodic take on world destruction (and Brinkleys smirking asides along with it) seems lined by a genuine edge of panic. Somehow, the loss of control that augurs the Endits sense of threat and unknowingseems barely contained beneath the narratives surface. At the same time, this loss of control signies something patently mundane about the technology surrounding the performance. The inevitable failures of the work are as pathetic as its motivation is both comic and apocalyptic. For as usual, at least usual for Tinguely, a series of mishaps upset the timing of the performance and its original plan. The little cart meant to collide with the shopping cart misses its mark, the result of a faulty generator. The cement mixer designed to roll into the scene and explode on contact gets caught up in a cable. A cluster of bombs rests dormant in the desert sand. At the control board, the artist is seen scratching his head as others shake theirs, doubtlessly wondering when the pyrotechnics long attributed to the artist would


2.17 Jean Tinguely, detail, Study for

an End of the World, No. 2, 1962 Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo Coliene Murphy.


get going. It is in this sensea failed sensethat the performance underscores Heideggers thinking about the very breakdown of worlds; that it is only at the moment when a world ends, fails to operate, that we become deeply conscientious of its existence. Paradoxically, that breakdown itself seems specic, even natural, to Tinguelys worlds; yet it throws the seamlessness of the televisual world into stark relief. But then nally, as Brinkley describes it, the world began to blow up in a more satisfying and artistic way (gures 2.18 and 2.19). To the alternately shrill and percussive soundtrack of reworks and bombs, objects begin to whir, pop, and shake, while the horn of plenty turns dizzyingly around its axis. A series of larger and more violent explosions erupt; clouds of ying debris break the surface of the desert plane. There is noise, heat, dust; people are stopping their ears and shielding their eyes; and, for Brinkley, as for other observers, there is the sinking irony of a well-designed, even artful, chaos. As the camera rolls back to take it all in, we see Tinguely, ever the daredevil, run into the scene in order to set off eighteen sticks of dynamite by hand. Last to go is the water tank, exploding as the performances nal denouement. It is, for Brinkleys purposes, a splendid geyser of smoke, re and noise. In the somewhat anticlimatic aftermath of the event, the artist is seen strolling through the wreckage, admiring a scene of triumph under an odor of gun powder. A strain of almost sentimental music plays, and the camera focuses briey on the body of the doll seen in the telecasts introduction, now charred with powder burns. If any symbolism is intended for this nal imagethe loss of innocence, say? the infantilism of politics?its gravity is swiftly undercut by the sweeping crescendo of the music, which sounds far more risible than mournful in tone. It is a slightly confusing way to end this end; but even so, the ambiguity of the conclusion seems in keeping with the general proceedings. Brinkleys narration, after all, has all but ceased at this point. And so the audience is left in a rather discomforting position with a batch of equally uncomfortable questions: Whoor whatis the object of this joke? Who gains, or alternately loses, from its message? And what, really, is the message? The press that covered the performance weighed in by the dozen, their accounts echoing earlier readings of Tinguelys work: here, they claimed, is an artist shamelessly involved in his own self-promotion;


2.18 Jean Tinguely, detail, Study for

an End of the World, No. 2, 1962. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo John Bryson.

here is the decadence of the so-called avant-garde. Here is NBC paying good money for the Swiss artists efforts; here is the nal descent of art into entertainment. And what kind of entertainment! All seem to ag the ridiculousness of the performance while they inadvertently make nods to its importance through the sheer performance of their coverage. And while the American press Time, Life, the Christian Science Monitor, and othersseemed vaguely content to treat Tinguelys study as a media event in itself, half-heartedly acknowledging the nuclear threat to which the work pointedits more explicitly political implications were not lost on his international audience. Shortly after the performance, the Moscow-based newspaper Izvestiya published an article lambasting Tinguelys art for its atomic and, by extension, American associations. Describing his performances as the grimaces of a bourgeois society, the essay is quick to paint Tinguely as an artist complicit with the worst order of American militarism.
The abstract artist Tinguely is Anglo-Saxon [sic] by birth and a cosmopolitan by virtue of his work. He spends some of his time in New York and some of his time in Paris and is at present on his way to Tokyo. Tinguely is the prophet and show-man of self-destructive art. What exactly is that? It means the products of a sick mind, the fantasies of a madman who ought to be in a strait jacket. But Tinguely is at large. Not only that, but he is a welcome guest in the capital cities of the Western world. . . . If we remove the abstract wrapping, what is left of Tinguelys self-destructive art? Tinguely and his well-wishers are spitting on the human race and the whole achievement of human civilization. They are the next of kin to the nuclear madmen who wear the American uniform. Tinguelys self-destructive art is much in demand with them.108


This is over-the-top, humorless stuff to be sure, deeply inammatory in its use of Cold War rhetoric and grim in its prognosis for the state of modern art. For all its polemical excess, however, it dramatizes the world problem Tinguelys kinesis sets into motion. According to the Soviet reading, Tinguely would seem to have fallen victim to the American military/industrial complex and prey further to its irredeemably bourgeois notions of avant-gardism. In spite of or because of that, the text gives decisive measure of the artists global status at that point,


2.19 Jean Tinguely, detail, Study for

an End of the World, No. 2, 1962. Credit: 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo John Bryson.

conrmed by the wider reception granted the article itself. Not long after the appearance of the Moscow review of Study for an End of the World, No. 2, a newspaper article was published in France devoted exclusively to the Soviet appraisal of a Swiss artist who acted like an American who at present was on his way to Japan. This journalistic collapsing of nation-states both presaged and underscored a deeper phenomenon at work in Tinguelys practice: its own condensation of technological worlds as both temporal and global in character, crystallized around the sign of the Bomb. Televisions ashing the news of the world in real time; jet planes that will whisk you to Tokyo, Paris, and the capital cities of the Western world; missiles delivering their deadly cargo at lightning speed: this is a world historically specic to the early sixties if paradoxically registered through its transiencethe transience of the kinetic image. Less than a year after Tinguelys Study, events in Cuba would reveal all too dangerously both the precariousness and closeness of those worlds. This is a world, in other words, in which the ash of the kinetic image within the information society was matched only by the splitsecond annihilation of the world picture. This was a withering of time with global reach. In Tinguelys study, the at once implosive and explosive force of the bomb was allegorized by the radical compression of time and space that is television. Now, forty years after Tinguelys television broadcast, we are confronted by the fallout of these conditions. Switzerland has resigned itself to joining the United Nations; the government sees t to reopen the Yucca site in Nevada as a nuclear garbage dump. Heideggers claim that the work of art augurs such a world found its parodic double in Tinguelys art. It is a world that reveals, self-destructively and with complicity, how art descends to regulating information to borrow the philosophers words, a work of art about the very technology that would destroy it. By turns spectacular, comic, and desperate, Tinguelys study opened onto such a world, if through its very closing, an end.



Let the hand be numb, but let the eye be agile, perspicacious, cunning. Flix Fneon1

Current (gure 3.1). Stand in front of Bridget Rileys painting of this title from 1964, and ask yourself, What do I see? Or rather, think to yourself, How do I feel? It is a picture that plays with the terms of seeing and feeling, of eye and body, as starkly as it is rendered in black and white. Yet just as black and white admits to a vast range of grays in between, so too does Rileys work beg similar questions of value and scale. To what extent do we see this painting? In what lies its retinal appeal? To what extent do we not so much see it but feel it, experience the picture less as an abstraction than as a woozy sense of gravity visited on the bodya body endlessly subjected to the vagaries of time? Stand a little longer, look a little harder, and then what happens? In time, the surface begins to icker, like a stroboscope; or wave, like a lenticular screen. Look longer still, and surprising colorspsychedelic phantomsemanate from between the lines. Spangles of gold, pink, and green burst and ash, lining the eyelids, rattling the skull. The eye is enervated while the body feels something else: nausea, perhaps, or even a blinding headache. Here is another picture (gure 3.2), presented to complicate the problem of seeing and feeling in Rileys art. For the sake of shorthand, let us call this problem an Eye/Body problem. The picture was taken the same year as Current was painted by no less of a celebrity photographer than Lord Snowdon, and it appeared in a frothy volume on the London art scene of the mid-sixties called Private View. The image is alternately striking and silly. It presents the thirty-three-year-old Riley emerging from between the disassembled walls of her only installation work, no longer extant, entitled Continuum. Crisply decked out in opaque black tights and a white pencil skirt, she assumes a pose betting the worst kind of fashion photography. With her right hand to her cheek and her


3.1 Bridget Riley, Current, 1964.

Copyright Bridget Riley, all rights reserved. Credit: Art Resource and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


left elbow propping her up, she leans forward slightly and balances on her right leg, the other bent so far behind that it disappears into the depths of the photograph. It is an improbable, certainly uncomfortable, posture. Still its effect it to locate the artist in the work of art, as if stationed at the pictures vanishing point. Now I want to suggest that this image of the artist physically embedded within her workand the time associated with that body in turncan tell us something about the Eye/Body problem that characterizes Rileys black-and-white paintings of the early to mid-sixties. Admittedly it may seem odd to speak of the body at all in relation to the movement with she was most famously, if erroneously, associated: Op art. As the reluctant heroine of this sixties phenomena, Riley, it was repeatedly claimed, produced an art of pure visuality, a virtual stroking of the retina through the most dazzling painterly effects, effects described by the artist through the notion of visual tempi. Indeed, during its brief, not quite brilliant career of a few years in the midsixties, Op was variously described as an art of high reason and technology, a rigorous, retinal art linked to the science of optics. For my purposes, though, Ops virtual fetish of visuality occasions a reading of the body under the conditions of a shifting technological culture and, more to the point, how the time of that body speaks to the repressive consequences of a burgeoning technocracy. The body, I want to argue, is the blind spot to Ops obsession with the technological; and it is its temporality that gives the lie to this. The body performs what Ops supporters insistently failed to see. More often than not, this body is a specically gendered body, feminized and thus deemed impotent. Because Riley was perhaps the best-known artist associated with Op, it is her body that becomes the allegorical nexus of debates that turn around the mythic antinomies of reason and irrationality, the ideal and the phenomenal, control and chaos, the abstractions of science and the debasements of fashion and mass culture. Riley was quick to challenge the notion that she be considered a woman artist as she was to reject her status as a painter of Op.2 I have never consciously based any work on a scientic principle (nor studied optics as such), she remarked. I personally dislike the term optical painting because it implies that optics are the raison dtre of the work.3 But in what else lies Rileys denial? Why the vehemence? I want to consider how the reception of Riley as a woman artist and embodied


3.2 Lord Snowden, Bridget Riley, in

Private View, 1964. Image courtesy Lord Snowdon/Camera Press/Retna Ltd.

artist participates in larger suspicions surroundings the technological optimism that Op art was alleged to represent, suspicions that accrue around the peculiar time of the body in question. Focusing on events surrounding the artists appearance in an important group exhibition of 1965, The Responsive Eye, I will argue that the Eye/Body problem bears signicant implications for sixties media culture beyond her example, as witnessed in the tful, temporally destabilized body of her works audience. Comparing Rileys approach to another woman artist with whom she would seem to share littleCarolee Schneemann we gain insight into the charged relationship among the visual environment, the human sensorium, and the time that underwrites both.



To begin, a narrative on Op itself is in order, a story far shorter than that of kinetic art, if no less rife with its contradictions. Like kinetic art, which preceded it by an art world season or two, Op art burst onto the scene with something of a groundbreaking exhibition. It had an international roster of artists and the clientele to match, and it was extensively covered by the spectrum of mass mediatelevision, international news services, magazines. And just as quickly as kinetic art had seized the public imagination and then sputtered into outmodedness, so too did Op ride high on a media frenzy only to be proclaimed old hat a couple of years later. Indeed, Op arts history, such as it is, uncovers a range of paradoxes around its themes and motivations. In the late fties and early sixties, a certain strain of kinetic artnamely, work that suggested virtual movement in time, rather than objects that literally movedappeared to assume its own kind of force as a genre unto itself.4 Generally the art was two-dimensional and abstract, relief work or painting, and like the example set by kinetic art, much of it claimed a kinship with the historical avant-garde.5 If Duchamp was heralded as the spiritual father to Tinguely, Josef Albers and the Bauhaus were frequently cited as elder statesman by the critics around this new work. And just as the reception of kinetic art turned around problems of time, so too did Ops reception.6 The term optical, or Op, art came well after

the fact of the work. Credit is frequently given to Jon Borgzinner, the critic of Time magazine, for inventing the expression in 1964.7 If Op existed in many forms prior to the sixties, it was not until the 1965 that it assumed a genuinely public face, with the Museum of Modern art playing a central role in its appearance. William C. Seitz, the museums curator of painting and sculpture, had begun work on a large-scale exhibition that spotlighted the proliferation of the new Optical or retinal art some three years earlier. Originally intended as a historical retrospective, the show would feature 123 works by 106 artists from fteen countries8 bringing together gures as diverse as Albers, Larry Poons, Gego, Noland, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Franois Morellet, Reinhardt, and Heinz Mack. Under the rubric of perceptual abstraction, the work was organized into six categories alleged to play with the viewers perception through a dazzling array of new visual techniques. What many works had in commonand what certainly garnered most of the attention in the popular presswas the sense of dynamism these static forms seemed to engender: the walls of the museum appeared to quicken, icker, pulse, and vibrate, as if somehow the art was subject to the conditions of temporal ux. If kinetic art had engaged time in the most literal fashion, here the works projected a virtual temporality on the environment (and, as we shall soon see, the viewer who entered into it). Entitled The Responsive Eye, the exhibition opened in February 1965 and quickly became the most popular exhibition in MoMAs history up to that moment. During its run, thousands attended, visitors crowding the museums galleries on the weekends.9 Just how popular will be discussed momentarily, but the phenomenon itself begs a bluntly worded question: Who would have thought it? On paper at least, a show dealing exclusively with abstract art, much less one that made claims for a certain intellectual pedigree, hardly makes for blockbuster museum entertainment, and the language promoting the Responsive Eye was anything but popularizing. Instead, it was self-serious, dry, academic, making generous allusion to the historical study of optics within and around impressionism and postimpressionism: George Seurat, Michel-Eugne Chevreul, Jules Laforgue. For all its references to the nineteenth century, Seitzs language seemed equally indebted to the very contemporary notion of the Two Cultures by the British author, educator, and technologist C. P. Snow in 1959. It is only recently, Seitz wrote, that a meeting



ground is being established on which artists, designers, ophthalmologists and scientists can meet to expand our knowledge and enjoyment of visual perception.10 Seitzs faith in emerging postwar science and technology was unwavering and his belief in their inuence on the visual arts deterministic: the visual impact of mechanization, modular building, automation and cybernetics everywhere around us, he noted, has also inuenced perceptual art.11 We have reached a time when, as Michael Noll of the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey has demonstrated, visual images can be created by the electronic computer.12 As a result of such associations, the discussions of Op were just as likely to appear in the pages of Scientic America as in Arts and Artforum.13 Whatever its scientic pretensions, the new perceptual abstraction would be understood at a radical distance from its promoters claims. Instead, much of the energies surrounding the work would be directed at Riley. Her body of workher body itself would soon become a screen for some of Ops most heated controversies, and it was through the perceived relationship to time in her work that its effects on the body were most clearly registered. Here, then, we need to look more closely at the formation of her black-and-white painting and its peculiar thematic of temporality before detailing an infamous episode in Rileys history, one that saw the dispute close in on her sense of autonomy with a certain force, even violence.



Imagine being a young Bridget Riley, recently landed in New York in 1965 for a three-week visit. It is an exciting time for her. She will have her rst one-person show in the United States at the Richard Feigen Gallery; the show will sell out before it ofcially opens. Soon after, her painting will appear in the much-vaunted The Responsive Eye, an exhibition that will swiftly ensure her international celebrity. Only three years earlier, her painting debuted at Londons Gallery One and things began to happen with dizzying speed after that. From show to show, review to review and one award to the next, Riley was soon heralded as a painter of considerable rigor, talent, and exactitude, an artist closely attuned to the traditions of modernist abstraction and embraced by Serious Minds

of British culture. For all the efforts made to recuperate her as an icon of Cool Britannia, she had internalized painterly lessons from far across the pond. She had greatly admired Pollocks work at the New American Paintings exhibition at the Tate, enjoying the movement and line of abstract expressionism. Soon after she would be drawn to hard-edge abstraction. In fact, her earliest published reviews refer to her as a hardedge abstractionist, squarely locating her art alongside such American luminaries as Ellsworth Kelly, Reinhardt, and younger artists such as Noland and Frank Stella.14 And now there she was, in New York City, about to meet those very luminaries. Perhaps Riley paused to think about the paintings that got her to this point in the rst place. There is no question that her emergence as a young British art star was precipitated by a startling break in her artistic output. She had undergone the requisite art school training (Goldsmiths, Royal College of Art); studied the masters up close in France and Italy; felt a particular afnity for Seurat, whose work she copied; taught art at Croydon, England. She even had a stint working in a commercial ad agency. In 1961, however, the artist made her rst black-and-white painting, and nothing would be the same. Among the rst of these was the painting Kiss (gure 3.3), a work whose title might refer to her failed affair with the painter and writer Maurice de Sausmarez as much as the composition of the work itself. It is a two-by-twofoot square of linen, covered in black acrylic. Just slightly below the halfway mark, the eld is split by an irregular white horizontal, open at the left edge, pinched and compressed to the thinnest of lines at the middle, spread out like a bell curve at the far right. However reductively, the painting contains many of the qualities that would animate Rileys better-known abstractions of just a year or so later. There is a dgety sense of gure and ground at play here, not to mention a certain ambiguity as to the direction the forms take themselves. Is this a cleaving or convergence? Kiss or Kiss off? The picture veers between gravity and lightness. The white in the middle is experienced as lumbering and claustrophobic, but as it expands to the right, it seems to accelerate. Accelerate might seem an odd word choice to describe what colors do, but Riley understood well the effects of juxtaposing black and white, ddling with the degree of their contrast as they were scaled up or down within the picture plane. Early on she expressed interest in


3.3 Bridget Riley, Kiss, 1961. 2003

Copyright Bridget Riley, all rights reserved. Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London.

the visual tempi of her painting and was quick to exploit the tension between formal stasis and virtual movement, a speed that would all at once acknowledge the implied time of action painting, the literal time of kinetic art, and the live art of performance. I became very interested in the question of visual time, Riley observed in response to the notion that her work employed changes in speed.15 Scaling areas of black and white was crucial to the dynamism accorded the work, its sense of falling or rushing or even concentrated pacing. For Riley, this compositional device had strong thematic undercurrents. Of the blackand-white works, she declared, they were an attempt to say something about stabilities and instabilities, certainties and uncertainties, as if their implied movement could produce ambivalent phenomenal states.16 From the beginning, then, the artist acknowledged the destabilizing character of her workthat an element of temporal unsettling was built into their composition, a kind of tension as one critic put it. Indeed Riley spoke of her early work as being either slow or fast painting, insistently appealing to the canvass temporality.17 She dwelled on the notion that the painting represented a disturbance or event and even declared that there was an element of performance or happening about them. Rileys interest in the open, decentered space of Pollocks work suggested that each painting presented its own kind of situation not unlike the arena famously ascribed by Harold Rosenberg to the scene of action painting. It all has to do with a loss of certainties, Riley suggested about the question of movement in her painting and its multifocused space.18 By 1963and with her second show at Gallery OneRiley had introduced her more dynamic black-and-white paintings. These were elds of discrete geometric unitslines or dots or triangles mostly in which the whole picture surface is used to plot the transformation of a gradual pattern.19 The artist, in short, had arrived upon a compositional device that would have a great impact on the subsequent reception of Op art more broadly: the periodic structure. Periodic structure: the name evokes something of a foundational shift, temporally conditioned. Difference within repetition. And indeed, the periodic structure presents the methodical, although not necessarily mathematical, repetition of a formal unit, which then slowly gives way to subtle or fractional irregularities in its placement, proportion, and design. The effect of this gradual shift over the painterly surface is one




of intense vibration, or a kind of shimmering, conveyed further by Riley through her peculiar choice of titles. Climax. Shift. Shiver. Hesitate. Arrest. Nouns and verbs all at once, words that ip between conditions of restiveness and calm, these are titles that attest to the very instability of phenomenal or visual states. Take, for example, the 1963 work Fission (gure 3.4). Here is a square of black dots on a white ground what could be more simple?that seems to be pulled into the center of the picture plane. The circles of black, so regular, so at at the edges of the canvas, appear to warp and bend around an invisible vortex, their forms distended as if sucked into the painting with gathering velocity. Clearly there is an implied temporal movement from the stamped and blank quality of the dots to their attenuation at the center. Yet when one attempts to parse the work and analyze Rileys visual tempi, a patterning of sorts emerges at the center like a cross, only to give way to the headlong rush the work illusionistically engenders. Rileys illusionism will be taken up in greater depth in this chapter. For now, two remarks need be made about the working method arrived at through her black-and-white paintings. The rst is that Riley was insistent that the black-and-white (and shortly after, gray) paintings were not in any way mathematical in design; she repeatedly declared that she possessed only the most rudimentary knowledge of math, much less science. Her proportions were simple and worked out in paper studies, her forms discovered through trial and error. Yet in contrast to this process-oriented means of nding her geometry, Riley made the critical step in 1961 of abandoning the actual labor of painting. Although always conceiving of the work in preparatory drawings, Riley has, since the early sixties, employed assistants to execute the nal product. Controversy ensued over her means of production, but she rejected any notion that hers was a conceptual gesture mirroring the assembly line.20 Warhol she was not. Regardless of how her technique was received, Riley arrived in New York bolstered by a powerful body of work and a great sense of promise. Excited by her surroundings, struck by the differences between London and New York, she was thrilled and attered to meet some of her heroes of Abstract Expressionism: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Robert Motherwell. The citys sense of time stayed with her. This was the rst thing I felt on coming back to England, she remarked to the London Bureau Reporter of Womens Wear Daily. Its tremendously


3.4 Bridget Riley, Fission, 1963.

Copyright Bridget Riley, all rights reserved. Credit: Art Resource and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.


differenthow one organizes ones time here, the values, stresses, priorities are quite different.21 So too was she impressed by New Yorks everyday culture. The rst thing that struck me were the wonderful smoking manholes . . . so marvelous . . . theyre terric. . . . I liked the subways . . . spent a long time down there. . . . I loved that stinking, cheap articial life underneath.22 Far be it from any New Yorker to reject such high praise, but Rileys comments were not limited to the urban surround. The Clothes? she offered. I couldnt believe it. The mens trousers so wide. And the women. Beautiful silks and furs, but years behind Europe. As for her own take on personal style and its transatlantic differences, she remarked, I love this English movement in fashion and Ive got quite a lot of it. This idea of the grimly dressed woman in the arts is ridiculous. Theres no reason why an artist cant be well-dressed and aware of clothes and food and things like that.23 Like that indeed. Such impressions are no doubt interesting as a document of a young Briton in sixties America, but her words would take on a gravely ironic resonance in the context of her larger New York experience. For soon after hanging her works at the MoMA, Riley met up with Larry Aldrich, among the best-known collectors of contemporary art in the city. A dress manufacturer for B. Altmans, among other stores, Aldrich owned one of the two Riley paintings in the show, Hesitate, and had built a public institution to house his collection in Ridgeeld, Connecticut. He had a good reputation for supporting the work of emerging artists, and so Riley was pleased to meet him. After exchanging introductions in the gallery, Aldrich invited her to his Seventh Avenue studio for a surprise. The surprise was such that Aldrich arranged a photographer to document the event. Yet upon her arrival, Riley was not so much surprised but shocked and offended. For Aldrich had taken the pattern of Hesitate, now hanging at MoMA, and commissioned Maxwell Industries to make a mass-produced textile out of it. Aldrichs in-house designer Morton Myles for Young Elegante then fashioned the fabric into simple modish shifts, all the better for the wearer to serve as a moving screen for the optical dazzle. An obscure, blurry photograph (gure 3.5) records the tension of the summit.24 Hands in pockets, Aldrich attempts to gauge her response. Riley presses her ngers to her temples as if massaging an incipient headache. I was shocked, she stated atly of the encounter. In England, there are laws that take care of things like that, she


3.5 Bridget Riley meets Larry

Aldrich (from Inside Fashion: At a Loss for Words, New York Herald Tribune, March 5, 1975, p. 15). Courtesy New York Post.

complained to a fashion reporter. Nobody even asked my permission for the fabric.25 The encounter between Riley and Aldrich inspired a deeply American response on the part of the British artist. She contacted a lawyer. But in spite of strong moral support from artists such as Newman (who recommended his lawyer to her), lack of nancial resources and emotional energy militated against her will to press the case. As she remarked months after leaving New York, I left three weeks later with feelings of violation and disillusionment.26 For his part, Aldrich willfully ignored Rileys claims by suggesting his actions were populist in intent. Everybody else thought it was gay and amusing, he shrugged. I respected her attitude, but I made no effort to apologize. After all many people approached me to get Hesitate fabric or buy dresses for the Op art show at the museum. They wouldnt have wanted to if it were wrong.27 In the spring and summer fashion season of 1965, he would produce a number of Op art dresses from

Photo by Jill Krementz.



paintings in his own collection. In addition to Riley, the artists Julian Stanczak, Richard Anuszkiewicz and Vasarely would also have their own work transformed into the dresses by Young Elegante, as seen in a photo spread in Art in America (gure 3.6). Unlike Riley, however, they were content to oversee the metamorphosis. Here, then, begins the vertiginous rush into the craze for Op fashion of the mid-sixties. Coverage was not limited to the fashion trade, although Vogue, Harpers, Womens Wear Daily, and other style magazines weighed in on the phenomenon exhaustively. In addition to design magazines, which seized upon Op as an important trend in interior decor, local American papers from all across the country clamored to get a piece of the Newest Thing. Days after the opening, photos appeared in the papers documenting the wild and vibrant styles that various artists, collectors, and socialites wore to the event. Black and white was the order of the evening, taking the form of checks, stripes, dots, and mind-numbing patterns. Ethel Scull attended with Warhol on her arm, mysterious behind huge black glasses and a wavy line lam suit.28 Larry Rivers showed up wearing two ties, one black, one red, as if playfully dressing the part of an afterimage. Store windows in New YorkBonwits, I. Miller, Lord and Taylor, Elizabeth Arden, and Altmans among themall scurried to showcase the new fashions against equally eye-popping backdrops. Op fabrics, Op stockings, Op maternity wear, Op everything, one reporter put it, exploded on the style scene.29 There were even such inventions as Op restaurants, Op beachwear and, improbably enough, Op girdles. And in a presumably unironic twist, Womens Wear Daily reported on Op cosmetics, highlighting a fanciful new way of adorning the eyes.30 In record time, then, Op became something of a media spectacle. It even made it to the airwaves in a show hosted by no less of an art authority than Mike Wallace, entitled Eye on New York. Bad optical puns notwithstanding, the frenzy for Op as a fashion and design phenomenon begs the question of its popularity. To be more precise, it raises issues of Ops translatability from the medium of art to mass media in general, to say little of the implications of this transformation in the broader context of the 1960s. For some fashion insidersfor some artists eventhe reason for its acclaim was obvious enough, and it invariably crystallized around the body. Women have long been aware that certain stripes and patterns are slimming or


3.6 Larry Aldrich with Op fashions,

published in Art in America, April 1965. Courtesy Brant Publications, Inc. Photographer unknown.


becoming, one fashion editor wrote of Ops broad-based appeal.31 Such were the local, that is, bodily reasons justifying its proliferation as fashion. For others, the fashion explosion around Op might seem business as usual for the art historianat least to the art historian who imagines that the relationship between high art and low culture is simply one of undialectical borrowing, a unidirectional gesture of either sublimation or debasement. But the Op art-fashion nexus points to a far more complicated association; it shows up, in fact, the false dichotomy that has long structured discussions around the so-called High and Low. Although Rileys complaints about the appropriation of her art are to be taken seriously (one can hardly begrudge her cries of foul play here), they distract from a quite transparent observation about the phenomenon itself. That is, the blatant grafting of the optical on the bodily contradicts the most basic claims made of this art by its promoters, if not necessarily Riley: its sense of reason and its appeals to science and technology; its intellectual abstractions; its fetish of the visual; its desire to be seen as the apotheosis of an art historical legacy begun with impressionism. That the body in question happens to be the exclusive domain of women is likewise to the point. Fashion and interior design, cosmetics: this is the stuff of the domestic, after all, and one neednt belabor the issue of how the domestic is conventionally gendered as feminine and therefore irrational, the antithesis of sciences masculinization.32 Regardless, the feminization of Op was pervasive throughout the media, with a good share of the commentary coming from women journalists who had little or no previous experience writing about art. Some remarked on the family resemblance between Ops periodic structures and textile designs: More than anything else it resembles a herringbone fabric pattern, observed a writer with a regular column entitled A Womans New York.33 As if to justify these views, Rileys femininity was discussed extensively in the press. Unlike Vasarely and Gerald Oster, artists whose works were frequently exhibited alongside hers, Rileys physical appearance was consistently made an object of public scrutiny: here was a pretty, smiling Irish girl, as one rag condescendingly described her, or perhaps she was slender, shy and garbed all in blackas achromatic as a Riley canvas, though much easier on the eye.34 More often than not, Rileys practice was linked

directly to the domestic arts, as if her technical skills as an artist derived from the conventionally underprivileged crafts of the home.35 Recalling the critic Nigel Gosling on her work, Riley herself paraphrased such observations: He said, If I had to track down a feminine footprint here, I would point to a certain unforced patience, that quality which can add the thousandth stitch to the nine-hundred-and-ninety-ninth without a tremor of triumph. 36 Patience, modesty, and the labor of hands: such were the virtues of the feminine arts, less so Rileys concentration, focus, and acute relationship to artistic process. In spite of the fact that the artist had employed assistants to execute her work since 1961, the image of Riley as a sewing woman would persist. That image, for some, had an almost dangerous element to itdangerous because the arts appearance belied its capacity to hypnotize or bewitch. One critic of the black-and-white paintings wrote that Riley assumed the modest patience of sewing, but it was the disguise of a femme fatale.37 At once insidious and banal, such statements are a commonplace in the reception of women artists. But Rileys story cannot, and should not, be simply accommodated into the historical archives of their marginalization. The agrant gendering of Op brings us closer to the most troubling aspects of the Eye/Body problem in mid-sixties visual culture at large, which raises the question: How might fashion speak to technology? The answer lies less in thinking of Op fashion as the debasement of Op art than in taking it seriously as an acutely embodied form of its reception.



What can fashion tell us about technology? How might something as seemingly innocuous as a polka-dotted shifta girdle for that matter speak to the cultural surround of technology in the sixties? Here I am not concerned with the iconography of technology in fashionAndr Courrges space age stylizations, for examplenor the technology behind its manufacture. To be blunt, fashion is not merely the stuff of clothes. What lies beneath the surface details of a dress, a coat, or a pair of pants extends to domains far removed from the interests of hem lengths or style. For fashion, in its broadest sense, is a kind of complex of temporal projections, a means to think about history or a model for



history itself. Its endless cycles and its turning of seasons, its periods of stagnation and acceleration, its retrograde visions and its forward motion: fashion betrays a certain temporality of the historical. The eternal is in any case far more the rufe on a dress than some idea, Benjamin wrote in his formulation of the dialectical image.38 Fashion, for Benjamin, was the historical. The eternal in this instance is crystallized by the smallest detail of fashion, which in its currencyand by extension, outmodednessshores up the notion that change or consumption is the only constant, is the eternal within modernism. Fashion, then, is implicated in the relative shelf life of commodities, whether clothes or art or technological forms. For many, the rapid changes taking place in the art world of the sixties inspired comparison to the giddy rise and fall of fashion itself.39 Indeed Pop goes to Op was the saying widely used in the press, as if to suggest that Op had outdone Pop art in its trendiness, novelty, and mass appeal. That the subject of Pop was, of course, the business of mass culture only seemed to support the idea that art had taken on the drive of fashion, with Op quickening its already frenetic pace. This present craze is treating it too much like womens fashionsrather like short skirts, one British critic complained.40 This was not an isolated response: more than one writer was prompted to consider Op as arts newest dress length or the mode la mode.41 Some critics went even further in suggesting that the peculiar tempo of Op was guided by specically American habits of consumption and expenditure. People have been forecasting the death of Op art for months, one English critic put it. They say that Britain has been lured into the American way of planned obsolescence by producing Op art gimmicks made to throw away.42 But the temporality associated with Op as either fashion or art or both was also stamped on the body itself. For as much as Op seemed to move in time, however virtually, so too did the body that encountered or wore it: it put into motion what inhered in its representation. And far from the technological rationality ascribed to Op by its supporters, Ops larger reception dwelled upon the visual enticements of the object, which then passed oven to a sense of bodily assault, vertigo, and nausea. This was work of a keenly felt physicality, even a dangerous physicality, and the spectators kinesthetic identication with Op was articulated in equally anxious terms: What (Op) does aim to do, one critic wrote,

is to assault the eye and stimulate it, often with devastating results. . . . At a Kensington boutique not long ago an Op Art dress on a dummy dazzled so many shoppers that it had to be removed and at one of Bridget Rileys exhibitionsshe is perhaps the best known British Op Art paintersomeone is said to have fainted after looking at her paintings.43


The statement neatly collapses a number of concerns surrounding Ops reception: the eyes are somehow attacked by the paintings and are experienced as a peculiar aggressiveness on the part of the artist; the body is accordingly disturbed and physically upset; the movement of the body in fashion is allegorized to the movement of the viewer in her reception of Op. Descriptions of bodily repulse, headaches, and far worse are commonplace in the literature.44 Viewers were reported to have passed out in the galleries, a kind of postwar Stendhal syndrome gone violently amok. I think Im going to be sick, was typical of such responses.45 Ops body was therefore a powerless, perhaps even hysterical, body, one that could no more resist the seductions of fashion as it could the spell cast by Ops illusionistic dazzle. Not surprisingly, Rileys work was the most frequent target of such complaints. Hers were paintings that made the public go crazy or feel strangely light-headed. Hers engendered the most severe optical phantomsashes of acid-tone colors appeared to streak out from between the black and whiteproducing the most intense bodily reactions as a result. Riley accepted on principle the notion that the bodily and the visual were inseparable and that her practice (and its reception) had managed to tap into that link. I agree with [Umberto] Boccioni that even smells, noise and so on have a visual equivalent and can be presented through a certain vocabulary of signs, she said.46 The statement suggests that a synesthetic dimension underwrites the viewing of her painting, which engaged with physical forces beyond visual ones. But Riley also seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would nd the work visually aggressive, as demonstrated by this (unintentionally humorous) exchange with the British critic David Sylvester, a longtime supporter of her work:
SYLVESTER: Do you want your work to be aggressive to the spectator?

Do you like it to hurt the eyes?


RILEY: I dont mind either way. But I remember being very surprised

when people rst complained that it hurt their eyes, because it has never hurt mine.
SYLVESTER: No? RILEY: No, never. Not hurt them. SYLVESTER: Does it make them water? RILEY: No. SYLVESTER: Doesnt it give you a pain? RILEY: No no pain! It gives me pleasure. SYLVESTER: Does it give you that famous ad-mixture, pleasure-pain? RILEY: Possibly, in that it is stimulating, an active, a vibrating pleasure. SYLVESTER: Comparable to what? RILEY: Running, early morning . . . cold water . . . fresh things, slightly

astringent . . . things like this . . . certain acid sorts of smells. . . .

SYLVESTER: . . . You see the lines moving to and fro? RILEY: Yes, but I nd that an exhilarating thing, a stimulating sensation

. . . never painful physically.

SYLVESTER: That sounds very masochistic, Bridget. RILEY: I have been accused of that, but I dont think it is that.47


One gets the feeling that the back and forth could go on and on. Painful? No. Pleasurable? Yes. Riley is insistent, adamant even, that the aggression so widely documented in the viewers encounter with her painting is not present for her or is at the very least beside the point.

Whether or not she had personally experienced the eye hurting that Sylvester and so many others described in their confrontation with the work, there is something defensive in her refusal to acknowledge that others consider it violent. If the work is abrasive, it is invigoratingly so, shocking only to the point that it offers the viewer a kind of cognitive jolt, like a splash of cold water in the face or the astringent odor of sharply cut grass. The force of such denials gives pause. On the one hand, implicit to the dialogue is Rileys understanding of the interconnectedness of the senses, stimulated by information coming in from the eye. Her longer exchange with the critic, for instance, speaks of the visual in terms of listening to music; likewise, the sense of smell is invoked. On the other hand, the synesthetic aspect of the work stops just short of being seen as violent. Irresolvable as the dialogue may seem, it underscores a debate on the vulnerability of the body in relation to what the eye brings to it, as signaled by a change in time in that body experienced as a certain physical duress. The public well understood that Eye and Body were indivisible in the reception of Op, and that a tension was at the base of their relationship. But to what extent does their permeability to one another allow for the kinds of effects Riley so consistently denied? Eye/Body, embodied eyes: what was the actual fallout of this confrontation? As far as a few art critics and philosophers of the moment were concerned, the question of the degree to which the eye and the body adhered or converged opened onto the problem of Ops illusionism itself. And that illusionism, we shall see, would bear stark implications for recent technology.



No doubt, the art historian engaged with the problem of the visual and the phenomenal is likely to correlate the terms to a much longer tradition. More than any other, Jonathan Crary has demonstrated that the disassociation of vision from the body in the nineteenth century coincided with the emergence of a nascent spectacular culture; the body was industrially remapped or rebuilt to meet the tasks of spectacular consumption.48 To the point: that separation was not free of ideology, as the impulse to rationalize the practice would suggest. As Marx



described capitals abstraction of the sensorium, the senses have therefore become theoreticians in their immediate praxis.49 In separating out seeing from the other sensesparticularly that of touchone invokes the categories of the optic and the haptic so fundamental to the earliest historians of art. Indebted to a critical tradition informed by the writings of Adolf von Hildebrand as well as the protobehaviorist psychology of Johann Friedrich Herbart, Alois Riegl isolated these terms as they found their concrete expression in art history. In Late Roman Art Industry (1903) most notably, Riegl treated the problems of the haptic (or tactile) and the optic as manifest in the development of antique relief. With the haptic, the organization of a gure upon its ground was delineated by a distinct sculptural contour, treated as an isolated body in space, and, as such, perceived by the beholder as a tactile and individualized entity. Self-contained and autonomous, it was seemingly impervious in its disposition to the spectators gaze. Riegl went on to demonstrate that in time, the relief plane in Antiquity grew shallower so that the individuation between one gure and the next diminished, and space became more homogenous. This gesture appealed less to the tactile sense than it implied a certain opening onto a new visual plane, one that admitted an encounter with a beholder through its suggested expansion into space. Riegl may seem at some distance from the more contemporary concerns surrounding Op and the body (to say nothing of antique relief) but his rhetoric informs our discussion in crucial respects. For the legacy that saw the optic as superseding the haptic is no less than the foundation of high modernism. Clement Greenbergs apotheosis of atness, after all, staked a claim for the evolution of modernist painting as an emptying out of the illusionistic cavity of the easel picture, and the reorganization of its pictorial elements into a homogenous (read: allover) frontality. Optical painting by his account was therefore advanced painting, whereas the illusory space of perspective appealed to the haptic and was therefore regressive. All we can conclude is that the future of the easel picture as a vehicle of ambitious art has become problematical, Greenberg declared toward the end of The Crisis of the Easel Picture.50 Given such pronouncements, one might speculate about Greenbergs stance toward Op and by implication, Riley. As Lisa G. Corrin notes, the critic never committed words to paper about Riley,

effectively damning her practice through his silence.51 And there can be no question, certainly, that Rileys coronation by popular culture was offensive to the writer of Avant-Garde and Kitsch. By the same token, when The Responsive Eye came to public prominence, Greenbergs own position on atness had shifted from the decentered space of the abstract expressionist painting to the singularity of the hard-edge canvas. He acknowledged the persistence of illusionism as a limit condition of painting itself. The atness towards which Modernism orients itself can never be an utter atness, he reasoned. [T]he heightened sensitivity of the picture plane may no longer permit sculptural illusion or trompe loeil, but it does and must permit optical illusion.52 Such concessions would seem to admit to the trickery at the basis of much Op art, but they hardly excuse or justify it. Frances Spalding reports that Greenberg met Riley on a couple of occasions, rst in New York and then a few times at Anthony Caros London residence; and though its nice to think that their shared investment in the moderns inspired serious discussion, one cant imagine much coming from the exchange. Riley, however, was well read in American art criticism, clearly drawn to its principal postwar gures. And strange as it may sound, her work was a kind of allover painting, organized around the studied repetition of a single formal unit across the picture plane. But Greenbergian it was not. Rileys work seemed a kind of visual trickery masquerading in the formal elements of high modernism. It was in this (acutely Greenbergian) light that Rosalind Krauss attacked Op art in her damning critique of The Responsive Eye, entitled Afterthoughts on Op. In it she argued vociferously that Op Art in all the multiplicity of its visual guises really operates from a single, basic concept: the trompe loeil and that moreover, it was at a far remove from the concerns of genuine optical painting.53 Underlining her account is a thinking about the haptic and optic as dangerously mixed in this work, as if the tactile in Op had somehow invaded or contaminated the visual priorities of the most progressive art making. Whats more, Op art resorted to techniques and formal structures that were deeply regressive compared to the strides made by genuine optical painting. As Krauss observed:
The term optical has always been used in the description of painting or sculpture to refer to that mode of presentation which addresses itself



solely to ones vision and which in no way elicits sensations that are tactile in kind. Haptic, or tactile, art on the other hand exploits the viewers sense of touch. Painting which employs the conventions on which illusionism is built, that is of modeling and perspective, to induce in the perceiver the idea that behind the picture-plane lies threedimensional objects which could actually feel is thus essentially haptic rather than optic. The whole tradition of trompe loeil painting rests on the ironic heightening of the intensity of this imagined tactile exploration, heightening at the same time the feeling of duplicity which knowledge of the paintings actual atness always brings.54


Duplicity is the word that haunts Krausss reading of Op, tied as it is to its literal tricking of the eye (e.g., as trompe loeil). And that visual chicanery, which takes place in the service of producing bodily responses, is immediately applied to the work ofwho else?Bridget Riley.55 Krauss proceeded to gloss the longer tradition of optical theory within modernism, discussing phenomena ranging from optical mixing in divisionism to the sensation of the afterimage. Her verdict for the show is punishing: its curatorial choices begged justication and its work was perceptual gimmickry.56 And further, Krauss concluded, given its exclusively tactile concerns, one is staggered at a designation of it as optical art.57 Krausss identication of the haptic and optic in the reception of Op is instructive. Notable here is that in the vast art critical literature on Op, she is alone in linking her argument to a longer Riegelian tradition that sees the haptic and optic in historical tension with one another and that likewise calls up allusions to a critical literature around perceptual (or protoperceptual) psychology. This is not to say that Krauss believed the haptic and optic were separable in the perception of works of art or that the senses could be fully isolated; hers, rather, is a modernists advocacy of the virtues of a genuinely optical painting, compelled by an almost ethical furor over the illusionism Op art entertains. It was precisely that comingling that fueled Ops greatest controversies. Anton Ehrenzweig, the British perceptual psychologist, likewise addressed Rileys mixing of seemingly opposed terms. His essay The Pictorial Space of Bridget Riley does not take on the rhetoric of the haptic and the optic as Krausss analysis does (and indeed, it is as enthusiastic in its endorsement of Rileys practice as Krauss is

disparaging). Yet it too considers the ways in which the experience of her work brings together spectatorial positions largely considered at odds with each other. Ehrenzweig challenged the notion that Rileys painting is merely an exercise in visual trickery. In his posthumously published The Hidden Order of Art (1967), a book that would have a signicant impact on a later generation of sixties artists (Robert Morris and Robert Smithson among them), Riley is repeatedly singled out as an artist whose work effectively defeats the gestalt and gestalt psychology along with it, the basis of his own theories on the creative processes. Introduced to Riley in 1962, Ehrenzweig quickly identied in her work its acute tension between control and chaos, between the rational and the unorganized, and he saw these positions as not opposed but complementary.58 He regarded this tension as productive and as process oriented, arguing for the diachronic processing of the works reception, which he saw as encompassing a range of seemingly contradictory phases. Here, the aggressive, hard, and cold merge into the expansive and warm; feelings of assault give way to a sense of reassurance. This perceptual to and fro, Ehrenzweig suggested, militates against simple analyses that Rileys art is motivated exclusively by illusionistic concerns.
One can distinguish two contrasting phases in the subjective experience of BRs paintingsthe rst phrase can be called cold, hard, aggressive, devouring; the second warm, expansive, reassuring. It is idiomatic to speak of our eyes devouring something. Here the reverse happens, our eyes are attacked and devoured by the paintings. We are faced with a subtle inexorable variation of linear units. So smooth is the transition that it does not allow our eye to organize the units into stabler larger entities that could serve as focusing points. . . . There is a constant tugof-war between shifting and crumbling gestalt patterns. But at a certain point of our experience this relentless attack on our normal viewing habits can peel our eyes into a new crystal clear sensibility which has none of the cold aggressiveness of the rst phase. To achieve this transformation we have to submit to the initial attack in the way in which we have learned to enjoy a cold shower bath. There comes the voluptuous moment when the senses and skin tingle with a new warmth and sharpened awareness of the body and the world around.



When this moment of transformation arrives the single units of the composition cease straining and pulling at each other. A total vision comes through that is akin to a true hallucination and transcends the intellectual calculation of the single elements. It is quite inadequate to speak of Optical illusion which lacks the important feeling of revelation.59


At one point in the passage, Ehrenzweigs prose seems to blossom. The shift from coldness to warmth, the aggressive to the reassuring, is correlated specically to an Eye/Body nexus. Somehow, visual information that once assaulted the eye is now expressed as a voluptuous sensation of the body: the senses and skin tingle with a new warmth and sharpened awareness of the body and the world around. No wonder Sylvester described Rileys own position toward her work as masochistic. Rileys visual information, once so astringent, so cold, has now inltrated the body as sensuous experience, and with no less than the force of a revelation or a hallucination. Hallucination or trickery, or revelation, or both? Coming from extremely different positions as they are, Krauss and Ehrenzweig were alike in attributing the relative force of Rileys work to its mixing of the visual and the corporeal. The currency of this issue within the art criticism of the mid-sixties found its match in readings that took on the Eye/Body problem from other disciplinary perspectives, mostly of a philosophical orientation. As Frances Spalding has written, Riley engaged the debate in her own intensive reading of Maurice MerleauPonty. It was his writing of the late fties and early sixties that resonated most strongly with the artist, especially the essay Eye and Mind, which deals extensively with the phenomenology of painting. Spalding remarks that an entire thesis could be constructed on the relevance of that essay to Rileys art, and in the texts appeal to a vision occasioned by the body, it afrms the back-and-forth between seeing and feeling experienced in the encounter with her painting.60 Merleau-Pontys later philosophy indeed dramatized the intertwining of the visual, the carnal, and the phenomenal world such that subjectivity itself was shot through with an acute materiality. In The Visible and the Invisible, published posthumously in 1964 and translated into English in 1968, eye and body were part of the nexus of subjective being. Seeing and touching, touching and seeing, were the chiasm of

immanent experience. The eye inhabited the thickness of the body, just as the body literally motivated the eye, put it into movement. Since the same body sees and touches, visible and tangible belong to the same world, he wrote,
It is a marvel little too noticed that every movement of my eyes . . . even more, every displacement of my bodyhas its place in the same visible universe that I itemize and explore with them, as conversely, every vision takes place in tactile space. There is a double and crossed situating of the visible in the tangible and the tangible in the visible.61


Vision is a palpation with the look. Merleau-Ponty repeatedly insisted upon a relationship of encroachment between the eye and body. Although he did not claim that eye and body merge fully, neither did he privilege one over the other in subjective experience. And unlike Ehrenzweig, who approached the intertwining of eye and body through terms that suggested a diachronic processing by the body, Merleau-Ponty did not parse the experience temporally. It is tempting to think that Rileys reading of the philosopher, coupled with her personal dialogue with Ehrenzweig, inspired her own reading on what her paintings did for their viewers. Running, early morning . . . cold water . . . fresh things, slightly astringent . . . certain acid sorts of smells: these were the artists own impressions of her work, and they are implicated precisely in Ehrenzweigs corporeal processing of visual information, Merleau-Pontys phenomenology. These were the terms, after all, that would excuse Rileys art from being treated as merely assaultive, violent paintings that attacked the eye. And yet without meaning to, Ehrenzweigs own assessment opens onto the very charges Krauss would make of Rileys painting. In suggesting that Rileys work assumes the power of a hallucination not only did Ehrenzweig court the possibility that the painting is transformative; he tacitly acknowledged the very phantasms and illusionism Krauss so detested in Rileys work. And when Krauss referred to the new optical painting as duplicitous, she moved closer to a different kind of rhetoric around Op art, which saw in the Eye/Body/art/fashion nexusand its conjunction through timea dangerous proximity to the abuses of sixties technology: namely, the behavioristic and controlling aspects of a postwar visual culture gone dangerously haptic.



What was at stake was not only the notion that the eye could be tricked but also that the trompe loeil excesses of the new optical art represented a deeper threat concealed under the sign of technological progress. This was not, in short, the rational, scientic eye described by The Responsive Eye, the corporeal emblem of insight and Enlightenment. This was an eye, rather, vulnerable to damaging external inuences, an innocent, even stupid eye that passively absorbed visual information without critical distance or judgment. Long before the Responsive Eye opened in 1965, Jon Borgzinner, the critic of Time magazine widely credited with coining the term Op art, offered the following on the eyes capacity to be misled. Mans eyes are not windows, although he has long regarded them as such, he wrote.
They can be bahed, boggled and balked. . . . They often see things that are not there and fail to see things that are there. In the eyes resides mans rst sense, and it is fallible. . . . Preying and playing on the fallibility of vision is the new movement of Optical art that has sprung up across the Western world.62


There is, of course, a long tradition within Western philosophy, aesthetics, and art history that holds to the very fallibility of the eye and its openness to contamination. One neednt go back to Plato to mine sources that speak of the eyes defenselessness. The denigration of vision, as Martin Jay refers to it, represents a decided complement or better put, a dark underbellyto the sublimities long accorded the visual sense.63 And a modernist, seizing upon the image of a subject absorbed and then stupeed in the face of contemporary visual phenomena, might describe such conditions through terms of an acute critical pedigree: shock, for instance, or distraction, or even empathy. This is a theoretical legacy deeply internalized within the reception of Op; and it announces that the historicity of the Eye/Body problem is far from unique to the postwar era. Even still, the optical dimension of popular culture in the mid1960s arrived with a markedly expansive sense of what constituted the visualand of what the visual had progressively colonizedwith the decades emerging electronic culture serving as its backdrop.

Television and the visual potential attached to new forms of computer technology were the most frequent objects of attack, and the rhetoric stemming from their powers of manipulationtheir capacity to handle the subjects of visual culture as physical beingspoints precisely to the Eye/Body nexus around Op.64 When, for instance, Elluls The Technological Society was translated into English in 1964, his warnings on the capacity of technique and television doubtlessly resonated with his new American readership, who embraced the book with far greater interest than their French counterparts.65 Television, Ellul wrote, because of its power of fascination and its capacity of visual and auditory penetration is probably the technical instrument which is most destructive of personality and human relationships.66 Ellul was hardly alone in his complaints. He would be joined in his criticism by writers with whom he shared little ideologically. But his statement also attests to new conditions of viewership that ratify the contemporaneous discussions within art criticism on the Eye/Body problem. Note that for Ellul, television is an instrument of both visual and auditory penetration: it is as much something to hear as it is to watch, and is therefore a tool of doubled instrumental capacities. It both fascinates and destroys and does so implicitly through its engagement of multiple senses synchronically linked. As such, Elluls words on television, originally published in 1954, fullled Marshall McLuhans well-known prognosis on media culture in advance of the fact. McLuhans infamous volume of 1962, The Gutenberg Galaxy, suggested nothing so much as the complete reorganization of the sensorium through the introduction and transitioning of new media, in this case, the shift between the pretypographic culture of the Greeks and the Middle Ages, to the invention of moveable print under Gutenberg, to the electronic age of the postwar era. Although not principally concerned with this later period, The Gutenberg Galaxy bears enormous relevance for the postwar moment, particularly in introducing a concept explored more fully in his subsequent Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man of 1964. It is with the concept of the ratio of the senses or the sense ratio that we approach the issue of the Eye/Body problem as it is thematized within sixties popular culture and begin to see its inections in the criticism around Op art. Briey put, the sense ratio is the relative and shifting index between the senses in the assimilation of knowledge or information.




It is a kind of balance sheet of the sensorium, whether the privileging of one sense faculty over the next or their virtual mixing as synesthesia. In part the notion derives from McLuhans formulation of extensions, a concept also developed in The Gutenberg Galaxy. Extensions are little more than tools or technologies that serve to extend the usefulness of the body and its senses, forms of media that negotiate the bodys relationship with the phenomenal world. Extensions might be as technologically primitive as clothes (extensions of the skin and its capacity to protect the body) or the wheel (extensions of our legs and our capacity to walk) or as technically sophisticated as computers. Whatever the degree of their renement, extensions play a formative role on the body in altering the relative balance between the senses. The historicity of extensions suggests likewise that the sense ratio is a deeply historical phenomenon and, by implication, culturally specic as well. If a technology is introduced either from within or without a culture, McLuhan wrote, and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our visual senses, the ratio among all other senses is altered.67 For McLuhan, the transition between the pretypographic world of the ancients and the world of print fundamentally changed the subjects sense ratio. The pretypographic universe of the Greeks, he argued, was largely auditory and tactile, organized around the importance of the oratory within their culture. He then claimed that the invention of print with Gutenberg xed or interiorized the relationship between the word and its subject, placing a new and unprecedented stress on the visual sense. Crucially, this shift in the sense ratio also changed the way in which history and, more specically, time was perceived. McLuhan reasoned that in the culture of the book, with its graphic unfolding of the word from page to page, information is availed of and experienced almost protocinematically, that is, in linear or teleological sequence. In opposition to the culture of the book and its resultant teleology, it is with the advent of the electronic age that McLuhan detected a kind of return to a more synesthetic relationship to culture, one that engages the tactile, auditory, and visual senses all at once, because the individual is no longer exclusively a typographic subject. Gone too is a xed spatiotemporal perspective on the world and a linear sense of time along with it. For with this radical change in extensions comes a radical inversion of ones perceptual orientation: the unsettling recognition that

the coordinates that once determined ones relationship to the world namely, time and spacehave been fundamentally displaced. In spite of, or because of, its argumentative economy, The Gutenberg Galaxy laid itself open to the most strenuous criticism and controversy, as did McLuhans technological forecasting in general. A mechanistic reasoning underwrites the concept of extensions and the ratio of the senses, to the degree that the bodys relationship to information technology is treated in explicitly causal terms. Hence with the arrival of new media, so the narrative goes, the senses would follow in kind. As a result, McLuhan might not only be accused of technological determinism: he seems equally guilty of fetishizing the sense faculties as little more than extensions of the technology alleged to serve the human subject. In turn, this would reduce to the notion that McLuhans linkage between media and the body is one of stimulus and response. The implications are troubling. What if he is right? some social critics wondered publicly, sounding the alarm for the potentially dangerous consequences McLuhans thesis suggested. To follow his argument to its logical extreme, the subject is virtually remodeled after changing technologies in an ever-deepening relationship of control. For even as McLuhan made a claim for the synethestic dimension of the electronic age, he granted little in the way of the subjects autonomy over the senses. Such criticism seems the inevitable fallout of any project attempting to historicize technologys relationship to perception, and to his credit, McLuhan addressed such charges in the introduction to The Gutenberg Galaxy. But the signicance of his volume in this context lies not so much in the correctness of his claims (in fact, his considerations of new media were largely afrmative, utopian in its promise of a newly retribalized Global Village, and for many critics, technologically deterministic)68 as much as in their resonance with the discourse surrounding the Eye/Body problem in sixties art. McLuhan obliquely took up the notion that the visual within the electronic age has such a bodily dimension, that it is imbricated with the body in its shifting sense ratio. In Understanding Media, he painted a picture of its effects in the most literal strokes possible, speaking about the bodys relationship to television: Perhaps the most familiar and pathetic effect of the TV image, he wrote, is the posture of children in the early grades. With perfect psycho-mimetic skill, they carry out the commands of the TV.



They pore, they probe, they slow down, and involve themselves in depth.69 The notion that a controlling power could be attributed to new visual technologyone that literally regured the bodystrikes a distinct chord within the literature around Op. One passage from Understanding Media makes a prescient (if inadvertent) remark around fashion and television that applies well to the optical dazzle associated with Op fashion. McLuhan noted,
Clothing and styling in the past decade have gone so tactile and so sculptural that they present a sort of exaggerated evidence of the new qualities of the TV mosaic. The TV extension of our nerves in hirsute patterns possesses the power to evoke a ood of related imagery in clothing, hairdo, walk and gesture.70


These are deeply suggestive comments for the reception of Op, and they go far to conrm Samuel Webers incisive analysis of the differential specicity of the medium of television.71 Weber reects critically on the word television, both its commonplace usage and what is obscured within its everyday understanding, and thus uncovers a range of concerns for the Eye/Body problem in the visual arts of the mid-sixties. Attending to the English prex tele in the word television, he restores to the medium its emphatic internalization of distance; quite literally, it is a modality of seeing-at-a-distance. There is, then, as much a spatializing as a visual component to the operations of its technology, and Weber argues, the notion of distance [in the word television] is preserved only as an obstacle to be surmounted.72 Even more to the point, the spatializing capacity of television bears profound implications for the coordination of the spectators body. The overcoming of distance in [television and other technologies of distance] is linked to the ability to transcend the spatial limitations usually associated with the body, Weber writes. If television thus names seeing-at-a-distance, what it appears to overcome thereby is the body, or more precisely, the spatial limitations placed by the body upon seeing and hearing.73 Following on such pronouncements, it is clear that the suspicion of the optical within the reception of Op was not just organized only around the idea that appearances lie. It went much further in insinuating that the visual could wreak havoc on the body through a peculiar

loss of control, signaled by a change in bodily time. As numerous confrontations with Rileys work demonstrate, this anxiety was triangulated further around the terms of gender, the popular, and technology. It bears repeating that Riley was at pains to deny these terms in her own critical reception, and yet there she was: condescendingly feminized and upheld as a gure deeply engaged in contemporary technology. Thomas Hess, for instance, neatly stitched together the elements in this chainwoman, the popular, technologyas a means of demonstrating the dangers of an expanding visual culture at this moment. He began with a pointed (and transparent) anecdote on Riley and The Responsive Eye:
At the press opening, it was noticed that one black and white Op panel by Bridget Riley had been dirtied in transit. The artist happened to drop by and she volunteered to make repairs. I came across her cheerfully scouring the surface with Ajax, the Foaming Cleanser, while a staK carpenter stood nearby with the expression of an old barons retainer watching the new tenants install hi- in the clavichord. (Just a whiK of Ajax, he hinted, would melt a dozen [Pierre] Bonnards that had hung on these walls a few weeks before.) Obviously this was all for the best. . . . But the quick association from the episode is pure TV.74


There is a kind of stream-of-consciousness logic at work in Hesss ruminations. Riley the Op artist, attending her own press opening, has somehow metamorphosed into Riley the dutiful domestic, scrubbing paintings at the Museum of Modern Art. A canister of Ajax captivates Hesss attention, and it comes to gure as a trope for the artist herself. Its presence suggests that things are denitely not business as usual at the museum, as if its space had been trespassed (contaminated?) by a foreign (female?) body, leaving the old guard with their Bonnards shrinking in her wake. Hesss implicit domestication of Riley then seguesand seamlesslyinto a broader reection on television, a passage that makes the by-now-obligatory reference to McLuhan:
Marshall McLuhan, in Understanding Media, suggests that the content of every new medium is another, usually older form. Thus the content of the movies is the novel. The content of television is the movies. Etc. The content of both Pop and Op Art is advertising, especially display


advertising. Pop used printed commercial artmagazines, illustrations, billboards, packaging. Op uses T.V.its image made up of hundreds of tiny dots which the eye reads by lling in the gaps; in times of distress the screen is covered with appalling moir patterns. There is the same quivering glare to the light, the same ping eKects, the radar blips. And there is the same immediacy. Like the TV viewer, the Op audience passively participates, conditioned into giving up critical faculties, or at least suspending disbelief. Peripatetic zombies.75

Op was a kind of Pandoras box for the new media age: the idiot box of television. When openedor switched onit exerted a damaging toll on the spectator through a barrage of visual media. Like zombies, one was stupeed and made stupid in its presence. This notion is critical to the deepening suspicion, even paranoia, about Op. Nevertheless, Op was considered user-friendly stuff in spite of the aggression attributed to it, its eye-hurting glare, virtually hypnotic powers, and nausea-inducing effects. As Barbara Rose put it cynically: Op is absolutely gratifying in this respect because you know that you have gotten the message once nausea or vertigo set in.76 Compared to most forms of painterly abstraction, Op was an open communitya club for all comersprecisely because it didnt take a genius to get it. For many others, though, this was technological optimism at its most insidious: the conviction that Op was a kind of visual Esperanto, a universal technology of and for the people. Far from the rareed vision of the Two Cultures, critics detected a consumerist threat in Op, most often linked to the body and women in particular. As Hess noted,
The content of Op may be TV, but it is not the amateurs look at TV, not its electronics. . . . If Op is an alliance of Science and ArtLord Snows Third CultureScience is conceding only its obsolete apparatus. . . . Actually Op is not involved with science, but with the pseudoscientic crafts of displayshop-window designs, textile patterns, eyecatching wrapping paperswhich in turn have salvaged a few techniques from the commercial labs. . . . This is gadgetry, bitten by art, dreaming

about science. 77

Hesss language is useful in parsing the conventional (if problematic) understanding of science as opposed to technology.78 It is not so

much that he critiqued a genuine confrontation between art and science; rather, he found fault with Ops pretensions to do so. In this sense Hess maintained the commonplace distinction between science as a pure and academic discipline and technology as little more than applied sciencethe business of craft or commercial labor, science brought down from its pedestal. Whatever divisions he drew between the two, his words betray an acute chauvinism toward technology as popular culture. Shop-window designs, textile patterns, wrapping paper, Bridget Riley, and Ajax: technology, in opposition to science, has been feminized as craft, as the domestic, and women seemed especially susceptible to its designs. By extension, the viewer of Op who falls prey to its spell it likewise made the dupe of such feminine wiles. If, then, the Op viewer was conventionally gendered as femalebecause of the fashion frenzy that accompanied the artthat viewers patterns of consumption would seem to inuence, and insidiously, the other half of the population. The notion of Riley as a femme fatale returns. Like the clothes with which she is associated, her work fascinates and thereby pacies the spectator, who then passively or easily joins. This passivity suggested that the new art assumed an unprecedented degree of control over its viewers, and there is no doubt that the language of control carried its own technocratic associations. In what has subsequently been described by Joseph Beniger as the control revolution, the rise of electronic media in the postwar era was explicitly linked to the control of information. There is good reason why, after all, Norbert Wieners groundbreaking study of information theory was called Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine. And over and over, the dialectical knot between control and passivity was correlated with the idea that Op art programmed its viewers as much as Op artists programmed their own work.79 Curiously enough, Ops sense of programming and its impersonality were treated by some as one of its strongest points, the sign of its claims to scientic objectivity and the advanced technology of computers, automation processes, and communications media.80 Perhaps these experiments, John Canaday observed, are in truth only the rst steps towards a new concept of form in painting, one that can develop into systems which will enable a once-static art to control retinal response and create a kind of kinetic color ballet (my emphasis).81 As Seitz similarly proclaimed of the work, we cannot yet



estimate the potential of static or moving images for the alteration of consciousness.82 This is a deeply troubling recommendation for the new abstraction, implying that the work might effectively discipline the perception of its viewer. For both Seitzs and Canadays rhetoric touches on a kind of social engineering organized around the power of the image.83 Indeed the involuntary responses demanded by Op sounded warning bells for many critics, who detected in its reception an abrupt end to free will through a peculiar form of visual conditioning. Here the specter of a radical behaviorism raises its head, a behaviorism that reects the darker possibilities attached to a culture of programming. Op was implicitly seen, to borrow a phrase of B. F. Skinners, as such a technology of behavior.84 In its very title, The Responsive Eye, Max Kozloff warned in the Nation,
hints of realms enticing because involuntary, and of a sure-re continuum of stimulus and reaction from which no one, with reasonably normal vision, would be excluded. . . . To reduce the viewer to a helpless scoreboard of sensations, to deprive him of his will, is a fundamental breach of propriety, committed by many artists through an appalling scientistic innocence. . . . The disturbing question posed by The Responsive Eye is the weight and importance that it must be accorded as a phenomenon of contemporary art. . . . It might be seen as the search to untap resources within the impersonal, almost computerized, geometries and visual artifacts of an automated age. . . . Yet this spectacle is extremely deceiving.85


Like Seitz and Canaday, if from a radically different perspective, Kozloff regarded the emergence of Op not simply as a pale reection of its eras technologies but as a potential means to untap (the) resources . . . of an automated age. Yet such resources might be exploited as an excessive manipulation, to the point where the viewing subject is effectively deprived of free will. Kozloff expressed a marked cynicism about Op as such a vehicle of informationnecessarily deceiving informationand in this sense his review corresponds with the Nations deeply skeptical position on popular media in general. But if Kozloff was unrepentant in his stance toward Op, he did not begin to approach the hostility toward media implicitly expressed in a

nameless editorial from a local Richmond, Virginia, newspaper. At rst, the article is typical of the reception around The Responsive Eye in its descriptions of eye-hurting, involuntary responses and manipulation. Then it sharply veers off in other direction. Taking its observations to their rhetorical extreme, it analogizes Ops effects to the way news and information are distributed and received in mid-sixties America:
And what is the point of this, someone will ask? Well the point is this, that art is the expression of the age. The pressures and upheavals of our time have the same eKect on our observers: Now you see it, now you dont. Now the facts are clear, now the facts are muddled grey. The distortion of old values, and the crowding of new cultures, presents a peculiar aspect to the eye. It is painful. Who is to tell what are the facts in Viet Nam, for instance? The government of one day is not the government of the next; the actions of our own ogcials there are deliberately distorted, and friend slips into foe and back again. The alliances with Europe are not what they seem, and the image of the Communist world clashes with reality. . . . It is all painful.86


One might forgive the authorless editorial its tired clichs about art (art is the expression of the age), as well as its argumentative leaps. What is striking about this passage is its profound distrust toward the image in society, its somatic risks. We are informed two times in as many paragraphs that it is painful. The viewing of Op art is taken as an allegory for the evening news, with its deeply painful imagery. Neither is to be trusted. That Vietnam was, of course, the television or living room war goes far to conrm the connection that Op was itself regarded as a kind of new media, a new technology of behavior. For some critics even, the Op image was thought to penetrate the body, so insidious was its control over the passive observer.


Ops technological duplicity found other analogies for the perceptual sensations and loss of autonomy it produced for the subject. In both a gurative and literal sense, Op was regarded as something to consume;


and in its consumption, it upset the temporal stability of the viewer in question. It was imminently consumable, on the one hand, because of its convergence with consumer culture: it could be bought as art, fashion, and design. On the other hand, it was also metaphorized to something that was literally ingested, blurring further the distinction between the haptic and optic and effecting a decisive temporal change over the body along the way. Sometimes this was expressed through the idea that the body was a communicative system, absorbing visual information as data to be processed synesthestically. Other times that notion was linked to a process of habituationhow a consumer of Op was habituated to its dizzying effects.87 This allusion to habituation strikes a chord beyond its resonance with the language of programming. The consumption of Op was also likened to the consumption of psychedelics and the various change in states they induced for a habituated user. To the degree that Op was thought to incapacitate the viewer as so many other forms of emerging media, the drug metaphor implied a deprivation of free will and conscious decision making; alternately, it induced a state of trance, euphoria, or complete lack of control. As Cherill Anderson remarked in her suggestively titled Op Arts Tiny Time Pill, The effect is rather like having the tiny time pills of the much advertised cold capsules popping away in ones head, and she continued,
The analogy may be frivolous, but its implications are not. One of the reasons for taking the Op movement seriously is precisely this kinetic potential. In skilled hands, working under the direction of a creative mind, optical phenomenon could endow the gurative and abstract visual arts with a fourth dimensionthe ability to move in timeheretofore reserved for music and the other performing arts.88


Anderson went on to describe the physiological effects of Op art through a pointed psychedelic reference, acknowledging the strange convergence between drugs (this time, of the controlled variety) and the moir patterns of the engineercumOp artist Professor Gerald Oster, who believed looking at his work could produce strong hallucinations. Achieving a limited degree of art-world celebrity at the time, Osters nerdy demeanor seemed to y in the face of his advocacy of Op as a hallucinogenic technique, although in other respects he mirrored

the academic fascination with psychotropics as research experiments. (Here, the prototype would be professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, both relieved of their appointments at Harvards Department of Psychology in 1963 for their drug-induced research on graduate students, beginning with psilocybin and moving on to LSD.)89 Although its doubtful that looking through Osters moirs successfully reproduced the effects of a good trip, the analogy is to the point. This is mindaltering, and with it, body-altering stuff, understood as an artists symptomatic response to a culture that had largely become numbed. Kozloff, too, entertained the drug metaphor as a technological metaphor, and like Anderson, he read its druggy effects as meshed with the changed reception of time in the work of art: Finally, encounters with works of this persuasion have a temporal pulsedue to periodic popping or blippingmore or less well-dened, which (depending on ones fatigue and body movements) resembles an auditory experience sometimes more than a visual one. One waits in time, rather than scans in space.90 For Kozloff, the drug analogy was like the television analogy in the stupefying effects Op produced for its viewers. Unlike the subsequent appropriation of Op by the Counterculture in the late 1960s (one thinks of the loopy psychedelic graphics and black light posters of Rick Grifn, Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, and others associated with the rock promoter Bill Graham in San Francisco) or the expanded media associated with experimental cinema and new forms of installation, the comparison was not meant to connote enlightenment or visionary consciousness.91 Quite the opposite: Op participated in the soporic tendencies of the culture through its peculiar temporality, through the literal kinesis of the viewers body and the periodic blipping the work produced. In this regard, the reading tapped into the more insidious experiments with hallucinogens and mind control covertly taking place in the postwar era.92 Kozloffs hallucinogenic technics further raise the question of sixties technology in terms of the senses engaged. The numbness he ascribes to Op is displaced from the visual to the auditory and tactile senses, precisely those domains of the sensorium that McLuhan described as ascendant with the rise of electronic culture. For McLuhan, this sudden shift within the sense ratio produced an acute numbness, a kind of auto-amputation meant to protect the central nervous system with a changed relationship to the senses. The principle of self-



amputation as an immediate relief of strain on the central nervous system applies very readily to the origin of the media of communication from speech to computer, McLuhan wrote.93 [T]he principle of numbness comes into play with electronic technology, as with any other. We have to numb our central nervous system when it is extended and exposed, or we will die. Thus the age of anxiety and of electric media is also the age of the unconscious and of apathy.94 Such were the effects that so many critics derided in Op art, effects that resulted in a passive state akin to zoning out in front of the television if not the comfortable numbness of a drug-induced high. Both experiencestaken to produce a state of deep lassitude for some, a loss of control for otherssuggest a profound uncertainty about the stimulation provided by Op. Here we need to reconsider what this rhetoric might suggest for Rileys mid-sixties career and to interrogate what her denials about Op implied about a woman artists relationship to the Eye/Body problem more generally. The strange notion of obliteration takes on a paradoxical usefulness at this point, for it suggests a certain effacement of the female body as a critical intervention in this debate. Through the example of another women artistnamely, Carolee Schneemannthese terms betray other implications.



Bridget Riley and Carolee Schneemann: could there be any two artists more different? The one compelled by the rigors of modernist abstraction, the other engaged with the inevitable contingencies staged by live artperformance; the one who denied a fully bodily response to her work, the other delighting in the sheer stickiness of the body; the one quickly embraced by the ofcial art world, the other largely marginalized by it. Apart from their genderand they had radically different perspectives on how it related to their practicethe two shared little or nothing in their approach to art making. Yet in spite ofor rather because ofthese differences, Schneemanns relationship to the Eye/ Body problem sheds peculiar light on Rileys history within Op.95 Indeed Rileys self-positioning within the debate invites comparison with other woman artists confrontation with this problem. She had three major complaints about her reception as Op artist. First,

she rejected the notion that her work bore any alliance to science and technology.96 Second, as much as she acknowledged the Eye/Body nexus in the encounter with her art, she denied strenuously that her work was in any way violent. Third, and perhaps most troubling, was her position on being regarded as a woman artist. In 1973, Riley published a short essay entitled The Hermaphrodite, in which she dismissed the idea that feminism bore any viable relationship to womans art making. In a line that generated enormous controversy within feminist art circles, Riley proclaimed, artists who happen to be women need this particular form of hysteria like they need a hole in the head.97 There is something deeply disappointing about this remark, particularly as it comes from an artist who achieved art-world success (coupled with an acute trivialization) in advance of the institutional strides made by women artists in the decade that followed. Although Rileys perspective on womens liberation in the arts cannot be ignored, it does deserve to be recontextualized within the framework of her earlier reception. Read against the backdrop of her other denials, one sees a concerted if fruitless effort to refuse her association with Op and its perception by the public: here is an artist rejecting the label of women artist precisely because of its correspondence to the Op label. Not that this is unproblematic. Rileys thinking on the artists relationship with the social is at once romantic and desperate, a plea for artistic transcendence from a culture that would seek to turn her art into fashion. You see, Riley once wrote, the only commitment he (the artist) has to society todayat least in my opinionis to his accept his liberation from it.98 Given Rileys (deeply oppressive) experience within the reception of Op, such statements beg the question. What kind of critical stance might a woman artist take with respect to the Eye/Body problem in sixties media culture? One cue might be located in the language Riley used to describe her own art. Her considerations of time within her paintingof visual tempiopen onto a temporally determined reception of art against the notion of its timelessness or universality, stressed further by the idea that it stages an event. We need to recall that Rileys earlier engagement with Abstract Expressionism (action painting) points to the performative dimension she attributes to her work, as well as when she speaks of pacing the work, or of the kind




of transformative process that occurs phenomenologically in ones encounter with it. That the implied kinesis of her black-and-white paintings is performative in nature invites comparison to other women artists working similar terrain at the same moment. Artists who worked with the bodyor whose work trafcked between performance art and more conventional artistic mediaproduced their own takes on the Eye/ Body problem. Performance, after all, was almost categorically understood as an Art of Timethe time of the lived body.99 The troubling dualities that held that women artists were somehow more embodied than their male counterparts suggest a particular if hardly essentialized approach to this very question. One perverse model of liberation, what I have called obliteration, places stress on the ways in which a woman artist might confront the implicit violence of the Eye/Body problem in the sixties. And it was the Japanese-born artist Yayoi Kusama who introduced the term. In the late sixties, Kusama was notorious for her increasingly spectacular and controversial Happenings, orgiastic street theater involving numerous participantsboth men and womenstripped naked and engaged in various countercultural activities on the streets of New York. Much earlier in the decade, however, she was known for a much cooler aesthetic. Her painting, reticulated surfaces crawling with obsessive lines and dots, was hailed by the likes of Donald Judd, who saw in her proliferating geometries a prototype for later abstract (even minimal) work (gure 3.7). Variously called Innity Nets or Accumulations, these works parallel some of Ops concerns in their looping, almost hallucinatory patterns and repetition of abstract form. Kusamas afliations with various members of the Zero and Nul groups seemed to support this interest in both virtual and kinetic movement (likewise, she has also been linked to Pop and the tradition of monochrome painting). Finally, her later assemblages, covered with cottonbatting-stuffed-phallic-like protrusions, have cast her as an artist in advance of feminisms Second Wave. But invoking Kusama here need not extend to her occasional association with Op art, nor her ties to performance, nor even the broad morphological afnities between her Innity Nets and the decentered space of Rileys work. It is the origin myth at the heart of her practice that ironizes the stakes of the Eye/Body problem as approached by a


3.7 Yayoi Kusama, No. Green, No. 1,

1961. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Edith Ferry Hooper Bequest Fund. BMA 1996.11. Courtesy the artist.

woman artist. For obliteration (or self-obliteration) was the term that Kusama gave to a distinctly feminized sensation of unbounding, of somehow being subsumed into the visual environment around ones self, of feeling a loss of boundaries between the self and world, subject and object, eye and body. During a childhood spent in postwar Japan, a period that saw the emergence of Kusamas lifelong bouts of neuroses, the artist was aficted with a spatial hallucination that she has cited as the principal motivation behind her work. She has recalled:
One day I was looking at the red ower patterns of the tablecloth on a table and when I looked up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and nally all over the room, my body and the universe. I felt as if I had begun to self-obliterate, to resolve in the innity of endless time and the absoluteness of space, and be reduced to nothingness. As I realized it was actually happening and not just in my imagination, I was frightened.100


This is a phenomenology of the hysteric, of a woman whose visual hallucinations lead to a peculiar intertwining of the body and the environment. It is the most extreme case study in a palpation with the lookto borrow Merleau-Pontys phraseproducing in the subject a loss of control over the body itself. Note, for instance, how the visual cues of Kusamas immediate environment assumed a spatializing force, resulting for the artist in a failed attempt to escape wholly from the image around her. And yet the violence ascribed to this image in space would lead to the artists peculiar inversion of it. For Kusamas obsessive repetition of patterns, dots, and nets in her early work takes on an apotropaic function in relation to the vision that would overcome her. Her subsequent capacity to produce the image that swirls around her serves as a means to ward it off, to keep it at bay through its possession. Kusamas insistent patterning acts to control the image in the environment, as much as that image threatens to subsume the artist. Obliteration, then, suggests a parodic erasure of the womans body within the visual environment, a critical self-effacement in her encounter with the world of images. Obliteration speaks to the kind of phenomenological violence committed against women subjects in their acute positioning within that world.

For such reasons, it should come as little surprise that Kusamas good friend Carolee Schneemann was especially taken with her friends notion of obliteration.101 And to be sure, Schneemann had no truck with the body. Nor was she troubled with the problem of the eye. Unlike Riley, Schneemanns being a woman artist was not a problem to transcend; it was, rather, the problem of being taken seriously as such a body. Parallel to the debates Rileys painting was to set into motion, Schneemann had produced a series of workone is tempted to call it a bodythat seemed to dissolve those binaries in advance of the fact. What Riley could only point to in her denials was fully and critically thematized in Schneemanns early to mid-sixties practice, from her discrete kinetic objects to her indiscrete kinetic theater. She understood well the terms of Kusamas self-obliteration. Schneemanns early kinetic worksmotorized objects with mirrorsas well as her later performances, Ghost Rev (1965) and Snows (1967) in particular, register precisely the ne line between the eyes motility and the bodys temporality; and more often than not they do so by acknowledging the problem of space and the environment inevitably introduced by the bodys movement within it. They also allegorize the bodys kinesis to the technological, even as they implicitly criticize the technocratic. As a young landscape painter in the late fties, as obsessed with Paul Czanne as with Willem de Kooning, Schneemann was especially interested in the bodys relation to the eye, with time mediating that relationship. Several privileged texts animated this interest, Henri Focillons Life of Forms in Art (1934) in particular. Schneemanns initial engagement with Focillons work in part stems from an activity that dramatizes the inversion of eye with body as a matter of movement in time, a peculiar encounter with the objects of the world motivated principally by the tactile sense. Following the artists recollections, she would move through libraries with her eyes closed and her hands up, waiting for a charge to emanate from the stacks. It was this way, Schneemann reports, that she (blindly) came upon Focillons book. In the Life of Forms in Art, Focillon argued for a new model of understanding artistic forms as occupying a dual relationship with time. What is the place of form in time, and how does it behave there? he asked.



To what extent is form time, and to what extent is it not? Now, on the one hand, a work of art is non-temporal; its activity, its struggle occur primarily in space. And on the other hand, it takes its place in a sequence both before and after other works of art. Its formation does not occur on the spur of the moment, but results from a long series of experiments. To speak of the life of forms is inevitably to invoke the idea of succession.102


Although acknowledging the essentially static form most works of art take, Focillon pressed the notion that art serves to index temporal secession. He made a claim for the essential (and temporal) contradiction that such objects represent: they are at once, unique and afrmativebecause concrete and materialbut also immersed in the whirlpool of time, and therefore subject to historical contingency. Particular approaches to the history of art are jettisoned as locking the art object into false dichotomies: conventional determinations of form and matter, for instance, come under special attack.103 Against such oppositional readings, which underscore the interpretive stability of the art object through antithesis,104 Focillon proposed a model of time in the forms of art that was also a thinking about space: a space-time continuum. His was not the space of soldiers and tourists but space specically qualied as matter and movement. Time took on a spatial, that is, environmental dimension. Focillons is a particular kind of formalism, and it pertains to Schneemanns take on the Eye/Body problem and her performative works. Form is the modality of life, he notes. Form is the graph of activity.105 Form, then, is an index of process, less so the art historical fetish of artistic technique. And it is ultimately the sense of touch around which all of these concerns are organized. Touch, so Focillon argued, is the term that best condenses (the) quadruple alliance between form, matter, artistic tool, and hand.106 Visuality is given relatively short shrift in the book. For the young Schneemann, then struggling with the conventions of landscape painting, Life of Forms in Art was a revelation. Focillon . . . gave me a sense of the structure of tactility, she recalls. What Focillon offered to me was that my position could be both xed and shifting . . . that it could be in motion and still discover form . . . and that form could come out of a visceral or gestural identication with what I was

looking at.107 That visceral identication would increasingly occur for the artist at the site of her own body, an object of perception that was likewise shifting visual territory. For the artist, then, there was a continuous ipping between the terms of subject and object, looker-at and looked-at. Describing this move to the body, Schneemann partly reasons, landscape painting was something at which one could only fail, a statement that implies that her attempts to x the vision of the world through painting could never adequately convey her haptic relationship to it.108 Instead she strived to break the plane established by the history of landscape by acknowledging the materiality of her own body in its construction.109 If my body is a seeing vehicle and a source of perceptual energy, she wonders, then how can I reestablish a female body, pull it off of this dead canvas?110 Introducing her body into the mix, Schneemann literally exposed the organon of her perception as it thrummedand in timewith the environment around her. The environment would stare back. In her serial project Eye Body (196263) for instance, Schneemann performed a set of actions for camera developed out of a roomsized environment in her studio (gure 3.8). She recalls wanting to counter the ways in which the female body had been typically represented in Pop art. The Great American Nudes of Tom Wesselman, for instance, infuriated herand she endeavored to produce work that would restore some agency to that body in dialectical relationship with the environment. Schneemanns handwritten notes to the action record the sense in which her bodily imbrication within space trafcked between the registers of seeing and touching, as much as it switched between the roles of subject and object.
I worked with my whole bodythe scale of the panels incorporating my own physical scale. . . . I then decided I wanted my actual body to be combined with the work as an integral material, a further dimension of the construction. . . . Not only am I an image-maker, but I explore the image values of my esh as material I choose to work with.111


3.8 Carolee Schneemann, Eye Body,

196263. Copyright the artist. Photo Err.

What is critical here is that this is not just any body in any space. This is not the universalized corpus of phenomenology, blank and denuded like a tabula rasa. Photographs taken by Schneemanns friend, the Icelandic

artist Err, present a female body who revels in her sexuality, if hardly a sexual object expected, determined by masculinist culture. The images themselves suggest a graph of activityto borrow Focillons felicitous expressionthat further mediates the woman artists relationship to the world as such a body. The body pictured is far from an abstraction: Schneemanns use of protofeminist iconography throughout the work namely, the serpentine forms of ancient matriarchal culturessquarely locates it in a historical tradition with deeply gendered implications. Paint, grease, chalk, and rope produce a chameleonlike subject who exhibits a bodily identication (empathy?) with the environment, an environment she herself produced. But if there is a marked visual correspondence between Schneemanns body and the space that surrounds her, never is she fully subsumed by it. The body has a stake in the visual environment to the extent that it organizes that environment. For Schneemanns body is further refracted in these images, given back to the viewer as reection through her placement of mirrors throughout the space. The use of mirrors might conventionally suggest interiority or, at worst, female narcissism, but Schneemanns incorporation of them in Eye Body acts to externalize the relationship between the gendered body and space, exposing it and opening it to spectatorship. Motorizing her mirrors was yet another means of breaking the plane, of trying to get the interior energy of the body into some extensivity that would also have an equivalence to the materiality of the work.112 Eye Body stages, at a relatively early moment in her career, many of the concerns that Schneemann would bring to bear on her more public kinetic theater. The title of the piece makes plain the virtually synesthetic dimension of her practice, in which the various components of the human sensorium take on a deeply felt interconnectedness. Here, haptic and optic cannot be parsed; they work in concert perceptually, and their inseparability as sensuous perception is temporally indexed through the serial logic of the camera. Here, too, Schneemann presents the body as a kinetic instrument, one that converges radically with the rhetoric of technology. Schneemanns use of motors thematizes this explicitly. In 1965, the same year Op burst onto the international art scene with The Responsive Eye, she wrote the following of her process in New York:



I am after the interpenetrations and displacements which occur between various sense stimuli; the interaction and exchange between the body and the environment outside it; the body as environment, for the mind . . . where images evolve . . . that total fabric wherein sensation shapes image, taste, touch, tactile impulses; various chemical changes and exchanges within the body and their eKect on the immediate present, on memories, actions in the present. Vision is not a fact but an aggregate of sensations.113


For Schneemann, vision is less a privileged term than an aggregate of all varia of sensations. Haptic and optic would nd their meeting ground in the body, and that body goes on to perceive an environment in which it is simultaneously embedded. A position that is at once xed and shifting: these were the terms that Schneemann so admired in Focillon, and her sensitivity toward that position as gendered would be played out with even greater vehemence in her subsequent performance work. Two kinetic theater pieces, as she preferred to call such performances, take off from the conceptual cues established by Eye Body, implicitly exploring the increasingly spectacular dimension of the midsixties visual environment and the bodys obliteration within it. They present the human sensorium through technological means: intermedia becomes an analogue of the synesthetic. Technology is always for me, Schneemann recalls, the way that I can use soft eshy stuff. Ive got to (incorporate) some hard systems to use soft eshy stuff. In order to physicalize the body, I also have to have a technology that establishes some kind of tension.114 That tension between the body and technology was acknowledged in the very notion of kinetic theater. The kinetic was the mechanical and the machinicit assumed predictable functionsbut it was also the bodys systematicity: the heart is a pump, the lungs are valves, the veins a hydraulic system. At the heart of both Ghost Rev and Snows is the convergence and then interference of visual and technological media with and by the body. Both were intermedia works variously incorporating dance, performance, painting, installation, sound, and lm projections. Compared to Schneemanns most famous performance work of 1964, Meat Joy, both were characterized by a relatively high degree of technical input. Ghost Rev was developed with the collaborative community USCO

(short for Us Company); whereas Snows received technological support from Billy Klver and various participants in E.A.T. Schneemanns collaboration with USCO proved among her most important mid-sixties performances. Led by the charismatic gure of Gerd Stern, USCO was akin to an artists co-op based in an abandoned church in Garnerville, New York; any artist who wished to live at the church and work on projects was welcome.115 Utopian in their commitment to the marriage between art and technology, USCO created kinetic-light and intermedia environments before disbanding, at which point Stern took up a post at the Harvard Business School and formed Intermedia Systems, Inc. with George H. Litwin. For Schneemann, the opportunity to collaborate with USCO fullled her peculiar engagement with technology as it cleaved with the body in space. USCO wanted me to collaborate with them, she recalls, and I wanted to introduce a set of movements and actions that would fracture and interfere with the xity, the rigidity of projectionits predictability. . . . Since they were doing projection systems that had built-in variable systems to them, they seemed perfect.116 Produced for Jonas Mekass New Cinema Festival at Manhattans Cinematheque, Ghost Rev consisted of Schneemann and the dancer Phoebe Neville performing against and interacting with lms and projections developed by USCO and Schneemann. The idea was to work against the physical integrity of the lms while at the same time immersing themselves within its visual space through shared actions. The suggestiveness of this act was to the point for a mid-sixties culture made increasingly aware of communications media. Subversion was far from the issueto believe one could wholly disrupt the system of images was naivebut to produce a certain ambiguity around the image as it progressively came to dominate the environment was something else. As early as 1963, the artist wrote about the colonization of urban space by the visual sign systems of advanced capital, namely, advertising: Advertising so permeates the environment; people cannot make adjustment to landscape or cityscape; the body does not extend into space but is caught mind-focused, message bent. . . . Messages/ Instructions gird the senses. Otherwise, the visual rape of our cities . . . could not proceed as it does.117 Schneemann gives voice to the senses being controlled, girded, or reigned in by cues supplied by the visual




environment. The cues themselves are explicitthey are given in the service of selling a bill of goodsand their cumulative effect is a kind of visual rape. Bodily space is increasingly threatened by it, so environmental space is feminized as well. No longer can the body simply extend into a space progressively choked with such visual information. But that invasion of bodily space by the image of advertising found its parodic inversion in Schneemanns attempt to enlarge painting through multimedia performance. Schneemann had yet to incorporate lm into her performance at that point: only a year earlier she had begun making her rst lm, Fuses. Hence she saw the Ghost Rev collaboration with USCO as increasing the ambiguity of the focal point of lm into actual space118 (gure 3.9). Against the lms Highfreethrusafeway, Y, Omix, and Ghost Rev (one lm, Jud Yalkuts Diffraction Film, was projected without their performing), Schneemann and Neville began their actions. They ranged from shredding layers of paper with knives on which the images were screened; trying to paint words and numbers as those images ashed by as projections; crawling into and around the audience from ladders connecting the stage to the seats; tying each other together with ropes in a precarious balancing act; sculpting or painting the other performers face, ghostlike, with whiting. A simultaneous cutting into and melding with the projections characterized the performance, as if to arrest the ow of images as the performers bodies merged with them. The goal was, according to Schneemann, to disrupt it, but it was also to be inclusive, because it had that endless layering or merging.119 As she further puts it, the images own surface was being questioned instantly, and interactively. To be stressed here is how Schneemann conceived of the bodys interaction with an image now spatialized by new visual technologies. Describing the body as it simultaneously sought to control and blend with that image, she claims, you could be both presence and shadow, you couldnt tell if you were lm or live action, there was a constant back and forth.120 Even more telling is the language of blindness Schneemann accords to her work. As the performers body emerges fully illuminated to the audience, caught up in the visual cone of the lmic projection, the eye, paradoxically, is momentarily deprived of its sensory function. The performer couldnt see. And yet for Schneemann,


this blindness was oddly empowering. Being hit by the beam, as Schneemann recalls, produces the sense in which
you are suddenly encapsulated within this projection that you cant see . . . but youre denitely making some kind of interaction with it. . . . [I]ts all about going blind. . . . Its very physical, being caught in that beam (but) its also completely freeing because you cant see a damn person. . . . [T]he audience is gone. Theyre looking right through you and they dont know theyre gone!121

3.9 Carolee Schneemann, Ghost Rev,

1965. Courtesy the artist, New York. Photo Peter Moore, Estate of Peter Moore/VAGA, New York.


This is a strange form of liberation, but freeing for Schneemann nonetheless. It is even described by the artist as transcendent. The spatialized image is so full, so excessive, that the performer reaches the limit condition of visuality itself: Im so suffused that Im blind, like your whole system is just this suffused eye.122 What remains in the wake of vision is the body, if a body haptically grasping: tearing at the space of the image, attempting fruitlessly to secure numbers, letters, pictures as they it by as ghostly projections; sculpting the face of ones performing partner while simultaneously obliterating her with whitingall against a blinding beam of articial light. Such gestures, for Schneemann, constitute a peculiar type of obliteration, of being obliterated into the materiality of an image that had assumed an environmental or architectural force.123 And yet that obliteration was paradoxically transcendent, if provisionally so. It was transcendent to the extent that a woman artist might confront the material limits placed on eye and body in a new technoculture or might nd some way of controlling the image as it threatened to engulf her. To be sure, while the actions of Ghost Rev themselves seemed violent, as if anticipating Laura Mulveys famous discussion on women and the Gaze in narrative cinema (and though no feminist can avoid the patently Oedipal connotations attached to blinding), Schneemanns loss of sight in this performance was at the same time a refusal to see. Refusing to see was a refusal to participate in the conventional economies linking vision to control. These concerns found a more politically topical analogue in Schneemanns later Snows (1967) a large-scale performance that similarly played with the thematics of bodily interference within a


3.10 Carolee Schneemann, Snows,

1967. Courtesy the artist, New York. Photo Peter Moore, Estate of Peter Moore/VAGA, New York.

newly technologized, visual environment (gure 3.10). This time, however, the particular object of Schneemanns performance was the atrocity images coming daily out of Vietnam; the proliferation of these photographs in the media produced for Schneemann their own form of collective insanity, sprawled as they were across newspapers, televisions, and magazines, both public and domestic space. Performed at the Martinique Theater in New York for eight nights at the end of January and the beginning of February in 1967, it included Shigeko Kubota, Tyrone Mitchell, Phoebe Neville, James Tenney, and Peter Watts. As in Ghost Rev, the performance incorporated lm footage: Snows contained ve lms, including Schneemanns montage of Vietnam images Viet-Flakes. Insofar as Snows was a performance about the image of Vietnam in the mass media, so too did it provide commentary on the technology of the media that produced that image. The living room war brought those images into constant circulation. To make a performance about this issue required enormous technical input; it certainly begged Schneemanns own faith about the importance culture placed in the technological.124 Various members of E.A.T. facilitated the construction of an interactive relay system between performers and audience. What concerned Schneemann was that the images, however horric, did not immediately read as pictures from the war; likewise, she was bent on keeping the roles of the performers exible, open to cues established by the audience. The imagery of Snows is ambiguous, she wrote,
shifting metaphors in which the performers are merely themselves, as well as victim, torturer and tortured, aggressor, love and beloved. . . . A dozen audience seats were wired with contact microphones; when people in these seats shifted about, the contact microphones amplied the sound which in turn was channeled into a scr converter and changed the moving light machines.125

Schneemann further rationalized the use of a complex relay system through the following terms:

I wanted to have these systems of interference, so that even after I could make the most complex, determined sequences of projections . . . there could be some system to interrupt them so that the performers

or participants would also be constantly oK-guard. . . . [W]e were always sort of lost in the process of the piece and on edge because we were being retriggered. What we were responding to was complex.126


3.11 James Stevenson, Op Art cartoon,

On the one hand, Schneemanns work provided a means to interrupt the system of images; on the other, that interruption itself underscored the mediation of the body by the visual environment. The notion that one was retriggered or, better, reconditioned by visual cues given in space produced, for Schneemann, something of the confusion one faced in the barrage of images streaming rapid re out of Vietnam. How to respond? How to locate ones self in relation to a conict deeply mystied by both distance and the media? Ultimately, the confusion that ensued in Snows was a bodily confusion, a loss of control of the body by the image at large. Snows, Schneemann recalls, had to do with the toughening of the materiality of the media . . . theyre here now, theyre entering . . . and theyre changing my body.127 Visions of atrocity and dread, transcended either by a peculiar kind of bodily confusion or, as in her earlier work, blindness: this was Schneemanns response to the Eye/Body problemthe problem as it existed for a woman artist who wholly acknowledged the horizon of new technology and the changed nature of the sense ratio along with it. This brings us full circle to Riley and her denials. Rileys insistence on rejecting the controlling aspects of her work only dramatized the force of her larger reception. Schneemanns approach, though the farthest thing from Op, managed to tap into the broader social controversies that art called up. Unlike Riley, Schneemanns engagement with the Eye/Body problem in sixties media cultureand its peculiar effect on women in particularallowed her to move forcefully within it.

The New Yorker, 1965. Cartoon All rights reserved.

And on that note, one that takes account of the dangerously spatializing effects born of mid-sixties visual culture, I want to end with a 1965 cartoon from the New Yorker. It is from a series that treats the Op art phenomenon as literally closing in on the spectator as an environmental force (gure 3.11). In the nal image of the suite, a man strolls out from a building, perhaps the Museum of Modern Art, perhaps a mid-

town Manhattan gallery, only to discover a world gone vibrantly, if suspiciously, optical. Checks and dots and grids veil the facades of buildings, pavement, garbage cans; the sun itself glows like a cathode ray tube. But though the cartoon is playful in its winking allusion to the effects Op produced for its viewers, it also suggests a far more sinister scenario for Ops detractors. It is as if the paintings inside the museum were hooked up to a vast network outside it, one that conspired in its visual effects to produce a tactile experience of the world more real than real, like a hallucination. It is the image writ everywhere, the world picture gone haptic. And it is Riley, as the reluctant It Girl of Op, who has been forced to lead the charge, from the walls of the museum to the shop windows on the street to the television screen in the living room. The Spectacle is just around the corner.128




The universe has a nite velocity which limits not only the spread of its events, but also the speed of our perceptions. The moment of actuality slips too fast by the slow, coarse net of our senses. George Kubler 1 The matter of time is essential in all estimates of the matter of information. A code or cipher, for example, which will cover any considerable amount of material at high-secrecy level is not only a lock which is hard to force, but also one which takes considerable time to open legitimately. Norbert Wiener 2 Art not only communicates through space, but also through time. Robert Smithson 3


In November 1966, Robert Smithson published a remarkable essay in Arts Magazine entitled Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space (gures 4.1 and 4.2). Like many of the artists most important writings of the sixties, it takes up the question of time in contemporary art. Equal parts concrete poetry and hallucinatory rant, Quasi-Innities subscribes less to the syntax of traditional art writing than it makes scattershot reference to the most disparate cultural phenomena: pyramids and ziggurats; modernist literary criticism, classical physics, science ction. It is not an easy read. The essay makes graphic use of the space of the page: textual information and visual information are held in dynamic tension with one another, its ground noisy with pictures and splintered citations. Underscoring the importance of its design, Smithson began the piece by attending to its layout. In prose both blank and tautological, he wrote,
Around four blocks of print I shall postulate four ultramundane margins that shall contain indeterminate information as well as reproduced reproductions.4

Thus the four-page article is structured around four text columns, each graphically quarantined by a thick black border. Yet what is literally peripheral to these sections is by no means marginal to the work. The notes and images to the piece swirl dizzyingly around the language blocks, as if to offset their semantic authority. Vying for the attention of the reader, they dramatize the ipping between word and image that recurs throughout Smithsons art.


4.1 Robert Smithson, Quasi-Innities

and the Waning of Space, ArtsMagazine (New York) 41, no. 1 (November 1966). Art and text Estate of RobertSmithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York.


One piece of marginalia deserves particular note as it nds its mirror reection in the space of the text. At the left-hand gutter of the second page is a quote by the Mesoamericanist and architectural historian George Kubler, taken from his 1962 book The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (gure 4.3). Although inanimate things remain our most tangible evidence that the old human past really existed, it reads, the conventional metaphors used to describe this visible past are mainly biological.5 Spliced from its originary source, the citation at rst seems no more nor less important than any of the other textual and visual scraps that circle the main body of Smithsons essay. Here, however, I want to take this reference seriously, wondering what roles Kubler might play in the interpretation of Smithsons strange, vertiginous system. How might we treat Quasi-Innities through Kublers terms? And how, if at all, are these terms in dialogue with the larger rhetorical eld of the essay, not to mention the art of the 1960s in general? Now what is not under dispute in the following is the art historians importance to the artist and a broad range of his contemporaries. Scholars have alluded to this relationship, treating the rhetorical similitude between Smithson and Kubler as a kind of deconstruction before the letter.6 No doubt Kublers thinking about time courses throughout Quasi-Innities as well as another Smithson contribution to Arts Magazine of the following year, a piece entitled Ultramoderne. The connection is borne out by numerous other artifacts. Smithsons essay Some Void Thoughts on Museums bears ample reference to The Shape of Time, and an earlier draft of Quasi-Innities carries the far more prosaic, if telling, title Art and Time. It is less the question of pairing Kubler and Smithson that is at stake than the peculiar nature of their imagined exchange. These textual encounters occasion a different assessment of Kublers writing in the art and art criticism of the sixties. For why might The Shape of Time, a book lled with the most arcane references to Riegl, the Visigoths, and the sequencing of Greek vase painting, resonate so strongly within the most progressive circles of sixties art? Kublers audience of contemporary artists was not restricted to Smithson. The prominent gure Ad Reinhardt published a review of The Shape of Time in Art News in 1964, and the radically experimental art magazine Aspen saw t to invite him to contribute to a 1967 issue that included John Cage, Morton Feldman, Susan Sontag, and


4.2 Robert Smithson, Quasi-Innities

and the Waning of Space, Arts Magazine (New York) 41, no. 1 (November 1966). Art and text Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Merce Cunningham.7 Perhaps the best-known example in which a contemporary artist treated Kubler is Robert Morris, whose masters thesis on Constantin Brancusi attempted to examine the sculptors output through Kublers terms. The art historian himself reected upon the prestige accorded to his book by artists. In the working notes for a lecture delivered in 1981, he observed, there have been rumors that The Shape of Time has its largest following among artists in this country. It is also said that their interest in it arises from the freedom it offers them from those rigid hierarchies dened by the textbook industry in the history of art.8 Kublers suspicions might be correct in the most general sense, but they are neither especially descriptive nor useful in addressing the question of his reception among a contemporary art audience. This chapter attempts to account for this problem. Focusing on Smithsons Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space, I will argue that Kubler serves as a cipher in the reading of much sixties art, one through whom concerns about time and technology were implicitly addressed if not consciously articulated. My claim might be reduced to a Smithsonian shorthand: what is ultramoderne about Kubler for Smithson that is, what is excessively modern about the Mesoamericanistis a consideration of time that illuminates theories of information technology just emerging within the popular consciousness of the two decades following the war. What follows, then, is a buried history of reception organized around three gures: Kubler rst, Smithson second, and nallyperhaps, surprisinglythe MIT mathematician Norbert Wiener, one of the founders of the theory of communication known as cybernetics. The constellation of the three opens onto an important if curious episode in sixties art, one that distills a fundamental crisis of temporality from the larger culture of that moment. We might call this crisis the acutely contemporary phenomena of noncontemporaneity, of not being with the time.



Lets begin with Kubler and Smithson, an odd match at the face of it. Perhaps the relationship between Kubler and the contemporary art of the sixties, much less Smithson and technology, seems untenable at


4.3 George Kubler, cover of The Shape

of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962). Courtesy Yale University Press.


rst. To be sure, Kublers scholarly prole as a Mesoamericanist does not immediately recommend him to the pantheon of postwar critics that includes Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. His biography demonstrates the traditional, if not conservative, itinerary of the wellheeled academic, far less so the radical art critic. The son of Frederick Kubler, an art historian who trained in Germany at Wrzburg University, he was born in Los Angeles, or Hollywood as he was fond of saying, in 1912. He received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1940 as a student of Henri Focillon, whose La Vie des Formes would prove central to the younger art historian; he also undertook extensive coursework at the Institute of Fine Arts with Panofsky.9 Anthropologyparticularly the work of A. L. Kroeberplayed a correlative role in this formation.10 Soon after writing his pioneering dissertation on the religious architecture of New Mexico, Kubler joined the faculty at Yale, where he taught until his retirement in 1983. He continued to live in Hamden, Connecticut, until his death in 1996. Throughout his long career, Kubler authored a series of highly inuential publications whose subject matter was regarded as quite unorthodox when they rst appeared. They include Mexican Architecture of the Sixteenth Century, Population Movements in New Mexico: 15201600, The Kuchua in the Colonial World, Building the Escorial, and a survey Art and Architecture of Ancient America. From this short biography, one is tempted to argue that Kublers scholarship on Latin American culture held particular sway for Smithson, given the connections drawn insistently between preColumbian art and the earth work of the late sixties and seventies for which the artist is best known. The land art of the moment, including both Smithsons and Michael Heizers exploration of pre-Columbian architecture, would seem to make this connection explicit.11 Smithson, after all, made critical references to both Mesoamerican and colonial Mexican culture in works as formative as Incidents of Mirror Travel in the Yucatan, and The Hotel Palenque. And Ultramoderne, an essay in which Kubler gures prominently (gure 4.4), concerns the modernist architecture of 1930s New York as a transhistorical nod to the religious structures of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya. There, the blocked forms of a Manhattan apartment building were thought to replicate the stepped prole of an Aztec ziggurat. Yet to claim an afnity between the two on these terms alone is to miss the point on a number of levels, not the least of which is that


4.4 Robert Smithson, Ultramoderne,

Arts Magazine 42, no. 1 (September 1967). Art Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York.


Smithson engaged Kubler in his art well before his Yucatan-inspired works of 1969.12 To make such connections necessaryto read Spiral Jetty as the historical terminus of the Nazca Lines, for exampleis to succumb to the kind of enfeebled historicism both Kubler and Smithson violently rejected. It is, in other words, to confuse the iconography of architecture and its surface effects for the conceptual and procedural logic subtending their respective accounts. It is useful to recall Krausss warning against making such connections in the site-specic practices of the sixties and seventies. In her 1979 essay Sculpture in the Expanded Field, she argues precisely against those readingsso common to the art criticism of the daythat understand land art as the inevitable coda to the monumental sites of prehistory.13 Instead, at play between Kubler and Smithson is something of the deep structure of history elaborated in The Shape of Time. Written while its author was recovering from a serious illness, it was referred to by Kubler as his little book, a rather modest assessment for a work that was translated into over ten languages; that was reprinted continuously from its initial publication in 1962; and that counted among its enthusiastic supporters thinkers ranging from Panofsky to Kracauer.14 A slim volume whose physical dimensions belied the enormous impact it would have on both the art and art history of the decade, The Shape of Time staked a radical, certainly broad claim in its imperative to speak to the history of things. By things, of course, Kubler was not describing works of ne art typically conceived but material culture more generally. Both its objects of study and methodological approach were interdisciplinary decades before the notion assumed the academic currency it now carries. Drawing from the language of anthropology, geology, linguistics, physics, archaeology, philosophy, astronomy, and math, it moved freely between discussions of the potters of Kaminaljuyu to graph theory to Charles Darwin to the Carracci family. As such it served Kublers interests of enlarging the scope of aesthetic experience, as much as it foregrounded the importance of a multicultural approach to the discipline. In step with its interdisciplinary reach, The Shape of Time was also rhetorically expansive. Critics remarked that the book, which numbered a brief 130 pages, veered dramatically in writerly tone and methodological sensibility. They noted that Kublers approach to his subject was compressed to the point of being elliptical; that his comments on

historical change in the arts were presented in a clipped, sometimes clinical language. Occasionally, though, Kublers almost epigrammatic prose gave way to deeply poetic, sometimes orid passages, recalling his indebtedness to Focillons La Vie des Formes and its signature literary style. In this virtual switching of authorial voicesthe one dry, terse, and analytic, the other purplish and romanticKubler unwittingly betrayed a methodological ambivalence toward the very disciplines he was himself attempting to breach. It was as if his training in the humanities had met up with the hard, prescriptive language of the sciences; and the writerly encounter was less seamless and compatible than what the author might have imagined. Although the point is of more than passing interestand we shall consider its reverberations in other elds of inquiryit was not, of course, what garnered The Shape of Time its particular acclaim. Rather, the book drew the share of its attention in offering a new system for describing historical change in the visual arts, one with deeply structuralist implications.15 In its broad concern for both the technics of preindustrial art making as well as modern art, The Shape of Time was a radical rejection of a linear art history, one that atly dismissed the dominant iconographic accounts of the period as so much pallid symbolism. Instead Kublers approach was organized around the principle of formal sequencing, emphasizing the structures and taxonomies of historical change over an investigation into the meanings and content of artifacts themselves. Historical time . . . is intermittent and variable, Kubler wrote. [E]very action is more intermittent than it is continuous, and the intervals between actions are innitely variable in duration and content.16 This intermittent, even disjunctive theory of history was explained through the intertwined concepts of the formclass, the closed series, and the open sequence. For Kubler, the peculiar organization of these terms underscored the unevenness of historical development, the lurching and halting of artistic problems throughout time writ large across a broad, seemingly random swatch of material culture. Central to this account was the form class. The form class was not so much an objective thing as much as it was a problem that occurred across time and was represented by a series of artifacts, each of which acted as early, middle, and late versions of the same problem or action. The form class was inaugurated by what Kubler called a prime object;




its subsequent incarnations might include a replica or copy called a replication. Kubler described the form class as being like a chain of linked solutions with the chain itself being history. The history of art, he noted, resembles a broken but much-repaired chain made of string and wire to connect the occasional jeweled links surviving as physical evidences of the invisible original sequence of prime objects. 17 Depending on when the problem emerged at a particular historical moment when it made its virtual entrance into the chaina provisional solution might become available. If the problem was resolved over time, the form class was part of a closed series. If it required additional elaboration, it belonged to an open sequence and might be reactivated under entirely different historical circumstances. The eld of history contains many circuits which never close 18 Kubler remarked, as if to suggest that new historical conditions bring with them new contingencies. History would thus seem the stuff of endless problem solving, with the peculiar shape of time a repeated uncertainty. Still, for all its emphasis on the linkage between different eras and cultures, Kublers was by no means a reading of history as style, let alone archetype. Notions of period stylea kind of historical glue that binds all objects of the same time together in a sticky morasswould prove strongly offensive to the art historian. Kubler considered the form class as being analytical and divisive rather than synthetic in nature. Yet if he pointed to a certain continuum of problems throughout art history, it was less in the service of universalizing cultural production than rejecting the avant-gardism of his own critical moment. Speaking to the situation of the contemporary artist and art historian, he made a claim for the approaching exhaustion of new discoveries in art and the possible end of the avant-garde.19 Aesthetic fatigue, as he called it, was the fallout of this endless questing for originality, not to mention the faith placed in this questing. More generally, Kubler understood this artistic phenomenon as embedded within a condition of the larger culture. A signal trait of our own time is an ambivalence in everything touching upon change.20 There is, in such phrasing, a thinking about futurity that bears upon the widespread currency of The Shape of Time for a sixties art audience. Although Kublers strangely technical language proved obscure to a few early reviewers of his book, many critics embraced its general critique of stylistic historicism.21 His considerations on the

rhetoric of progress, above all, bore signicant implications for his audience engaged in contemporary art. For Kubler, the reading of art history as style was grounded in the language of biology, to be avoided at all costs. However useful it is for pedagogical purposes, he wrote, the biological metaphor of style as a sequence of life stages was historically misleading, for it bestowed upon the ux of events the behavior and shape of organisms.22 The idea of art history as an organism as a self-contained and homogenous systemwas antithetical to the discontinuous history Kubler proposed. These remarks tell us much about Smithsons attraction to Kubler. In both Quasi-Innities and Ultramoderne, Smithson linked issues of style to formalist criticism, which he further rejected for its biological resonance. In note 15 of Quasi-Innities, he meshed the two when he wrote about the contemporary criticism of abstraction: the biological metaphor is at the bottom of all formalist criticism. The sentiment courses throughout the main text. And a year later in Ultramoderne, Smithson read the art of the sixties in general as a turning away from this model of criticism, observing a transhistorical consciousness has emerged in the sixties that seems to avoid appeals to the organic time of the avant-garde.23 Thus the equation between Kubler and Smithson would appear not only seamless but complete. Kublers distaste for biological metaphorsreadings of art history in terms of progress and growthts neatly with Smithsons distaste for Greenbergian formalism. The circuit, to paraphrase the art historian, would seem all but closed. But a reading of the two that stops here is no more satisfactory than saying Smithson makes reference to Kubler for his expertise in Latin American art. It sets the two in parallel with one another as little more than a mirroring of similar quotations, the reection of which seems at once direct and transparent. Doubtlessly Smithson rejected the biological model of art historical time, but far more was at stake in his encounter with Kubler. For an artist who consistently thematized process and ruin in his larger corpusand for an article that graphically delights in the fragmenting and dispersal of information at its bordersone questions the hermetic, even mechanistic, nature of this exchange. Kubler himself provides some cues to an alternative reading of his appearance in Smithson. In The Shape of Time he wrote,



We cannot clearly descry the contours of the great currents of our own time. . . . [W]e are too much inside the streams of contemporary happening to chart their ow and volume. We are confronted with inner and outer historical surface. Of these only the outer surfaces of the completed past are accessible to historical knowledge.24


Here Kubler gives voice to the problem of contemporaneity. It is a problem of presentness. Standing in the streams of contemporary happening as we are, we cannot stabilize our relation to the currents of our own time. Only when one is at a historical distance from the present might the processes of historiographic reconstruction be set into motion. Only then might the contours of a completed past be rendered historically legible.25 This issue raises the question of time for both Kubler and Smithson. Might there be some logic to Smithsons work about which he was not fully aware, as if his contemporaneity with Kubler acted as a blind spot in reading The Shape of Time? In other words, might this invocation of Kubler point to another model of time altogether, one whose contours were not wholly accessible to the very presentness the artist inhabited? Earlier I mentioned that Kubler acts as a cipher for Smithson, by which I mean he represents something beyond his putative role as art historian proper. And that something is the trope of technology, signaled by yet another bit of marginalia in QuasiInnities. For on the same page as the reference to Kubler, occupying the same gutter space, is a quote as seemingly elliptical as the art historians. Dr. J. Bronowski among others, it reads, has pointed out that mathematics, which most of us see as the most factual of all sciences, constitutes the most colossal metaphor imaginable, and must be judged, aesthetically, as well as intellectually, in terms of the success of this metaphor (gure 4.5). The citation is drawn from a book entitled The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener. It dates from 1950, and its larger eld of reference is the study of cybernetics, a theory of messages and the control of information (gure 4.6). Like the quote by Kubler placed almost directly above it, it addresses a problem of communication, or to be more precise, metaphorthe way one gure of speech is employed to describe another gure of speech, which in turn hooks up to another


4.5 Robert Smithson, detail, Quasi-

Innities and the Waning of Space, Arts Magazine (New York) 41, no. 1 (November 1966). Art and text Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

gure of speech. Metaphor, understood in its broadest sense, is the endless concatenation of language. As Roland Barthes succinctly put it, metaphor does not stop.26 Metaphor points to the metaphoricity of all forms of communication, the porosity of any discursive system. Say, then, that metaphor is the thematic link between the two margin notes on the same page of Quasi-Innities. What about the second text in this chain and the metaphoric work it performs on Kubler, and vice versa? This connection between Wieners book and The Shape of Time is crucial. It coordinates the relationship between pastness, futurity, and technologylong an obsession in Smithsons artwith the way he structures information in Quasi-Innities.


[T]he historians idea of change is related to the linguists idea of drift exemplied by the progressive separation that widens between cognate languages. This drift, produced by cumulative changes in the articulation of sounds can be related in turn to the interferences that distort any audible communication. The telephone engineer calls such interferences noise. Drift, noise, and change are related by the presence of interferences preventing the complete repetition of an earlier set of conditions. George Kubler 27 As much as the link between Smithson and Kubler has been established by art historians, so too has the connection between Smithson and technology. Accounts by Caroline Jones and Eugenie Tsai respectively have treated the relationship in terms of the artists fascination with postwar industrialism and a parallel engagement with science ction.28 Far less considered is a reading of Smithson through the lens of cybernetics; as an artist wrestling, however implicitly, with debates on systems and information theory. Yet these references exist in his work as much asand certainly run parallel tothe artists engagement with the ruins of a Machine Age culture that his generation of postwar artists inherited. Indeed, Smithsons preoccupations with the past were



4.6 Jacket cover from The Human Use

of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener, 1950. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.


matched only in intensity by his engagement with futurity, and such concerns took acute shape in his own thinking about new technologies as well as the contemporary appraisal of his work. However removed such readings might seem from our thinking about Smithson in the present, and whatever his own suspicions about his works reception, his art was consistently regarded by critics and curators in relationship to systems theory.29 Here, then, I want to argue that Quasi-Innities is both a confrontation with and adumbration of a cybernetic model of temporality, and it is through the mouthpiece of Kubler that such interests are ventriloquized. Not that this is a matter of intention or declaration on the artists partfar from it. My claim is that Smithson reads both Kubler and Wiener in parallax with one another. He reads them against the grain, positions them heuristically, as a virtual process of assimilating the other authors work. One helps situate the other. In both cases for Smithson, it all comes down to communication over time. Or to be more precise, the problem of communication over time. Although the placement of Wiener and Kubler on the same page of Quasi-Innities might seem incidental, little more than the random collision of two roughly contemporaneous gures, their literal proximity sheds light on their conceptual intersection nonetheless. Smithson did not discuss Wiener with the same frequency as he treated the art historian, but it is more than suggestive that when the term cybernetics is mentioned in his writings, the name of Kubler is likely to augur its appearance. In his piece called The Artist as Site-Seer; or, a Dintorphic Essay (196667), for example, Smithson ranged over a number of topics with the same slack prose-style as in Quasi-Innities. Tellingly, a ramble on the notion of Kublers prime objects gives way to a discussion on cybernetics as tombic communicationa kind of mortied discourse bearing parallels to the grave architecture of ancient Egypt. Whatever noise or interference exists between Wiener and Kubler as historical gures belies their linkage in Smithsons thinking on time. In Wieners 1948 Cybernetics: Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine and the laypersons account of information theory cited by Smithson, the mathematician presented a model of communication through the term cybernetics a word whose root (kubernetes) derives from the Greek for steersman as well as the modern word for governor. As the etymology suggests, cybernetics is a science of

control, or predicative valueof taking account of futurity and its probabilistic tendencies and attempting to regulate it through the management of messages. Cybernetics, therefore, subscribes to the time of prolepsis, the future tense. Growing out of research and developments in antiaircraft technology, its history is intractable from the military science of World War II. The capacity to foreseeor foreread the actions of the enemy is a projective capacity; and it was Wiener, along with Vannevar Bush, Arturo Rosenblatt, and John von Neumann, who played a pivotal role in its development. Wiener opened Cybernetics with a chapter on the shift between Newtonian models of time and Bergsonian ones in the modern age, highlighting the importance of temporality for considerations of the new communication science. As we shall see, how this inects an understanding of history as a linear unfolding is played out in the very margins of Smithsons article. Indeed, from its inception, one branch of cybernetics took up the question of temporality and teleological mechanisms: how selfregulating systems internalized a notion of time far removed from its commonplace understanding as lived experience or clock time. 30 The topic was to occupy Wiener consistently throughout his career, particularly in his publishing forays into neurology.31 But at an even more general level, the subject of time became something of a cottage industry for engineers and biologists alike within the institutional culture of science in the sixties.32 The cybernetic perspective, it is doubtless, had a signicant impact on such proceedings. Now why cybernetics might be of interest to Smithson, let alone any contemporary artist of the period, demands some explanation. To some extent this book has already addressed this question in the account of Art and Objecthood, tracing the logic of systems in the art criticism of the era. Likewise, cybernetic discourse in the rst two decades following the war extended well beyond its original military foundations, perhaps even served to suppress that history of its origins. Its widespread applications were such that a famous series of conferences on the theme were sponsored by the Macy Foundation in New York between 1946 and 1953. They included not only cyberneticiansfamous mathematicians and engineers such as Wiener, John von Neumann, Warren McCullough, and Claude Shannonbut anthropologists, social scientists, psychoanalysts, and linguists ranging




from Margaret Mead to Gregory Bateson to Eric Erikson to Roman Jakobson.33 As detailed in chapter 1, systems discourse took on many formulations at this momenthighly inuential readings include Shannons account of information theory and the general systems analyses of von Bertalanffy. But it was Wieners name that would become synonymous with cybernetics broad understanding in the popular imagination. In the years following the books publication, and well after Wieners death in 1964, cybernetics became something of a pop culture buzzword, used to describe or interrogate phenomena as wide ranging as the centralization of power during the Cold War, modern religion, behavioral psychology, child rearing, alcoholism, dialectical materialism, and deteriorating ecosystems. Its impact extended well beyond the spheres of institutional science and its original military applications: as the historian of science Steve Heims observes, it made itself felt widely in the humanities and the postwar culture of literature, art, architecture, and poetry. But the popular understanding of cybernetics was not just multidisciplinary. Not only did it attempt to theorize the gap between math, engineering, and the social sciences; it also hoped to analogize the workings of the human and nonhuman. For Wiener, writing in 1950, cybernetics was a tentative new theory of scientic method that referred not only to the study of language but the capacity to regulate or control the transmission of information within a range of different systems: biological, mechanical, electronic, and temporal.34 Thus animals and machines were subject to cybernetic analysis, and the human nervous system and its capacity for learning was regarded as roughly analogous to the functions of the new computers. The distance between man and machine seemed to close, anticipating what Manfred Klines and Nathan Clyne would subsequently call the cyborg in 1960 a neat contraction of the words cybernetic and organism. For all its multidisciplinary relevance, the man principally responsible for the theory of cybernetics expressed a certain ambivalence about the uses to which his research was put. Relatively early in the history of the theory, Wiener voiced his suspicion over making neat analogies between communicative and information systems and between social and biological ones, even as it was popularly employed (and often by his own colleagues and friends) to do just that and even

as much of his own words seemed to support such analogizing. Information is information, Wiener wrote in Cybernetics, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.35 Such statements seemed to draw a virtual line in the sand between the scientic and the humanistic; they seemingly preclude, if in a tentative way, the interdisciplinary impulse that drew many to cybernetic discourse in the rst place. But an even more pressing anxiety about cybernetics existed not so much how it was understood as a theoretical conceit or even method but what is was exploited for as science. Peter Galison attests to Wieners fears about the technology he himself created, themes consistent with the engineers subsequent writing on the topic. Galison cites Wieners letter to a friend from 1945:
Ever since the atomic bomb fell I have been recovering from an acute attack of conscience as one of the scientists who has been doing war work and who has seen his war work as part of a larger body which is being used in a way of which I do not approve and over which I have absolutely no control.36


There is no small irony in the observation that Wieners theory of control had exceeded his very grasp of it. He acknowledges a deeply fraught history at its origins, one that saw scientic progress and military destruction as unhappy but necessary bedfellows.37 Another consequence might be understood from his observations. In both his concern surrounding the uses of cybernetics, as well as his reservations about analogizing all varia of communicative systems, Wiener points to a larger problem of communicability between systems that his own research would seek to transcend. Although this history is critical on its own terms, most likely it fails to resonate with art historians.38 In its telling, admittedly, it does not answer to the relationships among the cybernetician, the art historian, and the artist. Yet strange, perhaps muted signals as to this connection exist in the work and reception of other contemporary gures and the art critical discourse that accompanied them. They reveal that what is obscure for a reader in the twenty-rst century was at least tacitly understood for a sixties artist, namely, the very problem


of communication in general and a problem of communicating history as a system in particular.


Take, for example, the strange case of John Baldessari and his participation in the important exhibition at the Jewish Museum called Software: Information Technology: Its Meaning for the Arts. In chapter 1, I discussed this show with respect to the Friedian account of temporality. Here it is invoked to slightly different ends, and a review of its background is critical as such. The show was organized in 1970 by Jack Burnham, then a professor at Northwestern University as well as an artist. Best known for his 1968 book Beyond Modern Sculpture, Burnham argued generally for a fundamental historical transition in the production of works of art: the shift from the making of discrete objects to systems-based work, alleged to mirror the waning of the Machine Age and the concomitant emergence of digital technology after the war. In a number of essays dating from the late sixties, he made claims that a new systems aesthetic was laying siege to the traditional categories of Western art and its media. Writing on artists ranging from Smithson to Hans Haacke to Alan Kaprow to Carl Andre, Burnham suggested of this new model of art that
[t]he emerging major paradigm in art is neither an ism nor a collection of styles. Rather than a novel way of rearranging surfaces and spaces, it is fundamentally concerned with the implementation of the art impulse in an advanced technological society. As a culture producer, man has traditionally claimed the title Homo Faber: man the maker (of tools and images). With continued advances in the industrial revolution, he assumes a more critical function. As Homo Arbiter Formae his prime role becomes that of man the maker of aesthetic decisions. These decisions whether they are made concertedly or notcontrol the quality of all future life on earth.39

Man as the maker of objects was now supplanted by the artist as rational decision maker, an information processor or even bureaucrat.

Burnham employed Kuhns reading of scientic revolutions to articulate such shifts;40 the General System Theory of Ludwig von Bertalanffy was also called upon to rationalize these artistic processes. Although Burnhams methodological proclivities bore a decisive authorial stamp, its good to recall here that his art-as-systems platform was all of a historical piece; his overweening emphasis on the shift between object and nonobject ran parallel to (and was deeply inected by) the process and conceptual art moment of the late sixties. What some critics had described as the dematerialization of the art object or postformalism was for Burnham coded in the rhetoric of communication theory and the new technology. As such, the exhibition Software was not unique in its attempt to address such shifts nor was it alone it is celebratory embrace of new media. Along with Jasia Reichardts 1968 exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity, held at the ICA in London, Software was one of a cluster of largescale offerings dating from the late sixties and early seventies devoted to the changing role of technology in the visual arts. Here it was art as so much technological progress, if not the Machine Age ethos of the prewar years, then the information society of the computer-race era. It demonstrates the control and communication techniques in the hands of artists, Burnham wrote in the introduction to the catalog.41 These words signal a clear debt to Wiener as did much of the work grappling with explicitly cybernetic themes. Hence, for example, the Architecture Machine Group of MIT (whose chief participant, Nicholas Negroponte, would go on to nd the Media Lab) produced an environmental piece tracking the interaction between computers and gerbils. Yet amidst the clicking and humming of some rather clunky forms of new media art, one of Baldessaris contributions to the catalog was strikingly primitive, begging the question as to its place in Burnhams thinking altogether (gure 4.7). One of a series of paintings begun in the mid-sixties, the work was not so much low-tech as it was no-tech, a at, acrylic gray eld against which a generic hand read:
This painting owes its existence to prior paintings. By liking this solution, you should not be blocked in your continued acceptance of prior inventions. To attain this position, ideas of former painting had to be rethought in order to transcend former work. To like this painting,



4.7 John Baldessari, Painting for Kubler,

1969. Courtesy Ted Spence.

you will have to understand prior work. Ultimately, this work will amalgamate the existing body of knowledge.


This is something of a mouthful for Baldessari, whose paintings of the moment were characteristically terse in their allusions to the art critics and theories of the day. By contrast, the title of the work was at footed and laconic. Entitled Painting for Kubler, it articulatesby means of a winking paraphrase of the art historianthe sense that works of art are not produced out of a historical vacuum, refusing the romantic discourse of originality long upheld as the criteria for evaluating works of art. Instead it was dedicated to an art historian with seemingly little connection to computer technology, much less the new media work that was the shows central attraction. But credit is due Baldessari, for there is no doubt that Kublers writing inspired such associations.42 In The Shape of Time, he questioned

the methodological divide between the study of art and the study of science, suggesting that a rapprochement between the two might occur through acknowledging the metaphors of production and obsolescence shared by both elds. Even more incisively, Kubler countered his rejection of biological metaphors with the language of new technology. Perhaps a system of metaphors drawn from physical science would have clothed the situation of art more adequately than the prevailing biological metaphors, he wrote.
Especially if we are dealing in art with the transmission of some kind of energy; with impulses, generating centers and relay points; with increments and losses of transit; with resistances and transformers in the circuit. . . . In short, the language of electrodynamics might have suited us better than the language of botany; and Michael Faraday might have been a better mentor than Linnaeus for the study of material culture.43


Here the rhetoric of information technology ashes throughout Kublers theory of historical sequencing. In his intermittent history of material culture, he further described the nature of time as being like a signal:
The instant of actuality is all we can ever know directly. The rest of time emerges only in signals relayed to us at this instant by innumerable stages and by unexpected bearers. These signals are like kinetic energy stored until the moment of notice when the mass descends along some portion of its path to the center of the gravitational system. . . . The nature of a signal is that its message is neither here nor now, but there and then.44

Given the peculiar nature of the signal, the problem that the form class represented was either switched, altered, or closed down. As the solutions accumulate, Kubler remarked, the problem alters.45 By the same token, he also suggested that as the problems accumulate, the solutions alter throughout history. As if to drive the point home, he illustrated his thesis with a mathematical diagram of conicting and converging vectors. Borrowed from a colleagues research on graph theory, the diagram made no pretension to linear development. Kublers model of time, then, is neither wholly causal nor progressive; like an electrical circuit charged with a new signal, it breaks


off into vectors that may re up others, short-circuit, or potentially link different solutions to a shared problem. As a result, The Shape of Time a book ostensibly devoted to the historicity of thingsreads like a manifesto of information theory. It resonates with two of the central tenets of cybernetics in particular: the notion of feedback and the related concept of circular causal systems. A brief excursus on both establishes a link between Kublers reading of material history and cybernetic temporality and opens further onto the possibilityor more accurately, impossibility that either system fully contain the uneven temporalities both writers admit. It is this understanding of systems, and art history as a system along with it, that Quasi-Innities ultimately addressed.


An extract of Fragments from an Interview with Robert Smithson by P. A. Norvell:

NORVELL: Jack Burnham feels we are going from an object-oriented

society to a systems-oriented society.

SMITHSON: System is a convenient word, like object. It is another ab-

stract entity that doesnt exist. I think art tends to relieve itself of those hopes. Jack Burnham is very interested in going beyond, and that is a utopian view. The future doesnt exist, or if it does exist it is the obsolete in reverse. The future is always going backwards. Our future tends to be prehistoric. I see no point in utilizing technology or industry as an end in itself, or as an agrmation of anything. That has nothing to do with art. They are just tools. If you make a system, you can be sure the system is bound to evade itself, so I see no point in pinning any hope on systems. A system is just an expansive object, and eventually it all contracts back to points.46


If you make a system, you can be sure the system is bound to evade itself. In an interview conducted by Patsy Norvell in 1969, Smithson spoke with condence about the new systems-based art that critics and curators such as Jack Burnham supported. The artist was condent that

the work was no more advanced than the old-fashioned object-based art it was alleged to supercede and that the de facto label of progress attached to new media or systems work was not simply utopian but deeply misguided. If efciency was the usual characteristic attributed to new systems, whether artistic or technological, Smithson would concede only one point. That is, whatever a system was designed or intended to do, it would just as surely fall out of those bounds. In crucial respects, the very problem of a systems evasiveness that it inevitably escapes its systematicitywas the rst principle of cybernetics. Wiener had a means and a name for rationalizing this problem. He called it feedback. Following Wiener, feedback controls the input of information into systems in order for the system to perform smoothly. It is the property of being able to adjust future conduct by past performance or more specically a method of controlling a system by reinserting into it the results of its past performance.47 Like an endlessly playing tape loop, it enables a system to assimilate and therefore learn new behaviors with the introduction of new messages. Some of the feedback supplies positive reinforcement; others are directed toward negative ends. But the system, however efcient, admits to its own decay. For feedback regulates what Wiener called entropya systems tendency to move probabilistically toward contingency, disorganization, the will to chaos. This is a point I will return to at the conclusion of this chapter. For now, its worth considering the strangely recursive temporality of feedback as a concept. All at once, feedback is prophylactic and predictive. It presumes to control a system whose very breakdown is projected as inevitable. Feedback was hardly a new invention. James Watts governor was cited as one such historical instance of feedback from the industrial revolution. Wiener offered other examples that had little if nothing to do with the technology of the emerging digital era: an elevators response to a button repeatedly pushed by an impatient passenger; a gun with a special steadying mechanism that accounted for the errant ight of a bullet; applauseor alternately, silencein a theater and its impact on an actors performance. Banal as the examples are, they are not only provided to make feedback understandable as a concept to a lay readership. What these examples demonstrate was the circuit of information that occurred between one system and another.



Now just how such a circuit occurred in time, and how it altered the course of action and reaction over time, relates to notions of circular causality and recursion, discussed in chapter 1. To review its terms: Heims describes circular causal systems in a manner that reects Gregory Batesons earlier denition. In traditional thinking since the ancient Greeks, he writes,
a cause A results in an eKect B. With circular causality A and B are mutually cause and eKect of each other: Moreover, not only does A aKect B but through B acts back on itself. The circular causality concept seemed appropriate for much in the human sciences. It means that A cannot do things to B without being itself eKected.48


Thus circular causality inverts the conventional axis of cause and effect. Here a continuous relay occurs between two points. A kind of taping or looping takes place between systems to the extent that they become mutually constitutive of one another; we could call this a dialogical model of causality or even a structuralist account of meaning production. To be drawn from this reading is that determinations of both origin and end goal are rendered strangely negligible, as are conventional models of historical development. This dialogue resonates in other ways, extending to other models of history of that moment. Cybernetic temporality and Kublers remarks on time share much in their respective thinking about causality: both are nonlinear, recursive, and multidirectional all at once. For Kubler, historical change is enacted though the transmission of information from one signal to the next, but nothing about that transmission is continuous; there is an almost accidental quality to the way in which forms of material culture occur through time and the way this almost random cycling alters existing signals. The signal of an art historical event, then, is a kind of communicative recurrence: it moves in multidirectional tangents; it shapes our understanding of things not as a matter of chronological development but belatedness. To borrow one example from Kubler, our historical knowledge of Auguste Rodin forever changes our reading of Michelangelo, as if history moved not forward but backward, and then forward again. Writing further on this kind of temporal switchback, he noted, All substantial signals can be regarded both as transmissions and as initial commotions. . . . [A] work of art

transmits a kind of behavior by the artist, and it also serves, like a relay, as the point of departure for impulses that often attain extraordinary magnitudes in later transmissions.49 Circular causal systems nd their art historical correspondent in Kublers notion of the work of art as both artifact and message. A work of art is not only the residue of an event, he wrote,
but is its own signal, directly moving other signals to repeat or improve its situation. Our lines of communication with the past therefore originated as signals which become commotions emitting further signals in an unbroken alternating sequence of event, signal, recreated event, renewed signal, etc. Celebrated events have undergone the cycle millions of times each instant throughout their history.50


The message, in other words, cannot remain pure; it is necessarily, even progressively, deformed in its communication across history. Nowhere in The Shape of Time was Kubler more explicit about the reading of art history as a message system as when he remarked, within the history of things, we nd the history of art. . . . [W]orks of art resemble a system of symbolic communication which must be free from excessive noise in the many copies upon which communication depends.51 A history that is once progressive and deformative, a system that unfolds in time only to circle back endlessly on itself: for Kubler and Wiener alike, as messages or works of art cycle throughout history, they are implicated in a process of deepening regression, as if the system of history was both evading itself and swallowing its own tail. The Enlightenment, Wiener wrote in The Human Use of Human Beings, fostered the notion of progress . . . even though some felt this progress was subject to the laws of diminishing returns. Wiener here gives voice to his dialectic of enlightenment; and to be sure, a central concept in cybernetics treated this dialectic in terms of communication. For as much as the network between Wiener, Kubler, and Smithson should read more clearly, there is one point left undiscussed in their respective considerations of time. It is around the notion of entropy that the problem takes on an acute signicance for contemporary art.



In the arts, the desire to nd new things to say and new ways of saying them is the source of all life and interest. . . . Beauty, like order, occurs in many places in this world, but only as a local and temporary ght against the Niagara of increasing entropy. Norbert Wiener 52 Well over two-thirds into The Human Use of Human Beings, a book that attempts to explain theories of communication through a diverse range of phenomena, Wiener made one of two substantive comments on the visual arts.53 Everyday, he remarked,
we meet with examples of painting where, for instance, the artist has bound himself from the new canons of the abstract, and has displayed no intention to use these canons to display an interesting and novel form of beauty, to pursue the uphill ght against the prevailing tendency toward the commonplace and the banal.54


Compared to the relative lucidity of the rest of his book, the knottiness of this passage betrays its authors discomfort with treating art as a cybernetic system, not to mention a certain confusion in the face of recent art practice. Modern art in general, abstract painting more specically, presented an especially difcult problem for communication and the transfer of messages. Wiener insinuated that avant-garde work was being produced only for the sake of the social and intellectual prestige of being a priest of communication, and the results of this were such that the quality and communicative value of the message drop like a plummet.55 Much recent art in other words was little more than visual jam or interference, that which blocked the communication of a truly important artistic message. Only true beauty, analogized by Wiener to the order of a functioning cybernetic system, could stem this Niagara of increasing entropy. The statement is elliptical, revealing as much about its authors attitudes toward contemporary art as it does his frustration in metaphorizing art as a system. Wiener implies that the history of modern

artdistilled as it is to vanguard abstractionis itself an entropic process. Insofar as entropy is a central category in both Wieners and Smithsons thinkingand one that haunts Kublers discourse as well the point is crucial. In the second chapter of The Human Use of Human Beings, entitled Progress and Entropy, Wiener understood entropy as the will to disorder or chaos that inevitably entered into any closed system. Based on the Second Law of Thermodynamicsthat a system of order is bound to move to disorderWiener applied entropys laws to the matter of communication over time. In any system of information, any exchange of messages, the greater the input, the more likely entropy will take place. Following Wiener, Smithson understood that entropys effects were not linked to physical and chemical processes alone. They had an impact on time itself. As systems move forward in timeas art objects move forward in timewhat might seem to be advancing historically necessarily falls into entropy. In his important essay of 1966 Entropy and the New Monuments, Smithson wrote that time was subject to a process of decay or monumental inaction and that the art of the moment served as an analogue of this process.56 Work by Ronald Bladen or Sol LeWittserialized objectsunderscored the possibility that the future of art was a horizon of sameness, unending and unerring in its blankness, devoid of symbolic meaning. Just as he argued in Quasi-Innities, Smithsons reading of entropy was opposed to modernist notions of time as progressive and systems as efcient and mechanistic. And for Smithson, as for Wiener, it was the avant-garde that represented a last-ditch effort in this movement toward progress. Now what is not commonly acknowledged in discussions of Smithson and entropy is the extent to which he drew upon its formulation in information theory.57 As he reported to Alison Skye in the 1973 interview Entropy Made Visible,
Norbert Weiner [ sic ] in The Human Use of Human Beings . . . postulates that entropy is the devil, but unlike the Christian devil which is simply a rational devil with a very simple morality of good and evil, the entropic devil is more Manichean in that you really cant tell the good from the bad. Theres no clear cut distinction. And I think at one point Weiner also refers to modern art as a kind of Niagara of entropy. In information theory you have another kind of entropy. The more information you



have, the higher degree of entropy, so that one piece of information tends to cancel out the other.58

Smithson linked together what might seem disparate to us: the way a system of communication inevitably breaks down over time. However, the system Smithson describes is the system of objectsart objects in particularand the way they are communicated over history. And what deteriorates with that system is the methodological armature that once supported it: the virtual article of faith that art historical time is progressive and organic. In its place comes the realization that aesthetic fatigue has set in, with the collapse of art history not far off in the distance. This point brings us full circle to The Shape of Time. Recall how Kublers antibiological rhetoric spoke to contemporary artistic phenomena: his creeping sense of the approaching exhaustion of new discoveries in art and the possible end of the avant-garde.59 Recall too his remark that a signal trait of our own time is an ambivalence in everything touching upon change. At the conclusion of his book, Kubler connected the weakening status of contemporary art, the end of all radical art practice, to a fundamental problem of perception and communication. He noted:
Radical artistic innovations may perhaps not continue to appear with the frequency we have come to expect in the past century. It is possibly true that all the potentials of form and meaning in human society have all been sketched out at one time or place or another, in more or less complete projections. We and our descendents may choose to resume such ancient incomplete kinds of form whenever we need them. As it is, our perception of things is a circuit unable to admit a great variety of new sensations all at once. Human perception is best suited to slow modications of routine behavior. Hence invention has always had to halt at the gate of perception where the narrowing of the way allows much less to pass than the importance of the messages or the need of the recipients would justify. How can we increase the inbound tragc at

the gate?60

In speaking on the human minds failure to assimilate too many new sensations (and by extension, too many new forms of art), Kublers

language anticipated recent discussions on bandwidth: how information is blocked in the circuit, its input or output, the potential overload of information, and the breakdown of the system that would attempt to internalize it all. These comments pulse with the beat of entropy, the sense that all those artistic signals ashed through time might ultimately generate a vast and homogenous incoherence. The word entropy itself does not appear in his text. Yet at the edges of Kublers writing, and at the heart of his theory of formal sequencing, lies the notion that works of art from the past were like weak signals sent across the void. It should come as little surprise that Smithson returned, over and over again, to this particular expression by Kubler in his own writing.



Bearing these connections in mind, let us return to Smithsons QuasiInnities and the Waning of Space and read it as a push/pull dynamicboth visually and textuallybetween entropy and control, between progress and fatigue, between signal and noise, pastness and futurity. Some remarks on the history of the text shed additional light on such tensions and the peculiar nexus of concerns that attends the artists reading of both Kubler and Wiener. Before it was published in the fall issue of Arts Magazine in 1966, Quasi-Innities assumed several different iterations, three of which can be specically identied. The attempt to revise and rethink the terms of this text over a period of half a year underscores Smithsons conscientiousness surrounding its ideas. It is, in short, not to be regarded as a one-shot. The rst version suggests that much of the present content of the essayparticularly Smithsons rather glib comments about the history of the avant-gardewas intended as a response to a survey on the state of contemporary art sent to a number of artists by Irving Sandler in May of that year.61 By contrast, the second iteration is a typed essay entitled Art and Time. An undated text in Smithsons archives, its contents are nearly identical to what would later become Quasi-Innities. Finally, an earlier typewritten version of the essay dating from October 6 (and bearing the same title) begins with some deeply resonant observations. Smithson wrote:


Around a series of inaccessible abstractions, I shall construct an inaccessible system that has no inside or outside, but only the dimension of reproduced reproductions. The rst obstacle shall be a labyrinth, through which the mind will pass in an instant, thus eliminating the spatial problem. The next encounter is an abysmal anatomy theater. Quickly the mind will pass over this dizzying height. Here the pages of time are paper thin, even when it comes to a pyramid. The center of the pyramid is everywhere and nowhere. From the center, one may see the Tower of Babel, Keplers universe, or a building by the architect Ledoux. To formulate a general theory of this inconceivable system would not solve its symmetrical perplexities. . . . Arcane codes and extravagant experiments conceal the absolute abstraction.62


As in the published form of the essay, Smithsons rst paragraph makes sweeping reference to a broad range of cultural phenomena, mostly architectural or architectonic, sometimes fabulous (the Tower of Babel), sometimes not. He then attends to how quickly the mind passes over this information, as if absorbing these various historical artifacts in rapid-re succession. These opening remarks are not far removed from the nal version of Quasi-Innities, as the images in the published essay correspond to the litany of things the artist presents in the early text. In revisiting this draft, however, one is struck by the language of systems, codes, and general theories that introduceseven framesthe essay itself. One is struck equally by the artists characterization of such systems as inaccessible and inconceivable, as if the very concept of systems was untenable to the artist at that point. The published essay underscores this condition even as it complicates Smithsons understanding of it. At rst reador at rst glance Quasi-Innities would appear to succumb to a kind of textual and visual aphasia.63 Images of Keplers universe rub up against models by Dan Graham, and references to the art of Eva Hesse and Zenos second paradox jostle for space at the margins. In the language of cybernetics, Quasi-Innities might initially present itself as little more than communicative jammingan excess of codes without a coherent message, let alone an organizing principle. And yet if Smithson thought of his work as a system, however provisional, he nuances his treatment of this term in the essays nal version. Consider his opening sentence

as such a challenge and revision. The challenge reads like this: Around four blocks of print I shall postulate four ultramundane margins that shall contain indeterminate information as well as reproduced reproductions. The design of the text is explicitly foregrounded, yet it is qualied in terms of its margins and their indeterminate information. The phrasing resonates with both Kubler and Wiener alike. Indeed, if notes are conventionally thought to authorize or legitimate the material within a text, here, the information they supply is radically indeterminate because they no longer anchor the text both literally and guratively. Smithsons article makes endless, even circular, allusion to these notes, but none signies autonomously. They do not so much explain the text as they progressively refract what is already quite incoherent within it. Much of this seems to turn around the notion of reproduced reproductions, which appeals to a reading of both Kubler and Wiener on a number of counts. Reproduced reproductions are the chosen manner of Smithsons presentation; to follow his earlier draft, they are the only means possible to allude to, if not access, his inconceivable system in Quasi-Innities. The reproductions in this instance are the visual bits (clip art, even) that encircle the main body of the essay, as well as the fragments of quotations that share the same marginal space. At the outset they are acknowledged by the artist as reproductions that is, nonoriginalsan assessment that also admits to the chain of mediation Smithson has set into play in the context of an art magazine. As such they cannot signify autonomously, transparently. Their meaning is at a secondary, possibly tertiary, remove from their inaugural context. That they are reproduced reproductions suggests that this copying can continue ad innitum. They are, then, analogous to Kublers notion of the replication of a prime object, Wieners circuitous message. They have the horizon of sameness, unendingness, and nondevelopment that marks accounts of entropy. They evoke the virtually heedless way in which visual images inect, refract, and signal one another throughout history, an endless slide show, to borrow Jamesons phrase, dramatized by Smithson in the sixties by their circulation as mass media.64 Hence, they exemplify the clashing and circulation of images in Smithsons work, which might appear, at the face of it, to have little connect with one another.



At the same time, if neither the notes nor images consolidate a stable or monolithic reading of the essay, they simultaneously produce a type of signifying chain that links, like a network, one reference to the next. Thus what might seem culturally and chronologically random in Quasi-Innities is not unlike the historical model of a form class proposed by Kublerone that treats the very problem of time in art history as a series, or perhaps, an immanently overloaded system. All those dizzying vortices and images of innite regress address the problematic of space and time in the work of art, however historically removed from one another. They range from models of monumentality and stasis, such as the pyramids, to the desiccated and entropic forms of Eva Hesse, representative as she is of the contemporary artistic moment. Understood in these terms, Kubler himself serves as the feedback mechanism of Smithsons work. His place both within the four blocks of print, as well as at the margins, controls the literal circulation of these messages from collapsing into entropy, sheer noise. It is, however, the most tenuous of balancing acts, and Smithson knows itand is deeply ambivalent about it. The fullness of history is forever indigestible, Kubler wrote in The Shape of Time; and there is no doubt that the system of history in Quasi-Innities threatens to break down under its weight. Here, then, the paradox of being ultramoderne is complete. For Smithson consults a historian concerned with the pastness of things to take on a future pregured by collapse.



For Kubler, Wiener, and Smithson alike, the question of futurity and belatedness they share begs a return to such problems in the present. With varying degrees of ambivalence, each author expressed anxiety about historical time, inected by their respective concerns with communication theory. All this resonates, in signicant ways, with readings of postmodernism and its peculiar litany of endsthe end of history, progress, authorship, to name among the most frequently cited. It is the endless slide show of art history, the sense of nondevelopment that marks a certain account of entropy.65 What, then, is the fallout of

constellating these three gures in the present? What remains for us today in their conuence as art history? Perhaps Kubler should have the last word. In 1981, nearly thirty years after publishing The Shape of Time, Kubler delivered a lecture on several different occasions entitled The Shape of Time Reconsidered, reecting upon the books reception and its diverse interlocutors. A brief section treats the prestige accorded to the book by contemporary artists. In the working notes to the lecture, Kubler speculated that their interest in it arises from the freedom it offers them from those rigid hierarchies dened by the textbook industry in the history of art.66 The statement is suggestive if hardly descriptive, and the authors conclusions are just as perfunctory in the lectures published form. On Robert Morris, Kubler referred to an unpublished research report on Morriss interest in sculptural problems and the critique of iconography.67 On Smithson he is even briefer, as the artists name is mentioned in passing only in relationship to Morris. So, then, there was an awareness of such gures, glancing as the perspective is, and it is fair to say that Kublers archives carry its impress far more clearly than the essay itself. A faded photocopy of QuasiInnities can be found in his papers. A number of letters from artists, devotional in tone and character, are tenderly preserved. Announcements for gallery shows and video screenings coexist with scholarly exchanges on Mesoamerican building techniques. It is as though the art historian were continuously assimilating new messages in an attempt to understand his own contemporaneity. One document thematizes this conceit as a matter of historical belatedness. In the spring of 1973, over a decade after publishing The Shape of Time, Kubler was interviewed by Robert Horvitz for Artforum. The discussion concerns itself with the book as well as other contemporary matters: the unedited transcript moves easily from considerations of television to Kublers opinions on Marshall McLuhan. But missing from the published version is a brief exchange that attests to the books very thinking on the problem of contemporaneity:
RH: You have strongly criticized the use of the biological metaphor in


the depiction of historical processes, and you suggest that electrodynamics might be more productive. But what you were essentially describing,


with relays, signals routines has now been developed as Information Theory.
GK: Of the Wiener type, rather than the Shannon type, yes. I suppose

the theory was then in existence, but the applications werent.68

It would be a mistake to conclude with this passage for its evidentiary capacity, and one should take care not to fetishize Kublers statement as proof of Wieners inuence in writing The Shape of Time. The notion of proof, after all, suggests a linear relationship between Wiener and Kubler, causally determined, but such determinations are not at issue here. And yet the matter of communication is. For Kublers exchange reveals something of the temporal and communicative logic that all three authors confronted in their work and that animates their peculiar intertwining as gures of postwar culture. Over ten years after its initial appearance, The Shape of Time was regarded by its author as an art historical demonstration of information theorybut not quite. Kubler claimed that the theory was then in existence but the applications werent. Such a delay between theory and its applications thematizes the larger argument of The Shape of Time: its modeling of art history as a kind of cybernetic Nachtrglichkeit, the Freudian notion of deferred action or belatedness that is the result of repression. There is a beautiful passage in The Shape of Time that suggests nothing so much as this kind of lateness, likening the twinkling of stars to the historical event of works of art. Yet any romantic glimmer attributed to the metaphor is quickly short-circuited. Knowing the past is as astonishing a performance as knowing the stars, Kubler began.
Astronomers look only at old light. There is no other light for them to look at. This old light of dead or distant stars was emitted long ago and it reaches us only in the present.69


Space abhors a vacuum. So too does history. History lls, stuffs space, so that form classes and feedback loop back on themselves like the light of dead stars, endlessly reecting. Here signals collide and bounce off one another; and Kublers chain of history, so seemingly

delicate and evanescent, has now tied itself into a Gordian knot. That Smithson called his essay Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space seems especially illuminating with respect to Kublers remarks on stars. It is as if he understood that a space waning under the laws of entropy was also exhausted by the matter of history itself. The on and on of history is such a Quasi-Innitylike space, it only seems to go on, ad innitum. And art and its history, for Kubler, Wiener, and Smithson alike, seems a set of diminishing returns. Nothing new under the stars. History, then, becomes a matter of both belatedness and regressivity, eternal recurrence reinscribed as a problem of communication. Compromised by an endless temporal switching, one always returns to the past too late, just as one always projects into the future too early. The problem, however, is that the fullness of the present is forever at a loss, agging the crisis of historicity that is a constituent feature of postmodernism.70 If Kubler, Smithson, and Wiener grappled with this problem as a matter of futurity, perhaps they foreshadowed for us in the present an increasingly accelerated horizon of technological entropy. No doubt they registered in advance how we might struggle with their message today, as so many distant, barely audible, signals.



The sixties are endless. We still live within them. Not only do we live within them as a matter of historical reckoningof grappling with the trauma of the Vietnam War, the afterlife of the Counterculture, and the continued relevance of that decades liberation movements. Rather, the Sixties are endless in staging endlessness as a cultural phenomenon. Of revealing, in the long shadows cast by its technological entropy, a vision of the future ever quickening and repeating. This is one legacy of sixties art that continues to haunt us today. Even now we inhabit the time problem the sixties introduced. We still mingle with its ghost. The spate of books recently published on the time problembooks with words like faster and accelerating in their titlesall share in the belief that what constitutes history, telos, presentness, has been deeply compromised; and for all intents and purposes, that compromise comes at technologys bidding.1 In this regard, theyre not far off from the future shocks and cybernated hysteria of the sixties and early seventies, the long forevers or endless duration voiced in so much criticism of the period. Perhaps we need only consider the millennial episode to trace the continuing impact of that decade as an endless one. We might recall the dark scenarios envisioned for its coming. Mass violence, doomsday prophecies, nameless cults descending into their bunkers. Panic that, for some, took shape in the survivalist props of canned food and bottled water; tins of Sterno and batteries stockpiled. But if this was the Second Coming, it was technological rather than theological in nature; and the face of God was less sublime than digitized, the End less ery than networked. Most people referred to this as Y2K (although the happier term millennium bug also got some play) and that abbreviated monikerso

clinical and thus so chargedcaptured something of the impending disaster it imagined. Though tired and slightly embarrassing, the Y2K phenomenon demands to be revisited in the present as much as it suggests a glance to the sixties past. The problem stemmed from the way dates were represented in old computer programs, by which was meant programs that originated as early as the 1960s. Those dates would cause systems to crash when 2000 rolled around, and it was precisely because systems were so systematicso linked in an ever expanding universe of connectivitythat once one function crashed and burned, everything else would fall in kind. A computer consultant named Peter de Jager was among the rst to address this potential crisis in 1993, and his tone was nothing if not apocalyptic.2 The information systems community is heading toward an event more devastating than a car crash, he warned. We are heading toward the year 2000.3 For Y2K was based on the idea that early computer programmers were parsimonious about how much storage space their programs used so that they allocated only two digits rather than four to represent the year.4 The year 1993 became 93 for instance. That was all well and good for the short termin 1967, maybebut who could foresee the problems that arose with the year 2000? De Jager suggested that if a computer was asked to calculate the age of someone born in 1955, the computer would simply subtract the 55 in the birth date from the last two digits of the coming year. Simple math, until the year 2000: because by the time that time rolled around, the same formula would make that person minus 55 years old. 5 And so the planners and politicians took notice, spent time and money on upgrades, made proclamations. Dont panic, they urged the public, but be prepared for any contingency. An elevator might get stuck somewhere, ATMs might not disburse cash, and, alas, the trains would not run on time.6 But the future could look far worse than a brief glitch in the circuit of modern conveniences. It could look far more desperate, punctual, and dark. Literally dark: power grids might be knocked out, leaving cities mired in black. Mass suicides were predicted, not unlike the rash that swept medieval Europe at the start of 1000.7 These were the images projected by the media, images of collective anxiety auguring surrender and retreat.




Yet the aftermath of the event was something else entirely. Not long after the clock struck midnight, the rhetoric of apocalypse gave way to the calm of resignation, inevitability, even boredom. The turn of the century, so it would seem, could only fail to astonish. As events go, it was a bust. No big deal, one observer put it the morning after. Got up and had some eggs. Nothing special.8 So worldly and mundane, such remarks tell us something critical about this turn of events. Save for a window smashed at Starbucks, there was no dramatic rupture, no radically changed perspective to usher in this historical moment. The dawning of the millennium, as the pundits put it, was rather the yawning of the millennium. Had any of those pundits bothered to pay attention, none of this should have come as a surprise. For the noneventfulness of this millennial shift, although initially marked by anxiety, had been a staple of criticism since the 1960s. Since that time (at the very least), historians, philosophers, critics, and social scientists had been alternately describing, celebrating, debating, and worrying about such conditions under the sign of postmodernism. Postmodernism, of course, bore witness to a vision of history that no longer subscribed to the linear, the evolutionary, the progressive, to an Enlightenment history of sublation and transcendence. It was the end of history, or rather, a history without end: the waning of historical affect as Fredric Jameson has put it. Whether or not history had endedand just how it endedwas not just the province of historiography; nor was it just a matter of recycled styles, the bland ethos of everything old is new again. For this was also a matter of ideology: of who controlled history by virtue of what was being controlled in other arenas of the social.9 By extension, who controlled the futureor better put, who controlled the image of the futurewas a battleground for the Right and Left. As Andrew Ross observes, for the left, the lessons to be learned from these images speaks acutely to our traditional responsibility to think about a better future.10 For many, the question of history stemmed from technological shifts in information processing and the status of knowledge itself. Lyotard titled his profoundly inuential polemic Postmodernism (1979), and the subtitle of his book (A Report on Knowledge) attests to the ways in which the organization, distribution, and production of infor-

mation in the postwar era opened onto a decidedly new thinking about powerand history along with it. His was about the failure of traditional causal modelsGod, Civil Society, Revolution, the Subject, Progressto legitimate the current situation and about how the expansion of scientic and technological discourse necessarily eroded the attendant metaphysics of such models as well the political conceits that grew out of them. So, for Lyotardas for those against whom he argued, namely, Jrgen Habermasthe debate as to how knowledge was legitimated was paramount to the continued relevance of modernity. By extension, his was also a challenge to the kind of determinism that underwrote such metanarratives.11 What this culminated with, following Lyotard, was a certain crisis in narratives, a crisis analyzed through the model of the language game. I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, Lyotard wrote in the introduction to his book, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth.12 Hegel and Marx and Adam Smith all felled in one postmodern blow. In their place, Lyotard argued,
I dene postmodern as incredulity to metanarratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress, in turn, presupposes it. . . . To the obsolescence of the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corresponds, most notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the university institution which in the past relied on it. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal.13


The crisis in narratives was partial fallout to the cybernetic and automation revolution of the late 1950s and 1960s. As cybernetics was wont to go, the question of legitimation and consensus would follow suit. For brevitys sake, Lyotard argues, sufce it to say that functions of regulation, and therefore of reproduction, are being and will be further withdrawn from administrators and entrusted to machines. Increasingly, the central question is becoming who will have access to the information these machines must have in storage to guarantee the right decisions are made.14


It could go either way, the response to that central question. It could succumb to the kind of deadening technocracy so feared by many in the sixtiesthe ultimate triumph of late capitalismor it could just as easily spark new models of productivity, desire, and resistance. As Jameson reminded us, Lyotards account is not only diagnostic but prophetic in nature. Comparing Lyotards reading to the Anti-Oedipus of Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari, he detects in the philosophers thinking the possibility of a new politics, perhaps motivated less by revolution than survivalsurvival strategies for the Information Age. Lyotards celebration of a related ethic emerges most dramatically in the context of that repudiation of Habermass consensus community, Jameson noted,
in which the dissolution of self into a host of networks and relations, of contradictory codes and interfering messages, is prophetically valorized. This view not surprisingly will then determine Lyotards ultimate vision of science and knowledge today as a search, not for consensus, but very precisely for instabilities, as a practice of paralogism, in which the point is not to reach agreement but to undermine from within the very framework in which the previous normal science has been conducted. The rhetoric in which this is conveyed is to be sure one of struggle, conict, the agonic in a quasi-heroic sense.15


Even as postmodernism represents a crisis in metanarratives and as a result performs its own kind of endlessnessthere still exists the potential for a new conict, struggle, and politics to emerge, organized not around consensus but instabilities. Jameson identies the formal problem that attends this logic, namely, the sense in which Lyotard might himself be creating a new metanarrative, nested in an old one. His reading, though, is salutary. However endless the horizon may appearhowever weak its narrative functions or drained of historical affectthe possibilities to maneuver within it may themselves be endless. And this is one lesson that we might take from that decade: that possibilities exist, whether in art or politics or both, to move within that network, to play with its temporal fortunes, to show us something about that timeeven manipulate itas it would seem to manipulate us in turn. Postmodernisms instabilities, in other words, might facilitate a relationship to time which presages endless potentiality.



And it is for this reason that such possibilitieshere described in terms of politicsmight better be described as probabilities. For perhaps the slyly prophetic character of Lyotards reading could itself be read through the predictive capacities of systems analysis and cybernetics as that which attempts to forecast the future through the probabilistic tendencies of the present. That, too, is a feature of the endless sixties. It was in that decade, after all, that technological forecasting achieved a heightened visibility, both within popular culture and the academy. As we shall see, the art of the moment provides inadvertent commentary on such phenomena. To get there, we need to offer a brief on the forecast in the sixties and its historical precedents. Clearly the impulse to forecast, to speculate or bank on the future, is hardly exclusive to that decade or modernity itself. As long as weve checked the movement of stars, read lines in the palm of ones hand, cast runes or tea leaves or tortoise shell fragments, weve practiced some quasi-science of speculation. But modernitys track record in the business of prophecy has proven especially impressive. It sets the general template for the technological prognostication that becomes critical to the futurologists in the 1960s. Perhaps more than any other, the philosopher of history Koselleck has attended to the question of the end-time within modernity. He described modernity as a peculiar form of acceleration, in which the art of the forecast took on heightened signicance in the progressively fractious encounter between religion and politics. The secularization of time would play no small part in this history. No doubt, the question of an end timeof expectations of salvationwould serve as the ash point for debate during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. But apart from such doctrinal and institutional controversies, salvational expectation would increasingly run counter to the practice of rational prediction. Indeed, beginning in the fteenth century, the notion of rational prognosis developed against the church in the matter of prophesy, as would an emerging philosophy of history. Forged in the crucible of modern politics (Renaissance Italy), rational prognosis would become a conscious element of political action for those who engaged it.16 In opposition to apocalyptic prophecy, which destroys time through its xation on the End, rational prognosis can be seen to


be the integrating factor of the state that transgresses the limited future of the world to which it has been entrusted.17 The future became a domain of nite possibilities Koselleck wrote,
arranged according to their greater or lesser probability. Weighing the probability of forthcoming or non-occurring events in the rst instance eliminated a conception of the future that was taken for granted by the religious factions: the certainty of the Last Judgment would enforce a simple alternative between Good and Evil through the establishment of a sole principle of behavior.18


To put it crudely, rational prognosis serves to reassure the polity that everything is OK, that the state maintains some measure of control over the future through its reasoned analysis of the probable. Kosellecks reading describes the multiple cycles and revolutions in end times and prognoses that have occurred from the Renaissance to the Napoleonic era. And he provocatively suggested that the endless alternation between revolution and reaction within modernity which is supposedly to lead to a nal paradise has to be understood as a futureless future.19 We will return to the historically specic implications of this futureless future for the sixties in due course. What we might take from Kosellecks reading now is that the practice of forecasting, as it emerges in the modern period, has a marked ideological dimension. Those who control it, in a sense, control history. During the 1960s, the explosion of these practicesand the failure of consensus around both their goals and motivationssuggests an especially heated climate with respect to the future. Weve encountered the most vulgarized forms of this prognostication in previous chapters. Alvin Tofers Future Shock, exhaustively reviewed and debated, presented itself as a report on the future, and from Tofers vantage point, things looked scary indeed. The accelerating conditions of change he described were innitely repeatable; the endless striving for novelty within consumer culture almost guaranteed it; hence the condition of shock that resultedcollective social traumaand Tofers recommendations on how to survive our collision with tomorrow. To understand what is happening to us as we move into the age of super-industrialism, he wrote, we must analyze the processes of acceleration and confront the concept of transience.20

These twinned concepts inform the entire narrative of his book. In its concluding chapter, The Strategy of Social Futurism, the futurologist was adamant that the last half of the twentieth century would witness the end of technocracy. At the same time, though, he offered little in the way of practical solutions to any such problems, apart from the greater and generalized need for society to control the rate of change. Tofers alarmist hyperbole and determinist leanings won him few supporters in the academic press but no matter. He had clearly struck a nerve. By 1972, only two years after its appearance, the book had gone through some two dozen printings and garnered effusive praise from such technoluminaries as Buckminster Fuller and McLuhan, the latter who trumpeted on the back cover, FUTURE SHOCK . . . is where its at. And he was one to know. McLuhan was undoubtedly the most famous prophet of the coming media age in the 1960s; like Tofer, he warned of the possible dangers lying in wait unless some diagnosis of the present situation was forthcoming. Tofer could not have existed without McLuhans example, whose writings achieved mass appeal with audiences as diverse as hippies, literary types, and policy wonks. Unlike Tofer, of course, his reading was potentially celebratory. For McLuhan, the proliferation of new communications media would likely result in his infamous notion of a retribalized global village. A world ever connected, a world always in touch, this newly technologized world was fast becoming a globalized universe, the spheres of communication, commerce, and culture intractable. He was right on that front, McLuhan wasdead on, in fact, about the fundamental emergence of global communication, if hardly its bleak inequities. Theres no insult in saying McLuhan wasnt equipped to make such prophecies: why should a Catholic Shakespearean scholar know how to analyze data on the nuances of economic cycles and the redistribution of labor and wealth in the new media age? In any case, he did have his associates at the Center for Technology and Culture at the University of Toronto to help him with the projections. Better leave it to the expertssociologists, economists, engineers, scientists, especially computer scientiststo work out the details. The experts did weigh in from all corners. They came from different disciplines and professions to debate the promise or, alternately, the threat of the future, producing models for long-range planning indebted to the probabilistic tendencies of game theory and




systems analysis. Indeed the mid-sixties gave rise not only to the institutional study of time (as discussed in chapter 4) but the institutionalization of what has come to be known as future studies, futures research, futurology, or technological forecasting, concomitant as it was with the rise of the Advice Establishment after World War II.21 And yet just as the future of time remained uncertain for those who would study it, there was little consensus as to what constituted technological forecasting or whom its ndings should benet. Many involved in technological forecasting, dened simply as the forecasting of technological change, conceded to the nebulousness of the project and method, not to mention its implications for the philosophy of science more generally.22 And how was this information to be used, many asked? As public policy rooted in nationalist interests, itself generated out of Cold War politics, or toward a more collective (global?) approach to the future and all that the term global implied? In spite of or because of these methodological issues, a vast new literature on speculation, strategic planning, and forecasting proliferated in the sixties, along with a new breed of social scientist, economist, hard scientist, and theorist variously known as future planners, futurists, or technopols. To follow some, the years 196075 witnessed an explosion of activity in the predictive domain.23 Its rise began in the fties, growing largely out of military and industrial think tanks organized around Cold War politics. The RAND Corporation proved formative in this regard, gathering together among its many participants mathematicians and philosophers in addition to military and corporate personnel. On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Fuller, whose work on the future originated in the prewar era, became a model for many sixties futurists with his visionary theories of world design. Countless more would follow suit. W. F. Ogden, Herman Kahn, John McHale, Donald Schon, Bernard de Jouvenal, Dennis Gabor, and Robert Ayres would all author books with titles that spoke plainly to the urgency of the future: The Future of the Future, The Age of Discontinuity, The Unprepared Society, The Art of Conjecture. Just as many futurist organizations ourished, mostly of conservative stripe. Groups such as Fullers World Resources Inventory, the World Future Society, LAssociation Internationale Futuribles, the Delphi Society, Project RAND, Futures Research Group, the Club of Rome, Resources for the Future, the Commission on the Year 2000, and the World Future Studies Federation

were either all established in the mid to late sixties, or gained public prominence at that moment.24 Sometimes utopian, sometimes Malthusian, their studies predicted everything from the elimination of world hunger to the catastrophic outcome of impending population explosions. Many of these forecasts imparted the seduction of science ction, the stern admonitions of public policy, or less commonly, the revolutionary energies of the counterculture; and the sheer mass of the literature alone provides an important perspective on our recent millennial obsessions. By the year 2000, the chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission announced, housewives will probably have a robot maid shaped like a box [with] one large eye on the top, several arms and hands, and long narrow pads on each side for moving about.25 Isaac Asimov offered an equally fantastic projection in declaring that man will be living underground by millenniums turn. More sober reports attended to the broader sociological impact of advanced technology. When for instance, the Commission of the Year 2000 published Toward the Year 2000: Work in Progress, in 1969, its editor Daniel Bell warned that what matter[s] most about the year 2000 are not the gadgets that might, on the serious side, introduce prosthesis in the human body or, on the lighter side, use silicon to lift wrinkles, but the kinds of social arrangements that can deal adequately with the problems we shall confront.26 Alternately, the enormously popular countercultural publication The Whole Earth Catalogue, though by no means intended as a predictive document, was meant to furnish critical tools for free thinking individuals in preparation for this coming age. Strangely enough, one prediction made in the mid-sixties resonated little with that moment, although it has proven far more enduring than any spectacular claims of robot maids or subterranean domestic arrangements. In April 1965, Gordon Moore, the founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and now retired chair of Intel, published his inelegantly titled prediction Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits. Numbering only three pages and nding audience with the specialized readership of Electronics magazine, the article appeared modest enough, as was its contemporary reception. Moore argued that advanced technology in computer electronicsspecically, its progressive miniaturizationwould lead to accelerated growth in the production of integrated circuits. With unit cost falling as the



number of components per circuit rises, he suggested, by 1975 economics may dictate squeezing as many as 65,000 components on a single silicon chip.27 Moore believed that engineers would be able to cram an ever-increasing number of such devices on microchips and guessed that the number would roughly double every year. The future of integrated electronics is the future of electronics itself, he wrote.
The advantages of integration will bring about a proliferation of electronics, pushing this science into many new areas. . . . Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers or at least terminals connected to a central computer, automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment. . . . But the biggest potential lies in the production of large systems. In telephone communications, integrated circuits in digital lters will separate channels on multiplex equipment. Integrated circuits will also switch telephone circuits and perform data processing.28


Although now debated for the accuracy of its predictions, Moores Law as it has come to be known, stands as one of the most prescient of the 1960s.29 It starkly illustrates the rate of technological change as both accelerating and endless. It offers a vision of the future in which the constancy of historical change is both matched and presaged by the speed of its technology. And though Moore probably couldnt imagine how it would be deployed after the year 2000as so much advertisement copy for the microchip company that he would co-found three years laterit has come to serve as shorthand for an always accelerating future (gure 5.1). But now Im getting ahead of myself, projecting a bit too far in advance. Ive been speaking to the sixties as endless, and Ill conclude by describing this condition with respect to that decades art. That impulse to take heed of the future through the dogged guration of the present is played with by two agents of endlessness, to borrow Robert Smithsons phrase: Andy Warhol and On Kawara. In chapter 1, I pointed to Michael Frieds contempt for minimal art as a function of its endlessness. In chapter 4, I read the art and art criticism of George Kubler and Robert Smithson through the logic of feedback, emphasizing how a system needs to account for all data in the present in order to accommodate any potentiality in the future. Here I want to consider Warhol


5.1 Intel, Will Moores Law Stand

Forever? New York Times, Tuesday, July 23, 2002 C22. 2002 Intel Corporation. Intel is a trademark or registered trademark of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. All rights reserved. Artwork courtesy Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners.

and Kawara through two seemingly incompatible models of endlessness: Hegels notion of the bad innity and Fernand Braudels reading of The Longue Dure Something about the encounter between these readings underscores the inherent tension that animates our own moment of art and of art history. Endless sixties. A Bad Innity? Or a longue dure? Perhaps both at the same time. And perhaps the most tting conclusion to a world without end.



The problem of ends so central to the futurologists in the 1960s nds its complement in the art and art critical discourse around and about that period. There are at least two different ends to that story, and their conclusions might tell us something, in the style of the short story Rasho mon, about the risks at stake. The rst end is organized specically around the art and technology encounter. Stemming from the futuristic possibilities of that collaboration, it sees the end of art as a kind of technologically determined avant-gardism. That is to say, it proposes a new model of art making that wholly sublates that which came before, superceding conventional denitions of the work of art through advanced technology. It is, in its most reductive form, one that champions the notion of new media without putting any critical pressure on its qualier as new. In opposition to this, the second approach regards such readings with deep suspicion, which it counters with the seeming inexhaustibility of an extended duration. This latter approach, I want to argue, is in fact more in keeping with (and is more canny about) the discursive implications of sixties technology than the rst model, however removed it may seem from it. The former, in always training its eye on the future, fails to acknowledge the horizon of its own historicity as much as it fails to acknowledge the repetition at the heart of its avant-gardism. The second approachthat of bad innities and long durestakes on the repetition inherent in such forecasting and foregrounds it as both its structural and thematic operation and its object of critique. In its peculiar afrmation of a failed dialectic, this approach refuses any notion

of a transcendental end-time and implicitly reclaims the speculative possibilities of the futurist project. For the rst approach, we turn to a book that makes the theme of prophecy explicit. The video artist and critic Douglas Davis published in 1973 a book called Art and the Future, and its subtitle speaks plainly to the matter at hand: History/Prophecy of the Collaboration between Science, Technology, and Art. Its goal was no less than to document the history of technology in modern art as well as offer predictions about what was to come. Hence the book is not unlike other art and technology accounts of the time in its usual list of sources and historical inuences: the constructivists make their obligatory appearance; the futurists follow in kind; homage is paid to Duchamp. The twenties then give way to the sixties. The bulk of the text is devoted to art of that decade that by now appears a nostalgic vision of the future. We see faces emerge from matrices of sine curves or from graphics composed of ASCII characters (gure 5.2), Bruce Naumans clownish holography, the clanking contributions of robot art. We see utopian video collectives extolling the democratic virtues of new media; the lmmaker John Whitney tentatively prodding at an IBM (gure 5.3); and an enormous mainframe festooned in ribbons of multicolored cables, a computer almost baroque in its organization, lavish cascades of wire falling from its gridded surface. Futuristic, alland all completely outdatedthese images inspire both weary recognition and temporally garbled asides. Ah yes, that was the future. So thats what the future was supposed to look like. Such is the nature of these prophecies and thus the lesson Daviss volume teaches today. As with entropy, the future of art is always already past. Although his book was largely a celebration of art and technologys collaborative potential, Davis wisely acknowledged the Luddite currents specic to the art criticism of the period and throughout the twentieth century more generally. God knows, I sympathize with the emotions behind this reaction, he wrote in his introduction. The war has sickened us all, and we hear little at this hour about creative potential about technology and much about its destructive capacity.30 His concluding chapter, called a Prophecy, was meant to dispel any and all fear generated by the popular cultural prognoses on the future and technology. In speaking to the futurist ideology all around us the often alarming predictions of McLuhan and Tofer, Arthur C. Clarke,



5.2 Charles A. Csuri, Sine Curve Man,

1967. Courtesy Charles Csuri Archive.

Victor Ferkiss, John McHale, and Herman Kahn, Davis hoped to offer a more metaphysical understanding of the future.
In no specic case do I wish to deny any of their claims (as Robert Mallary observes, we have learned not to discount even science ction), and Clarke, I might add, predicts that the option of immortality will be available by the year 2010. It is simply that I wish to go beyond this or that technological milestone ahead to the most distant and metaphysical goal. By far the most striking writer on this last-named subject is the scientist J. D. Bernal, whose little book The World, The Flesh and the Devil, published in 1929, is the most complete analysis I have yet enCHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION: THE BAD INFINITY/ THE LONGUE DURE

countered on the destiny of many read in the context of developing technology.31

Hence Davis took his inspiration not from the sixties futurologistseven though explicitly acknowledging thembut a voice


5.3 John Whitney at an IBM 2250

computer, 1969. Courtesy IBM Corporation.

from the twenties. He found Bernals conclusion especially persuasive in light of the emerging information society.
It is his contentionadmirably supported by the accuracy of his other predictions . . . that the logic of evolution is leading man progressively away from matter toward mind. In concert with art and with technology, man himself is dematerializing. . . . He saw the gradual acceleration of the process, through articial brains to the preservation of the brain after the breakdown of the body, in an articial environment. He saw connections being established between these disembodied brains and the emergence of compound thinking. . . . At the last Bernal sees an escape even from the solidity implied in the compound-mind image.32

It plays like a bad episode of Star Trek, all those disembodied brains pulsing in articial environments. Still the underlying logic of this passage, and of Daviss larger attempt to predict the metaphysical goal of the art and technology nexus, was to the point. Honoring Bernals predictions, Davis was essentially giving voice to the logic of articial intelligence and the increased capacities for human/machine interactions. Once again were brought back to systems aesthetics. But there was more to such claims than the immediate conrmation of his techno-



logical forecasting. Davis wished to transcend the impulse to make specic predictions organized around scientic and media innovations. Bernal was useful to him in offering a metaphor for progressive art making, one in which the frank materiality of a work of art gave way to something more ephemeral and transient, something dematerialized. Of course, rhetoric on the dematerialization of art was legion in the period. In 1968, Lucy Lippard and John Chandler famously described this phenomenon with respect to conceptual art: they detected a virtual withering away of the material presence of art objects in the face of new strategies and approaches emerging since mid-decade. That art could now be systems, linguistic propositions, or air conditioning or stains on carpets suggested that the old categories of painting and sculpture, so larded in their physicality and so weighted by the history of their respective media, were very much a thing of the past. Instead, Lippard and Chandler would argue, the dematerialization of art represented a moment when the anti-intellectual, emotional, intuitive process of art making shifted to an ultraconceptual art that emphasized the thinking process almost exclusively.33 Daviss understanding of dematerialization was not concerned with conceptual art but runs parallel to Lippards emphasis on arts new informational status. Here was the radical demise of a conventional notion of the art objectnot to mention the end of art history along with it. Not only was this the end of slavish demonstrations of mimesis, it augured a new kind of artistic production on behalf of many, not simply the privileged gure of the individual artist/genius. What comes to take the place of the traditional work of art in the future has the character of Mind. For him, dematerialization signaled something of the collective Mind beyond the individual intellect; and to such ends, Davis leaned also on readings by Fuller and Michael Noll to round out his thinking on Bernal. As the utopian drift of this prcis makes clear, this coming together of Mindin a creative symbiosishad profound implications for the social. It was what Davis, parroting Bernal, called World Mind. It doesnt take a philosopher to hear in such phrases the echo of a muted Hegelianism. Daviss art of the future, bound progressively to scientic enlightenment, echoes in its prognosis the dialectical force of Hegels aesthetics. Rendered something of an art historical clich by now, this narrative has been caricatured as the death of art and its

supersession by philosophy. It stakes out mans progressive movement toward self-reection or Absolute Knowledge as coordinated through a specic eras production of cultural artifacts. In the Aesthetics, the work of art is cast as a local actor in the sweeping historical movement toward the Absolute. But Hegel also argued that art had long exhausted its capacity to be equated with Mind. Thought and reection have spread their wings above ne art, he noted, in the process becoming a thing of the past.34 Both philosophers and art historians have taken up this Hegelian narrative in thinking about modern art of a conceptual bent.35 The art and technology nexus, however, begs the question of this particular kind of endcertainly begs any possibility of sublation. For the faith placed in the works avant-gardism is ultimately contradicted by the technology behind it. As my survey of Daviss images makes plain, that sense of the future bound to the technological is always condemned to repeat itself in a circuit of novelty and obsolescence, innovation and outmodedness. What constitutes vanguardism in the arts is what also foreshadows that outmodedness; and what is, in part, radical about the technology of the sixties is that it always comes back to itself, recursively. The rhetoric of the new in the avant-garde obscures this structural logic. Yet as Krauss has argued in her formative contribution to theories of postmodernism, the mechanics of repetition always underwrite the myth of such originality.36 As such, the rst type of end we encounter in thinking about the art of the sixties is a dead one. It is dead not only because it doesnt work but also because it offers no escape, as if Daviss prophecies amount to a kind of Hegelian technics. For this reason, we might deploy the philosopher to far different rhetorical effect than this teleological ideal. In the second approach to the matter of sixties endlessness, we might take up the philosophers worries about a bad innity in order to think about the relationship between technological forecasting and that decades art. It is in The Encyclopaedia Logic that Hegel dened the bad innity. In the rst volume of his treatise, he subjected the procedures of logic to his dialectical method. The section on quality warns of a moment within critical reasoning that might succumb to endless repetition. Something becomes an other, but the other is itself a something, he wrote,



so it likewise becomes an other, and so on ad innitum. This innity is spurious or negative innity since it is nothing but the negation of the nite, but the nite arises again in the same way, so that it is no more sublated than not. In other words, this innity expresses only the requirement that the nite ought to be sublated. This progress ad innitum does not go beyond the expression of the contradiction, which the nite contains, (i.e.,) that it is just as much something as its other, and (this progress) is the perpetual continuation of the alternation between these determinations, each bringing in the other one.37

The spurious or bad innity is the nightmare of the dialectic. As applied to logic, it suggests the minds failure to sublate the contradictions inherent in the nite relationship between subject and object, hence leading to a perpetual, ultimately fruitless, oscillation between the two. When such thinking is applied to history, the bad innity represents a failure to transcend the immanence of ones own historical moment. Koselleck described modernitys futureless future as such an evil endlessness.
This self-accelerating temporality robs the present of the possibility of being experienced as the present and escapes into a future within which the currently unapprehendable present has to be captured by historical philosophy. . . . This alteration of Revolution and Reaction, which supposedly is lead to a nal paradise, has to be understood as a futureless future, because the reproduction and necessarily inevitable supersession of the contradiction brings about an evil endlessness. In the pursuit of this evil endlessness, as Hegel said, the consciousness of the agent is trapped in a nite not yet possessing the structure of a perennial imperative (Sollen).38


The result is the seemingly endless repetition of the present, like a phonographic stylus stuck in a groove. And yet in deploying this bad innity as a model for thinking about the endlessness of sixties art, this repetition might suggest its own pleasures, might even represent a critical stance on the question of time, technology, and ends. For this repetition, to borrow from Deleuze, is a repetition with difference. Artists will take up its possibilities as a means to address working within the conditions of endlessness. Already I have discussed minimalisms

serial forms as a kind of endlessness because they are recursive: minimalism was an art that offered an experience of duration so unwieldy that it implicitly screamed out for something to happen. In concluding, well see how other practices of art making, namely, some of Warhols early lms and the ongoing work of Kawara, arrive at this question from different ends of both the formal and thematic spectrum. Common to both is the works temporal extensiveness, suggesting a peculiar projection into the future through belaboring the present. What happens, or rather, what doesnt happen, is uneventful at best. Not much takes placenot of obvious interest any wayand it is the paradox of this uneventfulness that calls upon the viewer to forecast whats coming up next, however repetitive or boring that which has just passed. Waiting for something to happen, the forecast may look bleak.



Digital clocks and watches show me theres a new time on my hand. And its sort of frightening. Andy Warhol39 In so many ways, the work of Warhol and Kawara seem at radical odds with one another. On the surface at least, the former appeals to the louche anomie of the New York underground: a world of head-spinning celebrity; of beautiful boys and glittering surfaces; of the electric, unblinking rush of amphetamines. The latter appears Warhols opposite in its routinization, anonymity, and abstraction, all numbers and at elds and starkly drawn type. Still both are deeply methodical in their temporal operations, and both speak to the logic of the bad innity. A system with its own laws and limitations is put into place, and we, the audience, are made to watch and to wait. We are made to wait for some gure to emerge from its repetitive ground; to detect the small, almost innitesimal, incident against the yawning relief of duration. In short, we are made to anticipate, even hope for, the temporal fallout of this bad innity. And in this perpetual present both gestures stage, they cast a critical eye on the future of the future.



In Warhols case, this is especially so for the lms Sleep, Kiss, Empire (196364) and the sublime twenty-ve hour experiment , also known as Four Stars (1968). Their brilliance lies in their seemingly literal relationship to timeof extended durationand this feature, coupled with the works deadpan systematicity, amounts to the cinematic equivalent of minimalism. Watching them, we are dealt too much presentness, too much repetition. Like the industrially manufactured cubes of minimalism, the lm rolls along and rolls out with the studied repetition of a factory commodity. All puns are intended. Peter Wollen has written of Warhols lm enterprise relative to Fords assembly line, and a prcis of the early works appeals to that endless labor of representation and the watching and waiting attendant to it.40 A poet sleeps, abdomen rising and falling: we watch for some six hours (gure 5.4). People kiss, mash lips, tongues together: we bear witness for fty minutes (gure 5.5). The Empire State Building appears before the camera; some eight hours pass between the rst reel and the last (gure 5.6). Warhols own stated attitudes toward time were schizophrenic at best. In a testament to the speed of a culture if ever there was one, he made his notorious pronouncement on the status of celebrity in the future: that everyone would be granted a cool fteen minutes of fame before obsolescence set in. But Warhol also directed a lm that lasted close to eight hours, its slow, artless camera immobilized before the iconic gure of the Empire State Building. If these positions seem at odds with one another, I would argue they are ultimately dialectical; or perhaps more accurately put, they represent the failed dialectic of the bad innity. Both speak to the phenomena of cultural repetition if paced at temporal extremes. Together they suggest a kind of irresolvable grappling with nitude and the innite, the push-pull tension between the utterly mundane gestures of daily life set against the blank expanse of something yet to come. As one observer said of Warhols lms: wed just sit there and wait for something to happen and nothing would.41 Indeed his lms of 196364 implicitly articulate this tension through their cunning manipulation of the medium. Theres an air of artlessness about them. Silent, black-and-white, 100-foot rolls of lm, they seem the homegrown experiments of a technical illiterate.42 Either that or we could call these works noncompositional, if provisionally so. To let the camera go with no zoom or in-camera editing, stationary on


5.4 Andy Warhol, frame enlargement

from Sleep, 1964. 2003 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pa., a museum of the Carnegie Institute.

its tripod, points to a deliberate withdrawal of the artists hand, a refusal to control the representation of the image. But in this lies a deception of sorts and Warhols canniness about the semiotics of lm. Warhol may not have directed his actors, but he did play with the time; and it is in this sense that his work has been persuasively linked to structuralist lm.43 The lm Sleep, for example, made with a Bolex camera, appears a literal registration of nonactivity. For six hours, the viewer confronts the torpid image of the poet John Giorno sleeping as if lmed in real time. But not so: as countless Warhol scholars remark, time is controlled not at the level of narrative but as projection. The time is actually faked, as Warhol described it. It is faked not in the performance or sleeping (Oh, you sleep so well! Warhol was reported to have told Giorno) but in the looping of the footage.44 What appears continuous is discontinuous, but theres more to it than that. Like all 16 mm lms, Warhols silents are shot at twenty-four frames per second, yet as Stephen Koch wrote, they should be projected at 16 fps so that the effect is an unchanging but barely perceptible slow motion. 45 His work seems to insist upon its hallucinated literal time. 46 These lms, then, are one and the same time both representation and experience of duration, both subject and object. And that movement


5.5 Andy Warhol, frame enlargement

from Kiss, 1964. 2003 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pa., a museum of the Carnegie Institute.


between the literalness of real time experienced by the viewer, its manipulation by Warhol as representation, and the projection into the future as constructed by the medium is a kind of bad innity. No lm walks this line more effectively than Empire, which performs this bad innity at the level of both its internal operations and its external reception. The rst Warhol ick to be made with an Auricon camera, that marginal step toward mechanical progress bore no ostensible relation to the movie itself. So stupendously perverse, it is almost awesome, as Koch put it, the idea behind Empire is credited to a young Factory hanger-on named John Palmer.47 Shot by Jonas Mekas from the forty-fourth oor of the Time-Life building on June 25, its manipulation of time, like Sleep, is subtle, exacting, andperhaps most obviously excruciating. It exploits the mandate of the forecast in its projection of extended time, but on and on it begs the question: to what end? To what end might this perpetual present tell us about whats on the


5.6 Andy Warhol, frame enlargement

from Empire, 1964. 2003 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pa., a museum of the Carnegie Institute.

horizon? The critic Gregory Battcock, editor of an important collection of essays on minimal art and himself a subject of a Warhol screen test, wrote on the strange tension between immobility and time in Empire. Movies are supposed to move, but the subject of Empire doesnt. Yet as the mechanics of the lm suggest, the time of the lm is elongated in another way. In commercial lms he wrote,
events are rarely presented in their full time span. Time is distorted in such lms, usually by compression. The time in Empire is distorted in a diKerent way. . . . It is distorted, perhaps, simply by its not being distorted when one would reasonably expect it to be. In addition the action in the rst reel is speeded up, possibly so that the change from day to night, the major event in the lm, could be summarily disposed of in order to clear the way for the timeless real time of the unchanging image of the building.48


The image of the building is unchanging, but the medium that records it continues apace. It is the paradox of timeless real time. Fair enough, but all this speculation raises an unavoidable issue. Who has actually has seen Empire? Seen all eight hours of its monumental, if mutely drawn, architecture, from its rst soundless icker to the last? A rhetorical question, perhaps, for few, not even the most slavish Warhol devotees, could claim to have passed the antiauteurs cinematic endurance test. As the Warhol clichs would have it, this is a movie more frequently discussed than seen, a concept best played out in the minds eye than actually burnedand interminably soon the retina. Part of its legend, so the story goes, accrues around its resistance to spectatorship. Who would willingly subject themselves to watch a movie as long as a workday, a movie in which narrative comes to a virtual standstill, and which, in its representation of a building, appears either impossibly remote or reads as a dumb (and endlessly dumb) phallic joke? The achievement of Empire is to force the issue of duration as something that might be imaginatively projected into the future but which is practically difcult to rationalize and even more challenging to experience in its actuality. Not to say that the movie is without interest or incident. Many things happen, if very small things, and all the more importance is accorded them given the noneventfulness of the rest of the lm. In

contrast to those who would claim Empire is without action, I would argue that it has its fair share of critical moments, quiet as they are compared to most narrative lm. Battcock remarked that the compression of time earlier in the movie lends the rst reel, in which the building emerges from fog, an almost heightened sense of drama; it shapes our continued expectation of the movie to come. In the rst thirty minutes, as dusk gives way to night, the building is illuminated and we nearly jump out of our seats. Noiselessly, something like a pigeon aps by and the audience bursts into applause. Hardly the stuff of action-packed drama, it is climatic in relation to the sheer lethargy that follows. For most of Empire is given over to darkness punctuated by occasional glimmers of light and motion, solarized ashes, chance accidents of the printing process. It is a slowly shifting study in gure and ground (gures 5.7, 5.8). We see a tiny, starlike light crowning the building, its armature obscured by black, glinting on and off and on at periodic intervals. To the bottom left, a bright globe from a building in the distance goes on, goes off, goes on again. We see an ofce light in the Empire State turned off several hours into the lm, and so imagine the company man, ever faithful to his employ, burning the proverbial midnight oil. We see a few glimpses of Warhols reection itself, itting like a shade before the window. And then almost all the lights go out, leaving a eld of murk with just a few white specks twinkling. Not much long aftera reel perhapsthe movie ends abruptly, without fanfare; we are not even granted the satisfaction of watching the sunrise. Instead we are left with the ghostly afterimage of the building lining our eyelids. For in Empire, the building is both actor and clock; and much as the business of clock watching, it produces an anxiety around what may or may not happen, what may or may not occur in the not-too-distant future. It registers the migration of blacks, shadow, and light just as a piece of celluloid or lm registers the exposure of light in time. In this sense, Empire (the building) internalizes something of the structural logic of Empire, the lm medium. Yet as many have suggested, the movies seeming lack of incident, or better put, its demands upon on our patience to distill those incidents, is what makes the work so engaging. Those fabled reports of audience members coming and going over the course of the movie suggest that what is taking place off screen is as fundamental to the


5.7 Andy Warhol, frame enlargement

from Empire. 2003 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pa., a museum of the Carnegie Institute.


5.8 Andy Warhol, frame enlargement

from Empire. 2003 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pa., a museum of the Carnegie Institute.


work as what is being projected on screen. Empire thus stands as an allegory for time located elsewhere: not only the time of its audience, engaged in business other than that of watching, but the future, anticipated in making ones escape from the theater. At the same time, the experience of the lm also restsdiscomfortingly, tfullywithin the body watching the lm in the present. Shifting from side to side, at rst quietly and then with increasing impatience, we experience our body as a duration machine. The bones poke through, head lolls on the stem of its neck. With each moment that passes, the eyes play tricks while the mind wanders: we see things that arent there or perhaps discount what is there. Self-consciousness descends over the audience at rst, but that self-consciousness quickly dissipates and the body registers anticipations disappointment. The erect carriage of the committed cineaste gives way to the slouch and sprawl of the tired, the jaded, or the bored. And its at this point that one relaxes into the deeply social experience of the movie and its accessories: food and drink, music and dance (this was a lm often screened in night clubs, after all), cigarettes, and most important, conversation. In its peculiar tracking of time in (ctive) real time, Empire offers a perversely meditative experience, dgeting continuously between moments of sheer restlessness, boredom, and pronounced anticipation. In 1964, the same year Empire was lmed, McLuhan famously described television as a cool mediaa mosaic meshsuggesting a parceling and fragmentation of information that required a more active engagement on the viewers part to make its information cohere. Cool media, as opposed to the hot, highly dened stuff of print, was low resolution; it demanded a new kind of engagement about which Warhols lms inadvertently comment. A good anecdote about the viewing of Sleep applies well to Empire. According to the artist hardly the most reliable source on his workone viewer had to be tied to a chair with a rope by Mekas upon hearing what was about to be screened. The punch line, of course, was that Warhol got up and left after a few minutes himself. He was bored by the lm, bored by the prospect of having to watch it for six hours straight.49 It may be so much Warhol apocrypha, but the story neatly illustrates a critical feature of these durational exercises. One might see in the temporally contrary world that is Empire a satiric litmus test for the distracted masses, a way to prove ones spectatorial mettle at a time

in which media was constantly scattering ones attention. Boredom may well serve as a defense mechanism to the onslaught of technologically mediated information streaming endlessly into the future. It is revenge taken against the demand to stay awake.50 As such, the simultaneously glazed and blissed-out attitude Warhol allegedly adopted on watching his lms seems a tting response. Sometimes I like to be bored, and sometimes I dontit depends what kind of mood Im in, he noted, ever the sage. Ive been quoted a lot as saying, I like boring things. He then became uncharacteristically emphatic. Well, I said it and I meant it. But that doesnt mean Im not bored by them.51 An alternately ambivalent and deant tone runs through this statement. Warhol likes boring things in spite of the fact that theyre boring. Boring things dont grab ones attention; they deect it. And thats the point: to say one likes boring things is to challenge any expectation of an expectation. In Empire the future is boring. The temporality of Empire runs parallel to other practices within the art of the sixties, perhaps none more so than the serial and systemsbased gestures commonly associated with conceptual and process art. And parallel to the reception of Warhols lms, many nd conceptual art deadly boring: drained of emotional affect, lacking in visual pleasure, tautological and seemingly solipsistic, metronomic in its tracking of time. We could write volumes on conceptual arts engagement with time: it is an obsession that is endless in itself.52 We might consider the example of Hanne Darboven en route to our longer discussion of Kawara. An extensive and extended graph of activitylike music or like a diaryher systematic writing of time assumes a computational logic specic to each piece. In 1968, Darboven arrived at the structural principle that has been at the foundation of her practice to the present. Using the four to six digits required to mark a standard Gregorian calendar date (for example, October 20, 1963, is represented as 10/20/63) Darboven devises numerical sequences based on the span of an entire century. Methodically, she then plots ascending and descending numbers page after page, row after row, column after column to explore its seemingly endless possibilities in neat, handwritten script.53 Entering into a space lined with one of her works is a peculiar confrontation with the temporal sublime. It is a deeply impressive feat, Darbovens computation and registration of time. But the gure that concerns us principally exhibits




an especially impressive kind of longevity about the length of time itself. For On Kawara has been engaged with the marking of time since 1966has made it his life his work, in factand it continues apace up to the present. It is with his Today Series that we close in on, and conclude with, the meshing of the bad innity with the longue dure; gauge something of the sly criticality of this work; and see its reverberations in our own endless present. In 1965, Kawara painted a tripartite work that suggested what was yet to come. With Title we are confronted with three laterally organized canvases, done up in hot, hot pink. One Thing, 1965, Vietnam, they read (gure 5.9). The year 1965 occupies the central position in the triad, as if organizing the information that surrounds it. That was the year the rst American combat troops were sent to Vietnam; it was also the year Kawara took up partial residence in New York. The phrase One Thing places further stress on the date. In her work on On Kawara, Anne Rorimer argues that the date of this painting (and the Today Series that follows) might be read as a comment about the formalist criticism on paintings autonomy in the late fties and early sixties.54 The starkness of the date against a monochrome eld becomes a parody of modernist paintings self-reexivity. If modernist painting registers some measure of its process or its indexical quality, Title speaks literally to its presentness by furnishing it with a birth date. Dates of paintings, Rorimer writes, usually stand as supplement to the content or form of each work. Typically they occupy a modest place within its composition, tucked away in the corner, say, or on the back of a stretcher. But in Title, the date is front and center and acts as form, content, and evidence of a sort: evidence of the paintings timeliness. That impulse to timeliness is the foundation of Kawaras practice. The intelligence of his work rests in its endless questioning of the presentness of art (as well as its past) with respect to the future. Kawaras art is commonly, by no means erroneously, thought in terms of the passage of time or the presence of the art object; but I would argue that it is the implied futurity of the work that embeds it specically in the larger cultural horizon of the 1960s. This is especially so with his Today Series, begun in January 1966 (gure 5.10). It is a deceptively transparent system. Each canvas announces the date on which it was painted. If Kawara fails to nish the work by days end, it is destroyed. Some years are more productive than others. In one year,


5.9 On Kawara, Title, 1965. Courtesy

the artist and David Zwirner, New York.


241 came out, in another only 30, but who would dare fault this labor of temporality?55 By now there are well over 2,000 canvases, and if the artist is slightly less punctual than the clock, he is certainly just as periodic as the calendar. Plainspoken as they are in broadcasting the moment of their origin, the objects that in part comprise the Today Series are nonetheless discrete objects. Not discrete in the matter of their individuality but discrete in their relative modesty. They are horizontal elds of various dimensions, highly saturated, matte surfaces, rendered in a variety of colors: a brackish gray, a vibrant blue. Hand-painted numbers and letters are then carefully laid on these surfaces in white, following the standard calendar format of whatever place Kawara happens to be working at the moment. Much has been made of the handmade quality of the workthe precision with which Kawara paints his numbers and letters without the use of template or stencil. But this observation opens onto one of the many paradoxes of his practice, for that precision is directed toward the effacement of his own hand. There is no painterly gesture so to speak of, no expressive facture or trace of brushwork. We should stress that the Today Series is not just painting. Running parallel to this painterly exercisetemporally pacing it, so to speak is the production of cardboard boxes, also handmade. Together with the canvases, they constitute a single work. Indeed the relationship between part to whole in Kawaras art, as in systems theory, is fundamental to understanding his rendering of time as future oriented.56 The paintings are housed in the boxes, although container and contained are not often displayed together. Each box is lined with a newspaper clipping from the day the painting was begun and nished. So, for instance, on May 10, 1968, Kawara was in Mexico City, and the box for that date displays a yellowed feature from its daily news (gure 5.11). On October 21 of that year, hes in Santiago; a picture from El Mercurio, showing marathon runners sprinting to some longforgotten nish line, helps locate the artists presence in both time and space (gure 5.12). But theres no instantaneity here, no presentness. Our reception of the work does not square with the time of its production, nor the totality of the series as projected into the future. To call the work the Today Series at once seems an elaborate metaphysical joke or a profound commentary on time. For in the Today Series, time is rst doubled


5.10 On Kawara, Today Series,

January 4, 1966. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.
5.11 On Kawara, from Today Series,

Mexico, May 10, 1968. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.
5.12 On Kawara, from Today Series,

Santiago, October 21, 1968. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.


and then multiplied ad innitum. Time rst gets shunted back and forth between the work of painting and the act of reading, as though the contents of the box might conrm the time of the paintings existence, authenticate the artists presence at a peculiar moment, or endow the blankness of days with aesthetic singularity. Hence the relevance of those interpretations of Kawaras practice as an act of deferral: those readings that suggest, following Jacques Derrida, that the now-ness of Kawaras Today Series is actually held in suspense, is an in-between time.57 It is the movement of the bad innity at work: each day of the Today Series is unable to transcend its particularity. Immanence is all. Yet the insistence of days gets played out on an even grander scale in Kawaras work. Empire, we have seen, is organized around a temporal distortion: the building is endlessly present, is static, but the movie moves, on and on and on. It stages the paradox of a long, seemingly interminable now: the present repeated as futurity. And so it is the case with the Today Series, in which every day even tomorrow, even yesterdayis today. Of course it cant be literally endless. Its closure is inevitable with Kawaras passing. Still, it has gone on this way for close to forty years. The canvases, the boxes, the newspapers: for Kawara, its all a part of the daily grind, the stuff of routine, like brushing your teeth or reading the mail or, perhaps more to the point, going to work. For the viewer confronting the Today Series, typically displayed in multiples, that sense of the present sliding into futurity and back again is unimpeachable, and it feels like the labor of days. A photograph of the artists studio, taken in 1966, makes the point explicit (gure 5.13). A black-and-white picture, it has the studied anonymity of a newspaper clipping. Here we see the classic artists loft complete with high ceilings, roughly hewn beams, white-washed brick, unnished wood oors, pipes. Industry meets art and time gets rationalized. Hanging at eye level and propped up against the baseboards are the paintings. We see the disciplined registration of days: May into June into July into August. The canvases from July are larger than the earlier months, and an especially enormous picture Sept. 20, 1966 dominates the center of the photograph. Who knows why this particular date assumes such prominent scale, but in the end such reasons may not matter. What makes the image so impressive is not one individual work but the totality of the project: the


5.13 Kawaras studio, 1966.

Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.


notion that this photograph, taken in the mid-sixties, logically extends into the present. And the future. That is the projective cast of the Today Series, and it takes on other equally mundane associations. The patience demanded in producing the paintings has been characterized by some critics as Oriental in its temperament, a crude essentializing of Kawaras practice that, among other critical lapses, fails to acknowledge the artists global itinerary (the date paintings, after all, have been produced in over eighty-nine cities).58 No doubt inected by concerns specic to Japanese postwar culture, the timing of Kawaras practice also betrays a decidedly Western aspect, one that runs parallel to Warhols trajectory as well as those of countless other conceptual artists. For each canvas requires the time of a work dayapproximately eight to nine hoursto complete. The Taylorist implications of this schedule, day in and day out, undercut any Zen-like tranquility attributed to the art. Like the sequencing within a Warhol lm, the date paintings too stream out from the studio with the dull regularity of commodity production. In this sense, the works repetitiveness bears a marked connection to both technological rationality and a systems approach to time. The engine of Kawaras production is the day, but presentness always casts its eye expectantly on the future. So it is, and it goes on in other ways, goes on at both the macroand micro-historical level. There are the most monumental projects of them all, the enormous volumes One Million YearsPast, begun in 1969, and One Million YearsFuture, begun in 1980, pages and pages of numbers, column after column of dates and dates and dates, the blank face of courier type working endlessly to list the years (gures 5.14, 5.15). Ten volumes in length, with 500 dates to a page, they register the years from 998031 B.C. to A.D. 1969 and A.D. 1981 through 1001980. Theres the series of postcards he began sending friends and colleagues from all over the world, each stating, by use of a rubber stamp, the precise time the artist got up (gure 5.16). The series began in 1968, and was nearly a decade in the making when someone stole Kawaras rubber stamp kit and thus put an end to it. There are also the telegrams, sent intermittently since 1970, vouching for the continued existence of the artist (gures 5.17, 5.18). I AM STILL ALIVE, they read. One variation of the telegrams, sent to the French curator Michel Claura, announced I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE DONT


5.14 On Kawara, One Million Years

Past, 1971. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.

WORRY. Another one followed within a matter of days: I AM GOING TO SLEEP FORGET IT. With these last two gestures, the artist dramatizes communication over time as a matter of communication over space. Not only are we confronted by the geographic distance between sender and receiverhighlighted in the postcards by the orid, slightly surreal imagery of tourism. We are also confronted by a concomitant temporal gap, the durational lag between when the artist got up, went to sleep, didnt kill himself: and his expectation that someone far away would eventually get his message in due time. And so we bear witness to the artists own immanence, qualied as it is, the small gestures of the everyday jostling up against the broad anticipations of the future. This movement forward in time is not unlike Warhols bad innity. Yet should anyone mistake either artists practice for nihilismfor the vacant emptying out of daysI would propose another model of history that limns this antitranscendent


5.15 On Kawara, One Million Years

Future, 1981. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.

one. This extended duration allows us to think about endlessness as historically specic in the process demonstrating the social, cultural, and technological underpinnings of its emergenceand it grants some space to the artist to move within it.



In 1958, some ten years before On Kawara got up, Fernand Braudel published the important essay, History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Dure. The text is considered formative in the historians approach to method; it would be reprinted in 1969 as the centerpiece to his collection Ecrits sur lhistoire. Not that time was a new subject for its author, one of the principal members of the Annales School, famous for revolutionizing historical method in France. Braudel had labored for several decades on this very problem before the publication of this relatively short text. For Braudel, timehistorical timeassumed a tripartite scheme, if hardly the epiphanous, transcendent moment of the dialectic: thesis/antithesis/sublation. Instead Braudel offered a reading of three types of intersecting histories: the long view or la longue dure slow, almost glacial in its registration of change; the middle view, a kind of historical in-between organized around cultures


5.16 On Kawara, I got up, April 1971.

Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.

and societies; and the short view, crystallized around individual events. This schema roughly corresponds to the kind of temporality prescribed in his massive study of 1949, La Mditerrane: geohistorical time, social time, and individual time, emphasizing the play between these various strata of time as producing historical meaning. The notional longue dure remains one of Braudels signal contributions to historiography; as we shall see, it offers particular insight into the nature of Kawaras bad innity. The impact of this concept has been inestimable for historians and sociologists (today we see it most prominently in the World-Systems Analysis of Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi), but it was rst understood as a radical, perhaps inassimilable, contribution to historiography.59 Its importance, Braudel argued, stemmed from the conviction that history itself had reached a crisis point:
Among the diKerent kinds of historical time, the longue dure often seems a troublesome character, full of complications, all too frequently lacking in any sort of organization. . . . For the historian, accepting the longue dure entails a readiness to change his style, his attitudes, a whole reversal in his thinking, a whole new way of conceiving social aKairs. It means becoming used to a slower tempo, which sometimes almost borders on the motionless. At that stage, though not at any other . . . it is proper to free oneself from the demanding time scheme of history, to get out of it and return later with a fresh view burdened with other anxieties and other questions. In any case, it is in relation to these expanses of slow-moving history that the whole of history is to be rethought, as if on the basis of an infrastructure.60


As to the historical factors motivating this change of approach, Braudel was clear. The catastrophes of the two world wars signaled a crisis of a particular existential cast in the production of history: What would history mean if the entirety of human existence was under imminent threat of annihilation? Braudel also recognized that the rise of the social sciences in the postwar era posed unique challenges to the way history was written. The cross-disciplinary impulses of many of these emerging practices threw into relief the limitations of traditional historical method. The longue dure was illustrated by means of competing geological metaphors. In focusing principally (if not exclusively) on the long view,


5.17 On Kawara, Im Still Alive, 1978.

Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.

Braudel meant to slow things down, to question the value accorded documents and events in nineteenth-century historiography or lhistoire vnementielle. In characteristically poetic prose, he saw this kind of history as little more than a surface disturbance, the wave stirred up by the powerful movement of tides. This was a history of short, sharp nervous vibrations. . . . A world of vivid passions, certainly, but a blind world, as any living world must be, as ours is, oblivious of the deep currents of history. That marine metaphorin which the long view of history moved in almost plate-tectonic fashionwas opposed to the short span of history, a ripple or the slightest surface disturbance. And the event could be even more inconsequential than a mere stirring of the waters. In his scholarship on the Mediterranean, Braudel condensed his thinking on the history of events to a statement as pithy as the subject that inspired it. Events are dust.61 Events are dust. Events as mundane as getting up, as going to sleep, as snipping articles from the paper, as painting a date against a at eld, are dust in the sense of their smallness and evanescence: they are particular in the ways that dust particles are particular. Events are dust because, in their niteness, they speak to historical nitude and the relative triviality of events compared to the broad span of the longue dure. Braudel (and the rst and second generation of the Annales school more generally) saw events as little more than dust in opposition to those who privilege them as the very ground for the writing of history. With all its explosive intensity, the event is like the pivot point of Lyotards metanarrative, whereas the actors behind it are its prime movers, its heroic individuals. Braudel preferred to call this phenomenon a short time span, and however inconsequential it might seem, he acknowledged its relative importance against the backdrop of the longue dure.
So, to put things more clearly, let us say that instead of a history of events, we would speak of a short time space, proportionate to individuals, to daily life, to our illusions, to our hasty awarenessabove all the time of the chronicle and the journalist. Now, it is worth noting that side by side with great, so to speak, historic events, the chronicle or the daily paper oKers us all the mediocre accidents of everyday life: a re, a railway crash, the price of wheat, a crime, a theatrical production, a ood. It is clear, then, that there is a short time span which plays a part



all forms of life, economic, social, literary, institutional, religious, even geographical (a gust of wind, a storm), just as much as political. At rst sight, the past seems to consist in just this mass of di-

5.18 On Kawara, Im Not Going to

verse facts, some of which catch the eye, and some of which are dim and repeat themselves indenitely. The very facts, that is, which go to make up the daily booty of microsociology or of sociometry (there is microhistory too). But this mass does not make up all of reality, all the depth of history on which scientic thought is free to work.62

Commit Suicide, Dont Worry, 1970. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York.

Instead of thinking history only in terms of the short time span, Braudel proposed seeing lapidary time spans, overlapping cycles, which, in their intersection and convergence, produce far more complex readings of historical change than the neat linear sequencing organized around discrete documents and dates. The inuence of social science methods, in particular the rise of conjuncture and long-range forecasting, augur this shift in the production of history. There has been an alteration in traditional historical time. A day, a year once seemed useful gauges, he wrote.
Time, after all, was made up of an accumulation of days. . . . What is quite clear is that the historian can make use of a new notion of time, a time raised to the level of explication, and that history can attempt to explain itself by dividing itself at new points of reference in response to these curves and the very way they breathe. . . . Science, technology, political institutions, conceptual changes, civilizations (to fall back on that useful word) all have their own rhythms of life and growth, and the new history of conjunctures will be complete only when it has made up a whole orchestra of them all.63


A history of conjuncture was necessarily open to other disciplines, and Braudels analysis made ample reference to them, from the structuralist anthropology of Levi-Strauss to the game theory of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. In what ways does this apply to Kawaras practice? Calling his work a bad innity names a failure to transcend its own moment, its gestures repeated endlessly into the future. That failure, however, is instructive. I have been arguing for the critical position this reading of time implies; by reading the longue dure alongside this model, I want

to suggest a simultaneous heuristic at work. Just as the bad innity outlines something of the nature of the endless sixties, Kawaras longue dure gives some space, however much the space of the short time span, to the microactivities of history, the small movements of the everyday negotiating an extended duration. It boils down to his parodic relationship to the event coupled with his own longue dure. If, following Braudel, the event within traditional histories was the nexus of lhistoire vnementielle a linear history or for that matter a metanarrativeKawaras approach to the event is at once deadpan, funny, and utterly serious. The events that comprise the Today Series, the postcards and the telegramsgetting up, painting a date, going to sleepdoubtlessly constitute what Braudel called the mediocre accidents of everyday life. Kawara continuously makes good on those mediocre accidents. Not only that, but his collection of headlines from the days he produced his paintings affords a glimpse of what Braudel cites as the chronicle or the daily paper . . . the railway crash, the price of wheat, a crime, a theatrical production, a ood. The acts behind the production of the work, day in and day out, are practically negligible when viewed in isolation. Yet when taken together, they constitute the most fundamental gestures of an artists being in the world. The habitual recording of such acts, and their communication over time and space, are a means to impress upon the viewer their signicance, trivial as they may seem. For though it is so much historical dust, that dust, in the end, is not negligible. In the spirit of Braudels history, that dust will collect, amounting ultimately to something of historical consequence. Let me repeat Braudels words on the potentially larger (and political) consequences of the event within the short span. It is clear, then, that there is a short time span which plays a part all forms of life, economic, social, literary, institutional, religious, even geographical (a gust of wind, a storm), just as much as political. At the same time, Kawara manages to sidestep the critical risks involved in placing himself so insistently in the historical picture. For all the use of the personal pronoun I in his art, the work is decidedly anonymous. It is a chronicle without emotional affect, a diary without ego: we gain little in the way of insight into his psyche by following his days. Even as he telegraphs (or rather telegrams) a message suggesting urgencyI AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE DONT WORRY



there is no suggestion of a historical actor behind them. Gestures, yessmall ones take place, and their cumulative effect takes on its own charge; but there is no heroic individual to perform the metanarrative. Quietly and steadfastly, Kawara deects that role. Here is a subject with seemingly little subjectivity confronting the future of time nonetheless. With Kawaras small events, then, we confront the issue of agency within this endlessness and are thus brought back to the place of the subject within postmodernism. And so we might recall Jamesons account of Lyotards formal problem within the philosophers book: the possibility that Lyotard may be reproducing a metanarrative in his own right, in spite of his declared intentions. Not so. To take another page from that discussion, perhaps we might see in Kawaras art a celebration of a related ethic if an antiheroic ethic. Perhaps an ethic of surviving, strategizing, under the sign of postmodernism, however much without fanfare, with a staunch diligence to the Everyday that runs counter to the seeming inexhaustibility of this present.64 Indeed the logic of this endlessnessa kind of eternal recurrencewill itself call for a new mode of decision making, a new ethic: how are we to act in the face of this time? It is an ethic of slowness and commitment, as if to bear unagging witness to its endlessly accelerating projections.



For the sake of some closure, provisional though it is, I repeat some comments made at the beginning of this book. When historians and critics write about periodizing the sixties, they mean, rst of all, to reject the crude historicizing that sees that time as beginning on January 1, 1960, and ending at midnight, December 31, ten years later. They mean to see something more expansive about that moment, irreducible to marks on a calendar or dates on a page. The sixties, I have been arguing, represented a marked grappling with that changed temporality, and, more often than not, technology gured into the picture. The art of that moment grappled too, struggled with the very notion of the moment itself. We see it in Kawara, in Warhol, in the on and on that is minimalism. We see it in Carolee Schneemanns intermedia performances

and Pol Burys kinesis, in countless tracts and polemics and art criticism of the period. They remind us of our own confrontations with time and contemporary art. When, for instance, we walk into a gallery today and encounter LED signs blinking like digital clocks or plasma screen paintings or the bland, pseudo-democratic art variously described as interactive, we come face to face with new media thats always already on the way out, work that begs the very question of new. To wit: remember VR? And what about television? In worlds in which the speed of technology is matched only by its spatial reach, time becomes that much more political, of global consequences. Perhaps this is why now, more and more, we hear of groups, communities, and scattered networks of individuals taking pause. Theyre pausing not in any naive effort to go backfollowing a luddites primitivist convictions to return to a mythic pastbut to slow down.65 For it is in slowness and the capacity to parse ones own present that one gains ground on whats coming up next, perhaps restores to the every day some degree of agency, perhaps some degree of resistance. In slowly taking measure of the endless present, one refuses teleological end games. Instead one rests with the immanence of being and the potential to act. Through the example of the art of the 1960s, we return to a history in which such lessons found their most cogent articulation, with time serving as the foundational medium. In tracking its laws and internal contradictions, we take the long view of a moment that would have us fall sway to the economy of transience. To borrow from Gaston Bachelard, we scrutinize its rhetoric, its mechanics, and fallout to confront the lavish heterogeneity of duration.



Preface 1. E. M. Cioran, The Fall out of Time, in The Fall into Time, trans. Richard Howard (Chicago: Quadragle Books, 1964), p. 173. 2. Reinhart Koselleck, Modernity and the Planes of Historicity, in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Change (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), p. 13. 3. The major exception here is Rosalind Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1977), particularly the essay Mechanical Ballets: Light, Motion, Theater. Krauss argued for the centrality of time in understanding the structural logic of modern sculpture; her account extends far beyond the art of the 1960s, however, and is not especially concerned with technology. 4. Fredric Jameson, Culture, in Postmodernism: or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 3637. 5. Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1986). 6. Samuel Wagstaff Jr., Talking with Tony Smith, Artforum 5, no. 4 (December 1966): 1419. 7. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Martin Ostwald (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill Library of Liberal Arts, 1983), p. 315. The denition continues: The term is used not only to describe, for example, the kind of knowledge which a shoemaker needs to produce shoes, but also to describe the art of a physician which produces health, or the skill of a harpist which produces music. More recent discussion of the term as it relates to contemporary artistic production is R. L. Rutsky, High Techne: Art and Technology from the Machine Age Aesthetic to the Posthuman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

Denitions of technology are aggressively debated, and I can only point to the vast literature in the philosophy of technology that treats this issue. For instance, Don Ihde narrows the denition by stressing the existence of a technological component. Don Ihde, Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction (New York: Paragon House, 1993). Also see James K. Feibleman, Pure Science, Applied Science, and Technology: An Attempt at Denitions, in Philosophy and Technology: Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Technology, ed. Carl Mitcham and Robert Mackey (Free Press: London, 1972), pp. 3341. 8. For a philosophical account of the relationship between techne and time, see Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford, Calif.: Meridian, Stanford University Press, 1994). The question of time, of course, is the philosophical issue par excellence. A selection of both introductory and more advanced texts include D. H. Mellor, Real Time (London: Routledge, 1981); Philip Turetzky, Time (London: Routledge, 1998); Christopher Ray, Time, Space and Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1991); Eric Alliez, Capital Times (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991). An important book that addresses philosophies of timeparticularly Marxian notions of temporalityrelative to contemporary politics of resistance and the multitude is Antonio Negri, Time for Revolution, trans. Matteo Mandarini (New York: Continuum, 2003). 9. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, p. 151. 10. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1977), p. 12. 11. For his laypersons account of relativity theory, see Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, trans. Robert Lawson (New York: Outlet, 1988). A few useful introductions on the question of time within modern physics include Stephen W. Hawkings, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1988); Paul Davies, About Time: Einsteins Unnished Revolution (Touchstone: New York, 1995); Igor Novikov, The River of Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 12. Merrill Roe Smith and Leo Marx, eds., Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996). 13. See, e.g., Isabelle Stengers and Ilya Prirogone, The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature (New York: Free Press, 1997). 14. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientic Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), p. 5. 15. Ibid., p. 6. 16. See, e.g., Fredric Jameson, Periodizing the Sixties, in The 60s without Apology, ed. Sohnya Sayres, Anders Stephenson, Stanley Aronowitz, and Fredric Jameson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), pp. 178209.



17. Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein argue that the period between 1945 and 1967/ 73 represents the A phase of what historians and sociologists call a Kondratieff cycle, named after the Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratiev, theorist of the notion of long wavesa period of global economic expansion and contraction. The A phase refers to a period of accelerated growth that then (in this example by the mid-1970s) slows considerably. Of this historical moment, the authors note a convergence between this cycle and the period of unquestioned U.S. hegemony in the world system. Terrence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein, The World-System: Is There a Crisis? in The Age of Transition: Trajectory of the World System, 19452025 (London: Zed Books, 1996), p. 9; also see Wallerstein, The Global Picture, in the same volume, pp. 209225. 18. Not incidentally, Jameson describes this in terms of aphasia or Lacanian schizophrenia. The crisis in historicity now dictates a return, in a new way, to the question of temporal organization in general in the postmodern force eld, and indeed, to the problem of form that time, temporality and the syntagmatic will be able to take in a culture increasingly dominated by space and spatial logic. If indeed the subject has lost its capacity actively to extend its pro-tensions and retensions across the temporal manifold and to organize its past and future into coherent experience, it becomes difcult enough to see how the cultural productions of such a subject could result in anything but a heap of fragments and in a practice of the randomly heterogeneous and fragmentary and aleatory. Jameson, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Postmodernism, p. 25. 19. On the genealogy of the term crisis as an event that calls for immediate decision making (linked to the sense of its being a medical emergency), see Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society (Oxford: Berg Limited, 1985).

Introduction: Eros and Technics and Civilization 1. See Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology, trans. Mark Politzotti (New York: Semiotext[e], 1986), and his The Art of the Motor, trans. Julie Rose (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995). On Nanosecond culture, see Jeremy Rifkin, Time Wars: The Primary Conict in Human History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987). 2. Maurice Tuchman, A Report on the Art and Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 196771 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1971) (hereafter A & T), p. 11.

3. Max Kozloff, The Multi-million Dollar Art Boondoggle, Artforum 10, no. 2 (October 1971): 72.

4. Tuchman, A & T, p. 9. 5. Jack Burnham, Corporate Art, Artforum 10, no. 2 (October 1971): 6671. 6. Experiments in Art and Technology, E.A.T. News 2, no. 1 (March 18, 1968): 2, Art and Technology Archives, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (hereafter, LACMA). 7. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 8. Thomas Pynchon, Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite? New York Times Book Review, October 28, 1984, pp. 140241. 9. Stefan Colloni, Introduction: Reactions and Controversies, C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. xxixxliii. 10. Snow, Two Cultures (1998), p. 22. 11. Ibid., p. 51. 12. Henry J. Seldis, County Museum Exhibit Mates Art and Technology, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 1971, p. 47. 13. On this history, see Calvin Tompkins, Outside Art, in Pavilion, ed. Billy Klver, Julie Martin, and Barbara Rose (New York: Dutton, 1972), pp. 105172. It is to E.A.T.s credit that they published this largely unattering portrait of the Osaka event, which characterized most of the proceedings as inept. 14. Experiments in Art and Technology, E.A.T. News 2, no. 1 (March 18, 1968): 1. 15. For a critical account of E.A.T. and 9 Evenings, see Jack Burnham, Art and Technology: The Panacea That Failed, in The Myths of Information: Technology and Postindustrial Culture, ed. Kathleen Woodward (Madison, Wisc.: Coda Press, 1980), pp. 200215. 16. Quoted in Burnham, Art and Technology, p. 204. 17. Tuchman, A & T, p. 241. 18. The Corporation, Rand Corporation Bulletin, 1968, Santa Monica, Calif. 19. Chamberlain, in A & T, p. 71. 20. Ibid., p. 71. 21. Files 1 and 2, John Chamberlain, Art and Technology Files, Archives, LACMA. 22. Press Release For LA County Museum of Art, Art and Technology Program: Press Conference (Incorporation in Museum News Release), n.d. Art and Technology Archives, LACMA. 23. Burnham, Art and Technology, p. 204.



24. Ibid., p. 204. 25. Ibid., p. 203. 26. Corporation, p. 1. 27. Press Release, Newsbureau, Lockheed-California Company (A Division of Lockheed-Aircraft Corporation), For Release: 9 A.M., EDT, May 9, 1968. Art and Technology Archives, LACMA. 28. Kozloff, Multi-million Dollar Art Boondoggle, p. 76. 29. Ibid., p. 78. 30. Not to mention, of course, the character of the irrational Adorno described with respect to the astrology column in the Los Angeles Times. Theodor W. Adorno, The Stars Down to Earth and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture (London: Routledge, 1994). 31. San Diegos identity as a modern city is doubtlessly linked to the enormous presence of the military thereconcentrated in the 1930sand the inuence of aerospace technology on the regions industrial fortunes. In spite of or perhaps because of this, the city has long had a radical presence in both the prewar and postwar years: communist demonstrations in 1933, for example, resulted in a large-scale riot. See Robert Mayer, San Diego: A Chronological and Documentary History (New York: Oceana Publications, 1978); Michael McKeever, A Short History of San Diego (San Francisco: Lexicos, 1985). 32. See Marcuse, The Origin of Repressed Civilization (phylogenesis), in Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (New York: Beacon Press, 1955), pp. 5683. 33. Ibid., p. 58. 34. In this sense, Marcuses 1937 text The Afrmative Character of Culture foreshadows his postwar aesthetic theory. On the relationship between these earlier and later texts, I have learned much from the scholarship of Claudia Mesch, whose lecture on Marcuse at the annual College Art Association meeting in New York in 2001 has proven very helpful. Claudia Mesch Forgetting Marcuse (unpublished talk) on the panel, Art Writing of the Sixties, convened by Keith Moxey. 35. Marcuse, Origin of Repressed Civilization, in Eros and Civilization, p. 77. 36. Ibid., p. 78. 37. Ibid.


38. Ibid., p. 79. 39. George Lichtheim, The Threat of History: One-Dimensional Man, New York Review of Books, February 20, 1964, pp. 1516.

40. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (New York: Beacon Press, 1964) (hereafter ODM), p. 1. 41. Marcuse, ODM, pp. 23. 42. Ibid., p. 9. 43. See, e.g., Herbert Marcuse, Some Social Implications of Modern Technology, in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, ed. Andrew Arrato and Eike Gebhardt (New York: Continuum, 1982), pp. 138162; and Jrgen Habermas, Technology and Science as Ideology, in Toward a Rational Society: Student Protest, Science, and Politics, trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), pp. 81122. Also see Steven Vogel, New Science, New Nature: The Habermas-Marcuse Debate Revisited, Research in Philosophy and Technology: Technology and Politics 11 (1991): 156157. 44. Marcuse, ODM, pp. 1011. 45. Ibid., p, 29. 46. Ibid., p. 32. 47. As cited in note 34, Claudia Mesch has spoken on Marcuses impact on the art criticism of the late 1960s, noting the importance of Marcuses An Essay on Liberation in addition to Eros and Civilization and One-Dimensional Man. Among other examples she cites his Art in the One-Dimensional Society, and his 1969 lecture at the Guggenheim, Art as a Form of Reality, in broader discussions of anti-art at the time. See Herbert Marcuse, An Essay on Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969); and Art in the One-Dimensional Society Arts Magazine, 41, no. 7 (May 1967): 2631. 48. Marcuse, ODM, p. 56. 49. Ibid., p. 57. 50. Ibid., p. 64. 51. Ibid., p. 65. It is here that Marcuse began to formulate his notion of Repressive desublimation. If art had once been considered sublimation, to follow the conventional Freudian account, in the new technological society, its transformation to popular culture represents desublimation because it is no longer needed to express the contradiction of social reality or represent its alienation under capital. 52. Ibid., p. 80. 53. Ibid., pp. 8081. 54. Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-Out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1977). Winners notion of autonomous technology was informed by his reading of Jacques Elluls technological society.



55. Marcuse, ODM, p. 88. 56. Ibid., pp. 89, 91. 57. Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counter Culture: Reections on the Technocratic Society and Its Useful Opposition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), pp. 46. 58. Ibid., p. 8. 59. ODM, p. 96. 60. Ibid., p. 97. 61. Ibid., p. 98. 62. Ibid., p. 99. 63. Ibid. 64. Tuchman, A & T, p. 260.

Chapter 1: Presentness Is Grace With thanks to Christine Mehring. 1. Michael Fried, Art and Objecthood, Artforum (June 1967); reprinted in Art and Objecthood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 148 (page citation is to reprint edition). 2. Fried, Art and Objecthood, p. 146. 3. On that resonant phrase, see T. J. Clark, Arguments about Modernism: A Reply to Michael Fried, in Pollock and After: The Critical Debates, ed. Francis Frascina (New York: Harper and Harper, 1985), pp. 8687. Rosalind Krauss offers a recollection of rst reading those linescoupled with Frieds reference to Frank Stella and Ted Williams. Rosalind Krauss, The Optical Unconscious (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993), pp. 67. I will take up James Meyerss analysis of the topic in the body of this chapter. 4. The most important statement of this relationship is Hal Foster, The Crux of Minimalism, in The Return of the Real (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), pp. 3571. 5. Fried, Introduction, in Art and Objecthood, p. 17. 6. This cover has garnered much critical attention of late. Here I need to acknowledge the work of Gwen Allen, whose dissertation on the art magazine in the 1960s attends to the design of Artforum relative to the work of art it presents on its cover. Gwen Allen, Ph.D. dissertation in progress, Stanford University.


7. As historians have noted, Greenbergs Recentness of Sculpture (1967), which appeared only a few months before Frieds text, provides some important cues for considering the later essay. Published on the occasion of the large group show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art American Sculpture of the Sixties an attempt to survey the state of the sculptural eldGreenberg seemed to dene minimalism by what it was not; or, as Fried did in his later essay, in close relationship to well-established categories of object: painting, mostly or, far more damning, good design. In the second-to-last paragraph of the essay, Greenberg drew upon a term that will signify in a different way with Art and Objecthood: that is, the new sculptures presence. More than anything, that sculptures presence was regarded as anthropomorphic in nature, like a stage presence, as Fried would later call it. Speaking about an encounter with Ann Truitts work in 1963, Greenberg recalled, I noticed how this look could confer an effect of presence. That presence as achieved through size was aesthetically extraneous I already knew. That presence as achieved through the look of non-art was likewise aesthetically extraneous, I did not yet know. Presenceestablished by the sheer size of the work of artsignals the question of the phenomenal as opposed to the aesthetic or artistic, Greenberg concluded of the new sculpture. Clement Greenberg, Recentness of Sculpture, American Sculpture of the Sixties (Los Angeles: LACMA, 1967), pp. 2426. 8. Jill Beaulieu, Mary Roberts, and Tony Ross, Interview with Michael Fried, in Refracting Vision: Essays on the writings of Michael Fried (Sydney: Power Publications, 2000), p. 381. See also Michael Fried, How Modernism Works: A Response to T. J. Clark, in Frascina, Pollock and After, pp. 68; and Fried, Shape as Form: Frank Stellas New Painting, reprinted in Art and Objecthood, pp. 77100. 9. James Meyer, The Writing of Art and Objecthood, in Refracting Vision, p. 68. 10. Donald Judd, Specic Objects, in Arts Yearbook 1965, New York, pp. 74 82. Also see Robert Morris, Notes on Sculpture, Part 2, reprinted in Continuous Project Altered Daily (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993). 11. Fried, Art and Objecthood, p. 149. 12. Clement Greenberg, Modernist Painting, in Clement Greenberg, vol. 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 19571969, The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 14, ed. John OBrian (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986 1993), p. 85. 13. There are some notable exceptions. Alex Potts has usefully discussed the time of minimalist sculpture as being like a musical loopthe kind of loop associated with minimalist musicand the suggestiveness of his argument lies with its bridging the temporality of Frieds discussion with the spatial coordinates of the works phenomenological turn. Just as the musical loop of



minimalist music occurs repetitively in time, so too does the object stage for its viewers the repeated circumnavigation around it. But from Pottss perspective, minimalist repetition admits to difference. Alex Potts, The Sculptural Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). On the time of minimalist music in minimalist art, see my Phase Piece, in Sol LeWitt: Incomplete Open Cubes (exhibit Catalogue, the Wadsworth Athenaeum) (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), pp. 4958. 14. Fried, Art and Objecthood, p. 166. 15. Ibid., p. 163. 16. Ibid., pp. 166167. 17. Ibid., p. 166. 18. Stanley Cavell, Knowing and Acknowledging, in Must We Mean What We Say? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 238266. 19. For an important account of Cavells formulation of criteria as it relates to Friedian aesthetics, see Stephen Melville, On Modernism, in Philosophy Beside Itself: On Deconstruction and Modernism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 1733. 20. See Cavell, Knowing and Acknowledging, p. 238. 21. Espen Hammer, Stanley Cavell: Skepticism, Subjectivity, and the Ordinary (Cambridge: Polity Press, Blackwell Publishers, 2002), p. xii. 22. Joseph Koerner provides a useful prcis on the subject. On Reformation notions of temporality there are two crucial issues. One is that Protestants focused religion on the here and now over against the longer duration because they located salvation in faith enacted in the very moment. The other is that Protestants rejected tradition as basis for truth and returned to Scripture. That meant that they saw tradition as contingent, and were able to write a critical history of tradition, specically critical histories of the Church. Historical consciousness therefore was fueled by Protestantisms inherent need to be revisionist. Joseph Leo Koerner, e-mail to the author, November 3, 2002. 23. Meyer, The Writing of Art and Objecthood, in Retracting Vision, p. 79. 24. Ibid., pp. 7279; Also see his reading of Frieds text in Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the 1960s (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 345359. 25. Jonathan Edwards, in Robert Smithson, Letter to the Editor, in The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Jack Flam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 66. 26. Fried, Art and Objecthood, p. 73, n. 76.


27. Robert Smithson, Letter to the Editor, in The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Jack Flam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 66. 28. Ibid., p. 67. 29. Samuel Wagstaff Jr. Talking with Tony Smith, Artforum 5, no. 4 (December 1966): 1419. 30. Rosalind Krauss has attended to the resonance of the word medium as a channeler of communication, for example, as a spirit medium, in Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism, in Video Culture, ed. John Hanhardt (Layton, Utah: Peregrine Smith Books, 1986), pp. 179219. 31. On the question of modernitys temporality, see Reinhold Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985). There are countless texts on time within both modernity and postmodernity. One useful discussion of modernitys time is Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (Verso: London, 1995). Also see Stephen Kerr, The Culture of Time and Space: 18801918 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983). 32. To rehearse this argument is to insist upon its foundational status for the criticism of a more recent past and to uncover the intractability of these terms as they inform Frieds own confrontation with minimalist sculpture. For Lessing, a recently discovered Roman copy of the ancient Laocon group occasions a debate with Winckleman on the nature of verbal versus visual representation. Comparison of Virgils poetic rendition of the topic with the sculptural work leads to the famous distinction between the temporal arts of poetry, literature, and music and the spatial arts of painting and sculpture (he does not attempt to parse these further). Lessing speaks to painting and sculptures impossible fantasy of properly representing time, of consolidating in static form that which is agrantly nonstatic. Hence his well-known account of the classical Laocon group, which, in representing the gure of Laocon and his two sons ensnared in a web of serpents, walks a thin line between evacuating a dynamic event of any emotional affect and anticipating in sculptural form the temporal crux of a narrative. Lessings claim is that the relative restraint the sculptor used in depicting that dramatic moment underscores the limitations of the medium itself. 33. Clement Greenberg, Towards a Newer Laocon (1940) in OBrian, Clement Greenberg, vol. 1: Perceptions and Judgments, p. 32. 34. Clement Greenberg, Towards a Newer Laocon(unpublished version), in Clement Greenberg Papers, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 950085, Series III: Manuscripts, Essays on art and aesthetics, box 25, folder 1. 35. See, for example, Wallace Stevens, Two Prefaces, in Modern Critical Views: Paul Valry, ed. and with an introduction by Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989), pp. 3147.



36. It is worth speculating about why Greenberg did not include these lines from the published version of the essay. Perhaps the question of temporality that Valrys work invoked would show up the relative character of Greenbergs notion of medium as a function of time. 37. Here we might consider Greenbergs occasional critical forays into photography, in which, as Christine Mehring has pointed out, the relativity of his arguments about medium specicity becomes especially clear with respect to issues of time. For Greenberg, the best photography, such as that of Walker Evans, should be like literature, which is to say, a temporal art. Let photography be literary, he advised at the end of a review of Edward Westons photographs, which he condemned as following modernist painting a little too closely. Greenbergs account of photography, just like Frieds aside on the movies in Art and Objecthood (to be discussed), reveals how time may well be more fundamental to either critics discussion of medium than he is willing to acknowledge. See Clement Greenberg, The Cameras Glass Eye: Review of an Exhibition of Edward Weston, in OBrian, Clement Greenberg, vol. 2, Arrogant Purpose, pp. 6063. 38. Erwin Panofsky, quoted in Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed (hereafter, WV) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 16. 39. Fried, Art and Objecthood, p. 164. 40. These essays include Rosalind Krauss, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-medium Condition (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999); . . . And Then Turn Away? An Essay on James Coleman, OCTOBER 81 (MIT Press) (Summer 1997): 533; The Rock: William Kentridges Drawings for Projection, OCTOBER 92 (MIT Press) (Spring 2000): 335. 41. Cavell, Preface, in WV, p. xxiii. 42. Cavell wrote, It could be said further that what painting wanted, in wanting connection with reality, was a sense of presentness not exactly a conviction of the worlds presence to us, but of our presence to it. At some point the unhinging of our consciousness from the world interposed our subjectivity between us and our presentness to the world. Thus our subjectivity became what is present to us, individuality became isolation. The route to conviction in reality was through the acknowledgment of that endless presence of self. . . . Then the recent major painting which Fried describes as objects of presentness would be paintings latest effort to maintain its conviction in its own power to establish connection with realityby permitting us presentness to ourselves, apart from which there is no hope for a world. Cavell, WV, p. 22.


43. For a thorough exegesis on the books philosophical underpinnings, see William Rothman and Mariane Keane, Reading Cavells The World Viewed: A Philosophical Perspective on Film (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000). 44. Rothman and Keane, Reading Cavells The World Viewed, p. 175.

45. Cavell, WV, p. 24. 46. Ibid., p. 39. Cavell wrote, In viewing lms, the sense of invisibility is an expression of modern privacy or anonymity. It is as though the worlds projection explains our forms of unknownness and our inability to know. The explanation is not so much that the world is passing us by, as that we are displaced from our natural habitation within it, placed at a distance from it. The screen . . . makes displacement appear as our natural condition. 47. Ibid., pp. 110111. 48. Ibid., p. 20. 49. Ibid., p. 103. 50. Ibid., p. 104. 51. Rosalind Krauss, The Rock: William Kentridges Drawings for Projection, OCTOBER 92 (MIT Press) (Spring 2000): 12. 52. Cavell, WV, p. 109. 53. Ibid., p. 111. 54. Ibid., p. 116. 55. Ibid., p. 117. 56. Krauss, Voyage on the North Sea, pp. 58. 57. Within contemporary art criticism, recursion has more recently been considered with respect to articial life and recombinant technologies and the ecological implications that derive from this. See, for example, Aaron Betsky, The Age of the Recursive, in 010101: Art in Technological Times (San Francisco: SF MoMA, 2001), pp. 4146. My thanks to Jennifer Gonzalez, whose comments on a presentation of chapter 4 of this book helpfully pushed my thinking in this recursive direction. 58. See, for example, p. Odifreddi, Classical Recursion Theory: Studies in Logic and The Foundations of Mathematics, vol. 125. (Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers, 1989). 59. Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1980). For a less technical account, see Maturana and Varela, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding (Boston: Shambhala, 1987). Inuenced by Gregory Batesons metalogy (about which more will follow), and by Wittgensteins theories of language and later cybernetic theories of radical constructivism, the theoretical biologists Maturana and Varela have had a profound impact on the later generation of cybernetics and systems theory. In research on both frog vision and biology of cognition in the late fties



and early sixties, Maturana repeatedly ran up against the limits of treating organisms as open systems particularly with respect to theories of perception. As he put it, What was still more fundamental was the discovery that one had to close off the nervous system to account for its operation, and that perception should not be viewed as a grasping of an external reality, but rather as the specication of one, because no distinction was possible between perception and hallucination in the operation of the nervous system as a closed network. Introduction, in Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. xv. What this called for was a more rigorous theory of closed systems and the articulation of its organizational mechanism. A pseudo-Greek term, autopoiesis refers to an organizations self-production. Maturana later recalled its origins as arising out of a conversation with Varela on the notion of circular organization. Varela remarked: If indeed the circular organization is sufcient to characterize living systems as unities, then one should be able to put it in more formal terms; to which Maturana replied: I agreed, but said that a formalization could only come about after a complete linguistic description, and we immediately began to work on the complete description. Yet we were unhappy with the expression circular organization and we wanted a word that would by itself convey the central feature of the organization of the living, which is autonomy. Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. vii. Strictly speaking, an autopoietic organization is autonomous and therefore belongs to second-order systems discourse, meaning the system is operationally closed and self-referring. Those elements that make up an autopoietic system are recursive in generating the same conditions that produced them. Autopoiesis, then, is a kind of homeostasis, whose immediate applications are biological. Autopoietic machines are unities because, and only because, of their specic autopoietic organization; they do not have inputs or outputs. Ibid., p. 81. Theories of autopoiesis have been widely employed in the larger analysis of systems, whether of organisms or social systems such as corporations and states. Niklas Luhmanns theories of social systems, we shall see, takes off from earlier scientic models of autopoiesis. See, for example, Gunther Teubner and Alberto Febbrajo, eds., State, Law, and Economy as Autopoietic Systems (Milan: Giuffr, 1992). For a discussion on the limitations of this model for second-order cybernetics, see William Rasch, Theory of a Different Order: A Conversation with Katherine Hayles and Niklas Luhmann, in Niklas Luhmanns Modernity: The Paradoxes of Differentiation (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000), pp. 172174. 60. A philosophical account of art and systems theory by the social theorist Niklas Luhmann is Art as a Social System (Stanford, Calif.: Meridian Press, Stanford University, 2000). Luhmanns is not a history of this question as it relates to the art of the 1960s, but it takes up the issue of perception in the observer in constituting notions of the work of art. Luhmanns particular brand of Second-order cybernetics, elaborated on more fully in the body of this chapter, stresses the role of the observer in articulating and dening the


boundaries of what constitutes a system; and thus, for the purposes of art, it is especially attentive to issues of perception and environment for arts audience. Of course, the problem of observation has a long genealogy within the history of modern science, ranging from Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle to Kurt Godels Incompleteness Theorem to later notions of Radical Constructivism. For an excellent recent art historical account that takes up Luhmanns theories with respect to the thematic of surveillance, see Christian Katti, Systematically Observing Surveillance: Paradoxes of Observation according to Niklas Luhmanns Systems Theory, in Control Space: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, ed. Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne, and Peter Weibel (Karlsruhe and Cambridge, Mass.: ZKM and MIT Press, 2002), pp. 5064. 61. Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1993), p. 431. 62. Maturana and Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. 137. 63. Ross Ashby, An Introduction to Cybernetics (London: Chapman and Hall, 1957), p. 1. 64. Here I deliberately invoke the rhetoric of Stephen Melville, who has described Frieds formalism not as a semantics, but a grammarnot what is art but how is art. Melville, On Modernism, Philosophy Beside Itself, p. 15. 65. As both Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson recall, systems theory was much more successful than cybernetics in nding both institutional support and mainstream acceptance in the United States. See Stewart Brand, For Gods Sake, Margaret, CoEvolutionary Quarterly, no. 10 (June 1976): 3244. 66. Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Introduction, in General System Theory (New York: George Braziller, 1968), pp. 34. 67. The mechanistic world view, taking the play of physical particles as ultimate reality, found its expression in a civilization which glories physical technology that has led eventually to the catastrophes of our time. Possibly the model of world as a great organization can help to reinforce the sense of reverence for the living which we have almost lost in the last sanguinary decades of human history. Ibid., p. 49. 68. Ibid., p. vii. 69. For more on cybernetics-generalized applications in the 1960s and their relationship to time, see chapter 4, Ultramoderne. 70. It is a measure of the pervasiveness of systems theory within the art of the 1960s that Lawrence Alloway dened its terms with respect to the art world. See Lawrence Alloway, Network: The Art World Described as a System, Artforum 11, no. 1 (September 1972): 2833.



71. Von Bertalanffy recognized the inherent limitations of certain scientic models based in physics that neither admit to the inuence of external systems nor have any interaction with things outside themselves. Although such closed systems allowed for a certain precision of scientic analysis (insofar as all data was constant and therefore controlled), they were necessarily hermetic and abstract, their applications less practical than theoretical. By contrast, von Bertalanffys treatment of open systems, based in the life sciences, understood well the contingent dimension of an organisms behavior: there was no such pure system in nature. 72. On the distinctions between systems theory and cybernetics, as well as my paraphrase on closed and open systems, see Robert Lilieneld, Systems Theory as Ideology, Social Research 42 (Winter 1975): 637659. 73. Heinz von Foerster, Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics, Stanford Humanities Review 4, no. 2 (1994): Constructions of the Mind, p. 2. 74. Luhmann, Observation of the First and of the Second Order, in Art as a Social System, p. 62. 75. Ibid., p. 54. 76. On structuration and praxis within the social applications of systems theory, see Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). As Peter HarriesJones observes, In social science the term recursion has become familiar with the writings of Anthony Giddens. Social activities, he writes, are continually recreated by (social actors) via the means whereby they express themselves as actors. In and through these activities, social agents reproduce the conditions that make these activities possible. In Giddens view, recursion is an important component of structuration, structure itself being the rules and resources recursively implicated in social reproduction. Peter Harries-Jones, A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), n. 1, p. 267. 77. Sir Stafford Beer, preface to Maturana and Varela, Autopoiesis: The Organization of the Living, in Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. 67. 78. On the problems of causality and teleology in General System Theory, see von Bertalanffy, General System Theory, pp. 4546; also see Norbert Wiener, Newtonian and Bergsonian Time, and the highly technical Time Series, Information, and Communication, both in Cybernetics: or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1948), pp. 3044, 6094. There is an enormous body of literature on the time problem within cybernetics and information theory; see the notes to chapter 4, Ultramoderne: Or, How George Kubler Stole the Time in Sixties Art.


79. On the rise of technological and social forecasting, prognosticating, and futurist studies in the 1960s, see this books conclusion: The Bad Innity/The Longue Dure. 80. Gregory Bateson, Cybernetic Explanation, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (San Francisco: Chandler Publishing for Health Sciences, 1972), p. 405. 81. It is Hume who rst uses the example of billiard balls to illustrate the skeptics account of causality. (Bateson was doubtlessly aware of this in formulating his cybernetic example.) Among the most prominent heirs to Humes antideterminism (or rather indeterminism) is Karl Popper. See Karl Popper, The Open Universe (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littleeld, 1956). 82. Niklas Luhmann, embroidering upon the concept of autopoiesis within the biological research of Maturana and Varela, devoted his work to thinking the social in terms of a recursive universe in which disorder, non-linear complexity, and unpredictability are the rule . . . and the collapse of the boundaries between observer and observed has stimulated the exploration of theoretical models capable of handling problems of self-reference. Foreword, Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems, trans. John Bednarz Jr., with Dirk Baecker (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. xii. 83. On serial systems, see, for example, Mel Bochner, The Serial Attitude, Artforum 6 (December 1967): 2833. Historically, the notion of Real Time was specic to early mainframe systems; users working on connected terminals were considered to be working together in real time. Nowadays, the expression is far more generic, suggesting the proximate ways a computer responds to the immediate needs/conditions of its user: it stands as shorthand for interactivity. The work of Hans Haacke will be discussed in these terms at the conclusion of this chapter. For an excellent account of conceptual arts relationship to the time problem, see Alexander Alberro, Time and Conceptual Art, in Tempus Fugit: Time Flies, ed. Jan Schall (Kansas City, Mo.: Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, 2001), pp. 144157. 84. One need only turn to a standard text of conceptual art, such as, for example, Ursula Meyers Conceptual Art, to gauge the pervasiveness of systems theory within the art speak of that moment. From Victor Burgins Situational Aesthetics to Adrian Pipers Three Models of Art Production Systems to Hans Haackes Communication System, systems discourse is critical to the rhetoric of conceptual art. Ursula Meyer, Conceptual Art (New York: Dutton, 1972). 85. See Caroline A. Jones, The Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998). 86. Tracing the history of this revolution to the invention of photography by Louis-Jacques-Mand Daguerre, Manovich repeatedly describes new media through the terms of distributing, exhibiting, and processing information, as



well as communicating a message. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), p. 6. 87. Gyorgy Kepes, ed., Sign, Image, Symbol (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1966). 88. Jack Burnham, Systems Esthetics, reprinted in Great Western Salt-Works: Essays on the Meaning of Post-formalist Art (New York: George Braziller, 1974), p. 15. 89. Jack Burnham, Software. Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art (New York: Jewish Museum, 1970), p. 10. 90. Ibid., p. 100. 91. Douglas Huebler quoted in Burnham, Software, p. 35. 92. Jack Burnham, Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of this Century (New York: George Braziller, 1968), p. 332. It is worth noting that Burnham changed his position a bit a couple years later; in an interview with Willoughby Sharp, his particular attitude toward formalist criticism (for his purposes, those who attack literalist art e.g., Fried) conceded to how removed it was from his systems-based approach. See Willoughby Sharp, Willoughby Sharp Interviews Jack Burnham, Art Magazine 45, no. 2 (November 1970): 2123 93. Ibid., p. 368. 94. Ibid. 95. Jack Burnham, Steps in The Formulation of Real-Time Political Art, Framing and Being Framed (Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975), p. 9. 96. Hans Haacke, statement in Donald Karshan, Conceptual Art and Conceptual Aspects (New York: New York Cultural Center, 1970). 97. See Astrid Wick-Kmoch, Kunst+Systemtheorie+Sozialwissenschaften, Kunstforum International, no. 27 (1978): 125142. 98. Jack Burnham on Haacke in Framing and Being Framed, p. 9. We need to note that Haackes own attitude toward systems (and its implicit scientism) would shift from the early sixties to the end of that decade; his relationship to Burnham (and the critics reading of von Bertalanffy) would itself prove complicated and ambivalent. On this history, see Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Hans Haacke: Memory and Instrumental Reason, Art in America, 76, no. 2 (February 1988): 97109; 157, 159. Also see Buchloh, Hans Haacke: The Entwinement of Myth and Enlightenment, in Obra Social, exhibition catalog (Barcelona: Fundaciao Antonio Tapies, 1995). 99. See Luhmann, Art as a Social System.


100. Benjamin Buchloh, Conceptual Art 19621969: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions, OCTOBER 55 (MIT Press) (Winter 1990): 130. 101. Gregory Bateson, Part I: Metalogues, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 2. Also see Batesons essay in the same volume, From Versailles to Cybernetics, pp. 477485. 102. William Rasch and Cary Wolfe, eds., Observing Complexity: Systems Theory and Postmodernity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000). Note also that Robert Lillieneld argued against systems theory as being strongly ideological. See Lilieneld, Systems Theory as Ideology.


Chapter 2: Study for an End of the World Some of the references taken from the Archives of the Museum Jean Tinguely (hereafter MJT), Basel, Switzerland, are incomplete with respect to page numbers: the information was not available from the preserved documents. 1. Jean Tinguely, quoted in Albert Sonnard, Lart motoris, Panorama (Paris, 1959) (December 17, 1959): 17. 2. David Brinkleys Journal, New York, NBC, aired April 6, 1962. 3. The show was broadcast in both color and black and white. Copies of the telecast at the Tinguely Museum are in color, whereas those distributed by NBC are in black and white. 4. Thats kulture with a capital K, one journalist offered dismissively of his work in 1959, the Art World never fools us . . . do they? Simon Ward, Press the Button and out Pops Art, Daily Sketch (London), June 24, 1959, MJT. 5. David Farrell Krell, ed., Introduction, in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1977), p. 20. 6. Martin Heidegger, The Worldhood of the World, in Being in Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), pp. 91148. For the distinction between Heideggers earlier notion of world and his later formulation, see Joseph Kockelmanns, Heidegger on Art and Art Works (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Martinus Nijihoff, 1985), p. 148. 7. Martin Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper and Row, 1971). 8. Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking, in Krell, ed. Martin Heidegger, p. 376. See also Martin Heidegger, quoted in Michael Heim, Heidegger and McLuhan: The Computer as Component, in The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 56.


9. Fredric Jameson, Preface, in The Cultures of Globalization, ed. Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyashi (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999), p. xi. Jamesons brief on globalization necessarily informs a contemporary understanding of the art world and, along with it, how we conceptualize the world of the work of art. This is a question I can only acknowledge at this juncture; it is the subject of my current research on more recent artistic practices. Although the relationship between globalization and the art world is a commonplace in art criticism, few accounts have adequately theorized or historicized this relationship, nor dened the terms globalization nor, for that matter, art world. In my study Forgetting the Art World, I consider these deeply historical (and political) issues relative to philosophical formulations on the notion of art world. 10. For morphologies on kinetic art, see George Rickey, The Morphology of Movement: A Study of Kinetic Art, in The Nature and Art of Motion, ed. Gyorgy Kepes (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1967), p. 81. 11. The distinction between actual and virtual kinetic art is derived in part from Guy Brett, Introduction, in Force Fields: Phases of the Kinetic (London: Hayward Gallery, 2000). Also, Guy Brett, in conversation with the author, London, June 26, 2000; June 30, 2000; and August 1, 2000. 12. Listen to Ren on the exhibitions formation (which she repeated twice in 1965 and 1975): In 1955 when this exhibition devoted to Movement opened in Paris, Abstract Expressionism dominated the international scene. Since the end of the Second World War the cole de Paris in France and its conservative aesthetics had succeeded in imposing itself in every path of artistic life. In this unfavorable context, my gallery represented the only bastion engaged in the defense of that abstract art which had developed out of Constructivism and was known as geometric abstraction. Denise Ren, Twenty Years Later, in Le Mouvement / The Movement, Paris 1955 (Paris: Editions Denise Ren, 1975), pp. 910. 13. Victor Vasarely, Manifesto jaune, Galerie Denise Ren, Paris, April 1955, unpaginated, MJT. 14. A preguration of what would be called Op art a decade later, Vasarelys work produced the illusion of movement. He would analogize his paintings to the mouvement-temps of the movie screen, further bolstered by references to the tools and techniques of modern science. See Vasarely, Manifesto jaune. 15. See K. G. Pontus Hultens Mouvement-Temps; ou les quatre dimensions de la plastique cintique, in the Manifesto jaune.


16. Louis-Paul Favre, Le Mouvement, Combat, Paris, May 1955, p. 6, MJT. 17. Tinguely, quoted in William Byron, Wacky Artist of Destruction, Saturday Evening Post, April 21, 1962, pp. 7678.

18. Katherine Kuh, Recent Kinetic Art, in Kepes, Nature and Art of Motion, p. 116. 19. Fletcher Benton, quoted in The Movement Movement, Time Magazine, January 28, 1966, p. 69. 20. Ibid., p. 93. 21. Hulten had worked on the exhibition for some four years before he saw its realization, and like Rens Le Mouvement it included Calder and Duchamp, Tinguely, Vasarely, and Soto, as well as Robert Rauschenberg (who had just won the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale) and Jasper Johns. 22. George Rickey, Morphology of Movement, in Kepes, Nature and Art of Motion, p. 81. 23. See, for example, Sigvard Strandh on the history of kinematics (in the work of Andr-Marie Ampre, Gustave-Gaspard Coriolis, and Charles Nicolas Peaucellier), in A History of the Machine (New York: A & W Publishers, 1979). 24. Our key example here is the writing of the sculptor and erstwhile critic George Rickey, perhaps the best-known American kinetic artist of the sixties. His essays on the subject were inevitably steeped in references to Russian Constructivism. Rickey had a certain claim to stake in the widespread, international interest in constructivism among ixties artists. Camilla Gray had just published her groundbreaking The Russian Experiment in Art in 1962, and the constructivist content of her book found an especially engaged audience with minimalisms best-known gures. Five years after Grays publication, Rickey himself authored a widely read account of the movement in which Constructivism served as the key model for postwar kinetic developments, a position he would reiterate in other contexts. The gures of Anton Pesvner and Naum Gabo were especially critical to his account. Yet in his efforts to draw an unwavering and direct line between postwar kinetic art and Russian Constructivism, Rickey forced the issue in one critical respect: Gabo and Pesvner were not full-edged participants in the Soviet avantgarde and could not in any convincing way be identied as constructivists. The brothers themselves declared their work to be at some remove from the movements most cherished formal and political values. And yet it was their name, as Christina Lodder put it well, that became synonymous with Russian Constructivism in the West. Christina Lodder, Russian Constructivism (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 3442. Rickeys book played its fair share in promoting this equation, at least in the artistic circles of mid-sixties America. See George Rickey, Constructivism (New York: George Braziller, 1967), p. 81. 25. No account of the relation between prewar and postwar artistic practice would be complete without acknowledging Peter Brgers Theory of the AvantGarde. Here, the German literary critic considered the changed status of the historical avant-gardethat is, the prewar avant-garde of Dada and



Duchampin relation to its postwar iteration as the neo-avant-garde. His argument is organized around the claim that the principle aspiration of the historical avant-garde was to negate the institution of art as bourgeois autonomy, and to eliminate the distance between art and life as such. In opposition to the historical avant-garde, the neo-avant-garde represents a signicantly different turn in its critical intentions. For Brger, this is a function of how the avant-gardes former provocation has now been assimilated as art, reabsorbed by the very culture industry against which it protested in the rst place. And by virtue of the neo-avant-gardes compromised status toward the institutions of artthat which the historical avant-garde sought to demolishhe saw the contemporary art as unable to sublate the distance between art and life that was the historical avant-gardes principle task. Peter Brger, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 49. Brgers argument allows us to frame kinetic arts prewar and postwar iterations as a historiographic issue and so to challenge the seamless historicist trajectory connecting the earlier moment to the later, as well as the claims that kinetic art was implicitly progressive. By extension, it also illuminates the ambivalence that courses throughout kinetic arts fties and sixties reception: its Janus-faced role as either regressive or futuristic in both its attitudes and ambitions. 26. In opposition to Brgers thesis, Hal Foster argues that the neo-avant-garde turns less around repetition than a kind of recognition of the avant-garde for the rst time. He suggests that the contours of the historical avant-garde were neither dened nor coherent in its contemporary moment and that it is only with the latency of the neo-avant-garde that the anti-institutional mission of the earlier moment is fully articulated. Far from being bad repetition, Fosters model is a reading of history as Nachtrglichkeit (the Freudian notion of deferred action or belatedness linked to repression). This point enables him to restore to the practice of contemporary art some of its potential as critical intervention, not merely a tired rehearsal of a long-dead avant-garde, a point that has marked applications for postwar kinetic art. Hal Foster, Whos Afraid of the Neo-AvantGarde, in The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996). 27. Willem Sandberg, quoted in For Movements Sake, Newsweek, March 13, 1961, p. 9. 28. Alvin Tofer, Future Shock (New York: Random House, 1970), p. 172. 29. Ibid., p. 173.


30. John Canaday, Odd Kind of Art: Thoughts on Destruction and Creation after a Suicide in the Garden, New York Times, March 23, 1960. 31. Tofer, Future Shock, pp. 176177.

32. Tofer was roundly criticized as being technologically deterministic, a pop sociologist, and an alarmist of social forecasting. See Robert Claiborne, Future Schlock, Nation, January 25, 1971, pp. 117120. Also see Etting E. Morrison, Book Review: What to Do Today before Tomorrow Gets You, New York Times Book Review, July 26, 1970, pp. 3, 20; and Marc Bornstein, Book Review: Future Shock, Technology and Culture 12 (1971): 532536. 33. See, for example, Serge Latouche, The Westernization of the World: The Signicance, Scope, and Limits of the Drive towards Global Uniformity, trans. Rosemary Morris (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996). Historicizing the phenomenon or process known as globalization has generated enormous debate among political philosophers, economists, historians, and social scientists and theorists (not to mention politicians, activists, corporate heads, etc.). We can agree at the outset that the term is not monolithic but multivocal, particularly given the range of uses to which it is put in the service of industry and politics. In the World-Systems Analysis of Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi, what some regard as a contemporary phenomenon (e.g., a postwar phenomenon) in fact has its roots within early modernism, a function of colonial expansion in the age of exploration. For Wallerstein in particular, globalization only represents the latest incarnation of a massive historical shift. See Immanuel Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis and the Social Sciences, in The Essential Wallerstein (New York: New Press, 2000), pp. 71185. By contrast, others argue that globalization represents a quantitative shift in relationships of power and the movement of capital. Although the rhetoric often deployed to justify military and economic expansion has its roots in historical juridical traditions (e.g. the notion of the Just War), some argue its contemporary articulation is fundamentally different from the logic of imperialism. For Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, this is due in part to changed notions of sovereignty in late capitalism relative to the power of the multitude and its efforts to reclaim the revolutionary plane of immanence. For them, globalization (what they call Empire) is less a function of imperialism than a partial response to the revolutions that arose in opposition to such forms of historical oppression. Empire, then, is a condition resulting from the liberation of the multitude from previous structures of domination and control; the deterritorialization of power that is Empire emerges in confrontation with movements that have historically challenged the sovereignty of the nation-state. Signicantly, Hardt and Negri stress the role of communications media in the expanding networks of power foundational to Empire. As they write, The development of communications networks has an organic relationship to the emergence of the new world orderit is, in other words, effect and cause, product and producer. Communication not only expresses but also organizes the movement of globalization. It organizes the movement by multiplying and structuring interconnections through networks. It expresses the movement and



controls the sense and direction of the imaginary that runs throughout these communicative connections; in other words, the imaginary is guided and channeled within the communicative machine. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 32. Indeed, we need note a marked intensication in the relationship between expanding media technologies and global capital in the postwar era. This is a historical moment that bears witness to the founding of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944; it is a moment commonly described in terms of the rise of global media. On that history, see Armand Van Dormael, Bretton Woords: Birth of a Monetary System (London: Macmillan, 1978). Although Terence K. Hopkins and Wallerstein depart from those readings of globalization which describe its effects as wholly distinct from earlier movements of international capital, they recognize a particular shift in the postwar economy. As discussed in note 17 to the preface, they observed, When we look at the period 19451990, we immediately notice a few things about it. It starts out as a period of incredible global expansion which then slows down. It starts out as the period of unquestioned US hegemony in the world-system and then this hegemony begins to decline. Terrence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein The World System: Is There a Crisis?, in The Age of Transition: Trajectory of the World System, 19452025, London: Zed Books, 1996, p. 9; also see Wallerstein, The Global Picture, in the same volume, pp. 209225. For a reading that considers globalization largely in terms of global media, see Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney, The Rise of the Global Media, in The Global Media (London: Cassell, 1997). 34. In 1958, Tinguely had a joint show at the Galerie Iris Clert with Yves Klein in which the two friends collaborated in making six monochrome discs painted in Kleins famously patented International Klein Blue. In 1959 he was to have ve shows in Europe, including the Galerie Schmela in Dsseldorf (January March), Galerie Iris Clert in Paris (July), the Biennale in Paris (October), the Kaplan Gallery in London (October/November), and nally, an infamous performance at the ICA in London on November 13. 35. Leaeting and psychological warfare were twinned operations. The American Ad Hoc Committee of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee established the terms of psychological warfare through the operations of leaeting during World War II: The planned use, during time of war, or threat of war, of all measures, exclusive of armed conict, designed to inuence the thought, morale, or behavior of a given foreign group in such a way as to support the accomplishment of our military or national aim, with the following objectives: (1) To assist in overcoming the enemys will to ght; (2) To sustain the morale of friendly groups in countries occupied by the enemy; (3) To improve the morale of friendly countries and the attitudes of neutral countries toward the United States. Note how the denition is explicit about shifting the attitudes of neutral countries toward the United States through leaeting.


Quoted in James Morris Erdmann, U.S.A.A.F. Leaet Operations in the ETO during World War II, Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, University of Colorado, 1969, p. 558. On the Allied Forces leaeting operations as psychological warfare, also see Karlheinz Ossendorf, Wahrheiten atterten von Himmel: Flugbltter als psychologische Kriegswaffe (Siegburg: Rheinlandia Verlag, 1995); Klaus Kirchner, FlugblattPropaganda im 2.Weltkrieg: Flugbltter aus den USA 1943/44 (Erlangen: Verlag D+C, 1977). 36. Jean Tinguely, Manifesto for Statics, reprinted in Zero (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969), p. 119. 37. In a longer, and more descriptive version of the Manifesto, delivered as part of a performance staged at the ICA in London that same year, Tinguely argued even more vociferously that time is not something to possess or own and that acknowledgment of the state of impermanence should lead not to a state of resignation but the celebration of instability. For the full statement, see K. G. Pontus Hulten, Meta /Jean Tinguely (London: Thames and Hudson, 1975), p. 79. 38. Ibid., p. 79. 39. Leon Bargit, The Age of Automation: The BBC Reuth Lectures (London: Weidenfeld, 1964), p. 19. 40. Automation: A Report on the Technical Trends and Their Impact on Management and Labor (London: Department of Scientic and Industrial Research, 1956), pp. 23. 41. Bargit, Age of Automation, pp. 1417. 42. The formulation is associated with Daniel Bells theses on end of ideology on the one hand, and the coming Post-industrial Society, on the other. Bells prognosis transcends historiographic issues, for his thesis of a society that is beyond industry bears marked implications for the question of labor. To suggest that capitalism has entered wholly into a paradigm of a service economy is to justify its neoliberalism and repress the continuing viability of labor issues. Not surprisingly, Bell has come under heaviest attack by Marxists. See Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (New York: Basic Books, 1973). 43. Bargit, Age of Automation, pp. 2425. 44. Ibid., p. 1. 45. John F. Kennedy, cited in Automation and Technological Change, ed. John T. Dunlop (New York: American Assembly, Columbia University, 1962), p. 1. 46. Marshall McLuhan, Automation: Learning a Living, in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 346347.



47. William R. Byron, Wacky Artist of Destruction, Saturday Evening Post, April 21, 1962, pp. 7678. 48. Ibid., p. 76. 49. John Rydon, Mr. Tinguely Puts on a Show of Self-Propelled art, Daily Express, London, Wednesday, October 14, 1959, MJT. 50. Ibid. 51. p. A. Illustr section in Paris Match, 1959, Art Mecanis: Debuts a la Biennale de Paris, MJT. 52. Jean-Jacques Leveque, ed., dossier on Procs de Lautomatisme, Sens Plastique, unpaginated, October 1959, no. 8I, Paris. 53. Or, as another responded sarcastically to the question, Non, je rpte que cette exposition de Tinguely ne met pas plus en question lart que les machines cyberntiques ne mettent en question la cervelle humaine. Ibid. 54. Guy Dornand, En Attendant le Salon des Robots, Le Hors-Cote 5, no. 145 (August 5, 1959), MJT; and Guy Donard, Des Nouvelles Ralits la peinture des robots, Liberation, no. 2 (July 30, 1959), MJT. For articles that dismiss the artist as yet another example of the ridiculousness of the avant-garde, see Whirr! Splash! And Theres a Work of Art, Evening Telegraph and Post (Dundee), November 4, 1959, MJT. 55. Michael Shepherd, Tinguely, Art News and Review 11, no. 41 (October 24, 1959): 7, 10. 56. In purple prose, Shepard remarked on the Meta-matics historical appearance: For the artist, space was forever altered as a medium; and could he ignore time? . . . So do-it-yourself, ushered in by the age of automation to ll and round out our modern-Morris lives, joins hands with automation itself, to enable Tinguelys visitors to participate in this activity and in the eternal present and nonstop Time, thanks to this visionary who believes that while oating down the river of time we should not throw our anchors or photograph the beauty of the banks, but instead, accept the ow. Ibid. 57. Byron, Wacky Artist of Destruction, p. 77. 58. M. Tinguely a dj vendu plusieurs exemplaires de son appareil de riches Amricains. Ceux-ci trouvent le Meta-matics trs amusant. p. A. Illustr section in Paris Match, 1959, Art Mcanis: Dbuts la Biennale de Paris, MJT. 59. Waverly Root, The Fine Art of Press Agentry, Washington Post, Sunday June 2, 1963, p. E5. See, for example, Ward, Press the Button and out Pops Art.


60. Jean Durieux and Charles Courriere, Danny Kaye dcouvre la machine faire de la peinture, Paris Match, no. 548 (October 10, 1959): 9899. See also

Art Buchwald, The Latest Thing in Abstract Art, New York Herald Tribune (Paris), June 3, 1959, p. 5. 61. Pol Bury in conversation with the author, Paris, France, July 12, 2000. 62. Bury interviewed by Peter Selz in Selz, Pol Bury (Berkeley: University Art Museum, UC Berkeley, 1970), p. 4. 63. Bury, Time Dilated, republished in Dore Ashton, Pol Bury (Paris: Maeght Editeur, 1970), p. 107. 64. Bury, reprinted in Selz, Pol Bury, p. 6. 65. Eugene Ionesco, ibid., p. 14. 66. Pol Bury in conversation with the author, Paris, July 12, 2000. 67. Selz in Pol Bury, p. 4. 68. Ibid., p. 4. 69. On Bergson and photography, see Marta Braun, Picturing Time: the Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (18301904) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); on Bergson, see Gille Deleuze, Bergsonism, trans.Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Zone Books, 1988). 70. See Mary McAllester Jones, ed., Gaston Bachelard: Subversive Humanist (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), p. 29. 71. Henri Bergson, Unorganized Bodies, in Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1998), pp. 910. 72. Bury in conversation with the author, Paris, July 12, 2000. 73. Burys conception of slowness echoes Bachelards rhetoric in LAir et les Songes and La Dialectique de la dure. In the former book, part of a series devoted to the relationship between natural phenomena and the psychology of the imagination, Bachelard took on the subjects of the airclouds, the sky, constellations, the windin order to reect upon the movement of the imagination. Aerial imagery, in other words, provides a metaphor for the reach of subjective thought, both its mutability (as in the drifting of clouds) and its aspirations. For Bachelard, imagination and the mobility of images were inextricably linked; imagination was, rst and foremost, a type of spiritual mobility. In his earlier study LEau et les rves, Bachelard studied the imagery of water to consider how the imagination projects intimate impressions on the outside world. In his subsequent readings of aerial ight and the heavens, soaring eagles and nebulae, imagination takes on a sublimating force, centered less around intimate impressions than the elevation of the entire being. Gaston Bachelard, LAir et les Songes: Essai sur limagination du mouvment (Paris: Librairie Jos Corti, 1943), p. 11.



74. Jones, Gaston Bachelard: Subversive Humanist, p. 27. 75. Gaston Bachelard, from LIntuition de linstant, in ibid., pp. 3435. 76. George Canguillhem, The History of Science, in A Vital Rationalist: Selected Writings by George Canguillhem (New York: Zone books, 1994), p. 32. For a shorter summation of the problems offered in both, see Gaston Bachelard, Continuit ou Discontinuit? in pistmologie: Textes choisis (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1971), pp. 185195. 77. Hence critics have suggested that Bachelards formulation of rupture anticipated Thomas Kuhns notion of the paradigm shift. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientic Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962). 78. Bachelard, from Essai sur la connaissance approche, reprinted in Jones, p. 21. 79. Ibid., p. 5. 80. Eugene Ionesco, Pol Bury, in Selz, Pol Bury, p. 14. 81. See Kristine Stiles on Gustav Metzger in Uncorrupted Joy: International Art Actions, in Paul Schimmel, Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998). 82. David Medalla in conversation with the author, London, June 28, 2000. 83. Guy Brett in conversation with the author, London, June 26, 2000. 84. Editorial, Signalz: Newsbulletin of the Centre for Advanced Creative Study (London) 1. no. 1 (August 1964): 1. 85. Guy Brett in conversation with the author, June 27, 2000; David Medalla in conversation with the author, London, June 29, 2000. 86. Werner Heisenberg, The Role of Modern Physics in the Present Development of Human Thinking, in Signals 1, no. 9 (AugustSeptember October 1965): 3. 87. Paul Keeler, Announcement in Signals (FebruaryMarch 1965): 12. 88. Guy Brett in conversation with the author (August 1964): London, June 26, 2000. 89. First Signals Newsbulletin, no. 1 2. 90. Guy Brett, in conversation with the author, London, June 26, 2000. 91. Marcel Duchamp, in Peter Selz, Press Release of the Museum of Modern Art: no. 27 for release Friday, March 18, 1960, Archives of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. 92. Homage to New York? Time, March 28, 1960, p. 40.


93. For a more technical, behind the scenes account of the Homage, see Billy Klver, The Garden Party, reprinted in Video Culture: A Critical Investigation, ed. John Hanhardt (Layton, Utah: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1986). 94. Peter Selz, Press Release of the Museum of Modern Art: no. 27 for release Friday, March 18, 1960. 95. Letter from Walt Disney Corporation to Jean Tinguely, April 1960, MJT. 96. Homage to New York? p. 40. 97. John Canaday, Machine Tries to Die for Its Art, New York Times, March 18, 1960, p. 1. 98. Editorial, Tinguelys Contraption, Nation, March 26, 1960, MJT. 99. Herbert Marcuse, Afrmative Character of Culture, in Negations: Essays in Critical Theory (London: Free Association Press, 1988), pp. 88137. 100. Da Kunsten sprang I lufte, Ekstra Bladet (Copenhagen), September 23, 1961, MJT. 101. The rst telecast of the show was in October 1961; its last regular program was presented on August 26, 1963. The show was well received by the critics: it won Emmy awards in both 1962 and 1963 as the best public affairs series on television. Its viewership, however, was relatively low. Ratings for the week of Tinguelys broadcast are unavailable, but as we shall see, the event itself was well documented by the print media. See Tim Brooks and Earl Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows: 1946Present, rev. ed. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1981), p. 185. 102. A comparison between television consumption in the United States, England, France, and Germany is instructive here. From 1952 to 1962, the year that Tinguely broadcast his performance, the percentage of American households with television jumped from 34.2 to 90; some 48,855,000 homes owned a TV at the time of the study. Corbett S. Steinberg, TV Facts (New York: Facts on File, 1980), p. 142. The statistics are only slightly lower in Great Britain; the size of the television public in 1962 is at 88 percent. See John Corner, ed. Popular Television in Britain (London: BFI Publishing, 1991), p. 161. In Germany and France, television consumption is far lower. In 1964, only 41 homes owned TV for every 100 households in Germany. For more statistics, see Walter Giott, Medien im Wettstreit (Mnster: Verlag Regensberg, 1979), pp. 2021; and Herv Michel, Les grandes dates de la tlvision franaise (Paris: Que Sais-Je?, 1995), p. 47. 103. On the history of the Nevada Test Site, see Terrence R. Fehner and F. H. Gosling, Origin of the Nevada Test Site, United States Department of Energy, December 2000; National Nuclear Safety Administration, Nevada Test Site Guide, United States Department of Energy, November 2000.



104. David Brinkley, David Brinkleys Journal, NBC, April 6, 1962. 105. Ibid. 106. Samuel Weber, Television, Set, and Screen, Mass Mediauras: Form, Technics, Media (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1996). 107. As it turned out, life would prove far stranger than art. Over the years, the Atomic Energy Commission hosted some dozen spectacles at Yucca Flats that saw VIPs watch atomic bomb test explosions from the safety of nearby bleachers. 108. V. Silantev, The Grimaces of Bourgeois Society: An Abstract Artist with an Atom Bomb, trans. in K. G. Pontus Hulten, Meta/Jean Tinguely, p. 246. On the European reception of this article, see Ren Barotte, Ce bricoleur est un criminel de guerre, Paris-Presse, May 1, 1963, p. 3d.

Chapter 3: Bridget Rileys Eye/Body Problem A version of the chapter was published in October 98 (MIT Press) (Fall 2001): 2646. Some of the references taken from the Archives of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, are incomplete with respect to page numbers: the information was not available from the preserved documents. 1. Felix Fnon, as paraphrased by Bridget Riley, in The Experience of Painting (talking to Mel Gooding) in The Eyes Mind: Bridget Riley Collected Writings, 19651999, ed. Robert Kudielka (London: Thames and Hudson, 1999), p. 125. 2. See, for example, Bridget Riley, The Hermaphrodite, reprinted in The Eyes Mind: Bridget Riley Collected Writings, 19651999, ed. Robert Kudielka (London: Thames and Hudson, 1999), p. 61. 3. Jack Burnham, The Art of Bridget Riley, Tri-Quarterly, no. 5 (1966): 6072. 4. On Ops distinction from kinetic art, see Stephen Bann, Unity and Diversity in Kinetic Art, in Kinetic Art: Four Essays by Stephen Bann, Reg Gadney, Frank Popper, and Philip Steadman (New York: Motion Books, 1966), p. 49. 5. On Ops relation to the prewar avant-garde, see Sidney Tillim, Optical Art: Pending or Ending, ARTS, (January 1965): 1623. 6. It is a suggestive that George Rickey played a role in the museological formation of Op art, as he had with kinetic art. The catalog to the Responsive Eye thanks the artist in the foreword for his help in developing the show and furnishing the names of potential artists and contributors. William C. Seitz, The Responsive Eye (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1965).


7. Jon Borgzinner, Op Art: Pictures That Attack the Eye, Time Magazine, October 23, 1964, pp. 7886. 8. Op: Adventure without Danger, Newsweek, March 1, 1965, unpaginated, Archives of the Museum of Modern Art, New York (hereafter MoMA Archives). 9. The popularity of the Responsive Eye was maximized by related traveling exhibitions organized by MoMA, including Bridget Riley: Drawings, 1966. 10. William Seitz, The New Perceptual Art, Vogue, February 15, 1965, pp. 141142. 11. Ibid., p. 142. 12. Ibid., pp. 141142. 13. See, e.g., Gerald Oster and Yasumori Nishijima, Moir Patterns, Scientic American, May 1963, pp. 5463. 14. See, e.g., David Sylvester, Fences, in New Statesmen, May 25, 1962, p. 770; and Norbert Lynton, London Letter, Art International 7, no. 8 (October 1963): 8487. 15. Development as a Painter, in Kudielka, Eyes Mind, p. 62. 16. The Experience of Painting, in Kudielka, Eyes Mind, p. 125 17. On slow and fast painting, see Bridget Riley, In Conversation with Maurice de Sausmarez (1967), in Kudielka, Eyes Mind, p. 51. 18. Ibid., p. 80. 19. Ibid., p. 84. 20. Eugenia Sheppard, Inside Fashion: At a Loss for Words, New York Herald Tribune, March 5, 1965, p. 15, MoMA Archives, MN#98034, Reel #34, no page number given unless otherwise noted. 21. Ann Ryan, London Bureau, Interview with Bridget Riley, Womens Wear Daily, Tuesday, May 11, 1965, p. 4. 22. Ibid., p.5. 23. Ibid. 24. For the full account of this story, see Eugenia Sheppard, Inside Fashion: At a Loss for Words, New York Herald Tribune, p. 15. 25. Ryan, Interview with Bridget Riley, p. 5. 26. Bridget Riley, Perception is the Medium, Art News 64, no. 6 (October 1965): 3233. 27. Eugenia Sheppard, Inside Fashion: Come in Two Ties, Herald American (Syracuse, N.Y.), March 7, 1965, MoMA Archives.



28. Ibid. 29. Jean Noe, Fashion Flips over Op-Pop, Chicago, American, April 4, 1965, MoMA Archives. 30. See, e.g., Womens Wear Daily (New York), February 26, 1965, MoMA Archives. 31. Angela Taylor, Op Art Opens up New Design Vistas, New York Times, February 16, 1965, MoMA Archives. 32. On the domestic and its relationship to art history, see the essays in Not at Home: The Suppression of the Domestic in Modern Art and Architecture, ed. Christopher Reed (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996); also see Dirt and Domesticity (exhibition catalog), Whitney Independent Study Program (New York: Whitney Museum, 1992). 33. Alice Hughes, A Womans New York, Eagle (Reading, Penn.), February 16, 1965, MoMA Archives. 34. Grace Glueck, Ripples on the Retina, New York Times, February 28, 1965, MoMA Archives. 35. Sheppard, Inside Fashion, p. 15. 36. Bridget Riley, Personal Interview with Nikki Henriques, in Kudielka, Eyes Mind, p. 21. 37. Robert Melville, The Riley Dazzle, Architectural Review, October 1971, p. 225. 38. Walter Benjamin, The Arcade Projects, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 80. 39. See, for example, Robert Coates on the speed with which movements accelerated in and out of the art world. Robert Coates, The Art Galleries, New Yorker, March 27, 1965, p. 161. Also see Barbara Rose, Beyond Vertigo: Optical Art at the Modern, Artforum, no. 7 (April 1965): 3033. On Op and the speed of the times, Rose recommended, Paradoxically enough, in a time of such constant ux and change in art, it is possible that the most modern thing the Museum of Modern art could do would be to emphasize, with its historical program, the many traditions of modern art rather than attempt to reect the hectic day-to-day situation in the art world. 40. Joyce Hopkirk, A Plain Guide to Op, Womans Journal (London) February 1966, pp. 2629.


41. Thomas Hess, You Can Hang it in the Hall, Art News, April 1965, pp. 41 43, 4950. 42. Hopkirk, A Plain Guide to Op.

43. Ibid. 44. Alice Hughes, A Womans New York Eagle (Reading, Pa.), February 16, 1965, p. 28. 45. See, e.g., Op? Urp. Miami Herald, July 25, 1965, MoMA Archives. 46. Kudielka, The Eyes Mind, p. 59. 47. Riley, Interview with David Sylvester, in Kudielka, Eyes Mind, pp. 7079. 48. Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), p. 19. 49. Karl Marx cited in Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 62. 50. Clement Greenberg, The Crisis of the Easel Picture, in Art and Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), p. 157. 51. Lisa J. Corrin, Continuum: Bridget Rileys 60s and 70s: A View from the 90s, in Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s (London: Serpentine Gallery, 1999), pp. 3543. 52. Clement Greenberg, Modernist Painting, in The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 19571969, ed. John OBrian. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 1986). 53. Rosalind Krauss, Afterthoughts on Op, Arts International 9, no. 5 (June 1965): 7576. 54. Ibid., p. 75. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid. 57. Ibid. 58. To follow Ehrenzweig, Just because much optical art is intellectually controlled it throws the nal transformation into sharper relief. Anton Ehrenzweig, The Pictorial Space of Bridget Riley, Art International 9, no. 1 (February 1965): 2024. 59. Ibid., p. 24. 60. Frances Spalding, The Poetics of Instability, in Bridget Riley: Paintings from the 1960s and 1970s (London: The Serpentine Gallery, 1999), p. 18. 61. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The IntertwiningThe Chiasm, The Visible and the Invisible (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1968), p. 134. 62. Borgzinner, Op Art: Pictures that Attack the Eye.



63. See, e.g., Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); and Rosalind Krauss, The Optical Unconscious (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993). 64. There is an almost site-specic dimension to the reception of Op generally and Riley specically. The British press, for instance, made virtually no allusions at all to technology or science in the reviews of her work, nor to media culture at large. Nor was she considered an Op artist to the extent that she was labeled in the United States. 65. On Elluls reception, see Katherine Temple, The Sociology of Jacques Ellul, Research in Philosophy and Technology 3 (1980): 223261. 66. Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Vintage, 1964), p. 380. 67. Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995; originally published 1962), p. 24. 68. For the most incisive critique of McLuhans technological determinism, see Raymond Williams, Effects of the Technology and Its Uses, in Television: Technology and Cultural Form (New York: Schocken Books, 1975), pp. 126130. 69. Marshall McLuhan, Television: The Timid Giant, in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997; originally published 1964), p. 308. 70. Ibid., p. 328. 71. On the differential specicity of medium in the visual arts, see Rosalind Krauss, A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-medium Condition (London: Thames and Hudson, 1999). 72. Samuel Weber, Television: Set and Screen, in Mass Mediauras: Form, Technics, Media (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1996), p. 114. 73. Ibid., pp. 114115. 74. Thomas Hess, You Can Hang It in the Hall, pp. 4143, 4950. 75. Ibid., p. 43. 76. Barbara Rose, Beyond Vertigo: Optical Art at the Modern, Artforum, pp. 3033. 77. Hess, You Can Hang It in the Hall, p. 49. 78. The distinction between science and technology represents one of the fundamental debates in the philosophy of technology. For an introduction to the problem, see James K. Feibleman, Pure Science, Applied Science, and Technology: An Attempt at Denitions, in Philosophy and Technology, ed. Carl Mitcham and Robert McKay (London: Free Press, 1982), pp. 3341. Note that Seitz uses the terms interchangeably.


79. Borgzinner, Op Art. As the critic noted, Much Op art is removed from the artists subjective discovery. It is the result of a mechanical muse, and the artist becomes a computer programmer churning out visual experiences. For Ops supporters, this sense of programming stemmed from Ops scienticity and its aesthetics of impersonality, seen to be critical of the emotional excesses attributed to abstract expressionism. Or, as William Seitz wrote, the technologically oriented perceptual artist speaks of the units repeated in his work as information and their arrangements as programming. Seitz, New Perceptual Art, pp. 141142. 80. Vasarely was perhaps the best-known Op artist who spoke of his work in terms of programming, which he justied as cybernetic. See, e.g., Werner Spies, Vasarely (New York: Harry Abrams, 1971), p. 127. Programming, of course, is also a term associated with mind control and brainwashing. Michel Foucaults reading of the historical shift from a disciplinary society to the society of control (e.g., his famous model of the Panopticon and the thematics of surveillance) also bears enormous relevance here. For him the modern subject internalizes and thus generates the mechanics of social control what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call Biopower or Biopolitical Production. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1979). On Ops objectivity, see, John Canaday, Art that Pulses, Quivers and Fascinates, New York Times, February 21, 1965, sec. B., p. 57. 81. Canaday, Art That Pulses, p. 57. 82. Seitz, New Perceptual Art, p. 141. 83. David Thompson and Bridget Riley, Studio International 182, no. 935 (July August 1971): 1621. 84. On behaviorism and control, see B. F. Skinner, The Question of Control, in About Behaviorism (New York: Vintage Press, 1974), pp. 208227; and Gardener C. Quatron, Deliberate Efforts to Control Human Behavior and Modify Personality, in Toward the Year 2000: Work in Progress, ed. Daniel Bell (Boston: Beacon Press and the Daedalus Library, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967), pp. 205221. My use of the term behaviorism approximates the popular understanding (or perhaps, strong misreading) of behavioral psychology as a disciplinary technique commonly associated with Pavlovian experiments and rats caged in Skinner boxes. Its supporters in the 1960s and 1970s, however, regarded behaviorism as the most scientic means to counter the insistence of mentalism within psychology. Even still, Skinners attempts to consider behaviorism as a way to improve social relations can be understood in terms of a longer historical tradition of social engineering. 85. Max Kozloff, Commotion of the Retina, Nation, March 22, 1965, pp. 316318.



86. Editorial Page: The Painful Eye, Richmond News Leader, March 6, 1965, pp. 89. 87. On Ops sensuous habituations, see Hess, You Can Hang It in the Hall. 88. Cherill Anderson, Op Arts Tiny Time Pill, Morning Sun (Baltimore), April 12, 1965, MoMA Archives. 89. Speaking to Ops potentially liberatory consequences, David Bourdon suggested that Op might provide a visionary solution to the anesthetizing affects of a culture that was already numb: I think that one of the underlying reasons for the interest in Op art is a yearning for deeper, more physiological sensations to replace sensibilities that have become numbed. . . . Dr. Oster believes that moir patterns provide a way of experiencing the effects of hallucinationproducing drugs without the drugs. David Bourdon, Art: Dr. Osters Moirs, Village Voice, February 11, 1965, MoMA Archives. 90. Kozloff, Commotion of the Retina, p. 316 91. See, e.g., Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (New York: Da Capo Press, 1970). I am indebted to the scholarship of both David Joselit and Branden Joseph, whose respective accounts on the EPI (Exploding Plastic Inevitable) and expanded media bear enormous relevance for this chapter and throughout this book. Joselits research in psychedelics has proven especially inspiring to my reading. See, e.g., David Joselit, Yippie Pop: Abbie Hoffman, Andy Warhol, and Sixties Media Politics and Branden W. Joseph, My Mind Split Open: Andy Warhols Exploding Plastic Inevitable, both in Grey Room 8 (Summer 2002) (MIT Press): 6279, 80107. 92. In the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was infamously (and covertly) exploited by the CIA and other governmental agencies as a potential tool of mind control: it was regarded as among the most technologically advanced perceptual weapons of the Cold War. On this history, see Martin A. Lee and Bruce Schlain, Acid Dreams (New York: Grove Press, 1985). 93. McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 43. 94. Ibid., p. 47. 95. Not that Schneemann had any connection socially or otherwise to Riley. On Op, she states atly, those werent my people, describing instead the art, music, performance, and dance community that included the Judson Church and Allan Kaprow. (Schneemann in conversation with the author. New York, October 12, 2000.) 96. It . . . surprises me that some people should see my work as a celebration of the marriage of art and science, she reected. I have never made any use of scientic theory or scientic data. Bridget Riley, Perception Is the Medium, pp. 3233.


97. Bridget Riley, The Hermaphrodite, in Kudielka, Eyes Mind, p. 39. 98. Riley, The Artist and Society, in ibid., p. 40. 99. See, e.g., Michael Kirby, The Art of Time: Essays on the Avant-Garde (New York: Dutton, 1968). Kirby wrote mostly about performance in this book; an earlier work on the Happenings demonstrates his allegiance to the rise of this form of art making in the 1960s. 100. Yayoi Kusama, cited in Alexandra Munroe, Obsession, Fantasy, and Outrage: The Art of Yayoi Kusama, in Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective (exhibit catalog) (New York: Center for International Contemporary Arts, 1989), p. 14. 101. Carolee Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 102. Henri Focillon, Life of Forms in Art (Cambridge, Mass., and New York: MIT Press and Zone Books, 1934), p. 137. 103. Ibid., p. 35. 104. Ibid., p. 31. 105. Ibid., p. 33. 106. Ibid., p. 109. 107. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 108. Ibid. 109. Ibid. 110. Ibid. 111. Carolee Schneemann papers, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no, 95001, series 1, box 1/196067, folder 1.7 for Eye-Body 12/63. 112. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 113. Carolee Schneemann papers, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no, 95001, series 1, box 2/196771, folder 2.2. 114. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 115. On USCO, see Stewart Kranz, Science and Technology in the Arts: A Tour through the Realm of Science + Art, ed. Margaret Holton (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Book, 1974), p. 262. 116. In developing both performances, Schneemann recalls a strange aspect of renunciation was expected of her, namely, of her capitulating to the demands or expectations placed upon her as a woman artist. Because USCO was a collaborative community, no artists signed their name to their work, and they



asked the same of Schneemann with Ghost-Rev. But Schneemann pointed out that the group was always listed as Gerd Stern and USCO and that women artists were rarely allowed to sign their works, a historical tradition she attempted to counter in their collaboration. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 117. Carolee Schneemann papers, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no, 95001, series 3, box 27 correspondence. 118. Schneemann, Ghost Rev, in More than Meat Joy, ed. Bruce R. McPherson (New York: Documentext, 1979), p. 97. 119. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 120. Ibid. 121. Ibid. 122. Ibid. 123. As Schneemann puts it, Continuum . . . the obliterationwhich I think Kusama writes aboutI realized that yes, its that sense of being obliterated into your materials. . . . You really disappear into your materials. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 124. From a typed statement on technical aspects of Snows and E.A.T. (in E.A.T. Journal). The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 940003. As Schneemann observed: My problems with technology are concrete, personal; my difculties with using technicians are mechanical. I want to work with the gestures of machines: to expose their mechanical action as part of the total environment to which it contributes its particular effect. I would like technicians to be interchangeable with performers whenever possible. The work of the technicians should become one other action parameter of my work, to be taken into the form of the whole thing explicitly. For myself this means greater familiarity with possibilities of available technology and time to explore: a diet of E.A.T. 125. Carolee Schneemann papers, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 95001, folder 2.1 b, box 2/196771. 126. Schneemann in conversation with the author, New York, October 12, 2000. 127. Ibid. 128. The reference is, of course, to Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, which famously articulates the hardening of the commodity form into an allpervasive image. Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: Zone Books, 1994). The paranoia stemming from a visual culture that has the power to control and even (literally) penetrate the body will become a staple narrative within postmodernism, as in, for example,


David Cronenbergs now canonical Videodrome. On Videodrome, see Fredric Jameson, in The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (Bloomington: Indiana University Press and the British Film Institute, 1995), pp. 135.


Chapter 4: Ultramoderne: Or, How George Kubler Stole the Time in Sixties Art A version of this chapter appeared in Grey Room 2 (MIT Press) (Winter 2001). 1. George Kubler, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1962), p. 18. 2. Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, 2d ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1950), p. 122. 3. Robert Smithson, The Artist as Site-Seer; or, a Dintorphic Essay, in Robert Smithson: Collected Writings, ed. Jack Flam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). 4. Robert Smithson, Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space, originally published in Arts Magazine, November 166, reprinted in The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Nancy Holt (New York: New York University Press, 1979 ), p. 32. 5. Ibid., p. 33. 6. See. e.g., Gary Shapiro, Earthworks: Art after Babel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 8488. 7. Ad Reinhardt, Art vs. History, Art News (New York) 64, no. 19, (January 1966): 1921. See also the reverential letters sent by Asger Jorn, Juan Downey, and Brian ODoherty in the Kubler archives speaking on the impact of The Shape of Time on contemporary artists. George Alexander Kubler Archives, Group no. 843, Accession no. 98-M103, Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Library, Yale University, New Haven (hereafter GAKA). 8. George Kubler, undated notes, c. 1981, related to the lecture The Shape of Time Reconsidered, GAKA. 9. On Focillons inuence, see George Kubler, Henri Focillon, 18811943, and The Teaching of Henri Focillon, in Studies in Ancient American and European Art: The Collected Essays of George Kubler, ed. Thomas F. Reese (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 378381. 10. See, for example, John Howland Rowe, Review: The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things, American Anthropologist 65 (1963), 704705. Although Kubler did not formally train with Kroeber, they had a long-standing correspondence. On the relationship between art and anthropology, see George Kubler,


Historyor Anthropologyof Art, in Reese, Studies in Ancient American and European Art, pp. 406412. 11. Heizers father was a professor of archaeology at UC Berkeley, where he specialized in pre-Columbian material. A further interesting connection: as professional colleagues, Heizer Sr. and Kubler corresponded on occasion. GAKA. 12. The rst written example of Smithsons interest in Kubler is for the working notes for the neon sculptural piece Eliminator, dating from 1963. See Holt, Writings of Robert Smithson, p. 327. 13. Rosalind Krauss, Sculpture in the Expanded Field, in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), pp. 151171. 14. Panofskys iconographical method was roundly criticized in The Shape of Time; in spite of this, Panofsky expressed strong admiration for the book. See letter to Chester Kerr, Director of Yale University Press from Erwin Panofsky, May 21, 1966, GAKA. In his archives, Kubler also acknowledged the tribute paid to The Shape of Time by Siegfried Kracauer. Kracauer had clearly read Kublers work sometime shortly after it was published in 1962, as he died in 1966. His posthumously published work History: The Last Things before the Last contains a discussion of Kubler. History: The Last Things before the Last (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. 142150. 15. Provisionally, we could call The Shape of Time a structuralist art history: Kublers relationship to structuralist anthropology and his reading of Thomas Kuhns groundbreaking The Structure of Scientic Revolutions has relevance here. Kuhn and Kubler met each other on at least one occasion: they presented on the same panel at a conference on comparative studies at the University of Michigan in May 1967. On this relationship, see George Kubler, Comments on Vanguard Art, Comparative Studies in Society and History 11, no. 4, (October 1969): 398402. 16. Kubler, Shape of Time, p. 13. 17. Ibid., p. 40. 18. Ibid., p. 36. 19. Ibid., pp. 11, 62. 20. Ibid., p. 62. 21. Jonathan Barnett, Art Apart from Style, Architectural Record (September 1962): 58. 22. Kubler, Shape of Time, p. 8.


23. Robert Smithson, Ultramoderne, The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Jack Flam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), p. 66. 24. Kubler, Shape of Time, p. 31. 25. As Kubler remarked, the historian communicates a pattern which was invisible to his subjects when they lived it, and unknown to his contemporaries before he detected it. Ibid., p. 13. 26. Roland Barthes, Requichot and His Body, in The Responsibility of Forms (Berkelely: University of California Press, 1985), pp. 225226. 27. Kubler, Shape of Time, p. 160. 28. Caroline Jones, Machine in the Studio (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); and Eugenie Tsai, Robert Smithson Unearthed: Drawings, Collages, Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991). 29. Smithsons reception in the late sixties was not limited to a strict reading of his works as minimalist, site, or process orientedhis work was consistently thought of in terms of systems and contemporary technology in addition to Machine Age culture. See, e.g., the letter exchange from the summer of 1969 between Gyorgy Kepes and Smithson regarding his contribution to Kepess important Vision and Value series, in particular Art and the Environment; Smithson was invited to MIT to participate on a panel on art and the environment, a topic that, as promoted by Kepes, had deeply cybernetic implication. Also see Douglas Davis, letter to Smithson regarding Smithsons contribution to the book Beyond Technology (subsequently published as Art and the Future), Robert Smithson Papers, Roll #3832, Archives for American Art, Washington D.C. Smithson was also invited to participate in an international exhibition of artists at the CYAC (centro de arte y communicacio) in So Paulo in 1971, which was organized in opposition to the ofcial So Paulo Biennale (which had been boycotted due to Brazilian governments curtailment of democratic liberties in the late sixties and early seventies). Like the ofcial American biennial, organized by Gyorgy Kepes, this particular exhibition concerned new technology; it was called Art Systems. 30. See L. K. Frank, Foreword, Teleological Mechanisms, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 50, no. 4, (October 13, 1948): 189196. 31. See, e.g., Norbert Wiener, Time, Communication, and the Nervous System, in Teleological Mechanisms: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 50, no. 4 (October 13, 1948): 197220; Random Time, Nature, 181, (1958): 561562; Time and the Science of Organization, Scientia (1958); see also Wieners edited volume, Cybernetics of the Nervous System: Progress in Brain Research, vol. 17, (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1965). 32. The study of time took on an institutional dimension in the mid-sixties, and it frequently had a cybernetic dimension. Of many examples, see the proceed-



ings of the conference Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Time held by the New York Academy of Sciences on January 1720, 1966. It is worth noting that among a number of well-known participants (e.g., Isaac Asimov), George Kubler gave a paper along with several notable cyberneticians; indeed Kubler served as a discussant on a panel with Heinrich Klver and Warren S. McCulloch entitled Of Tee and Tau. For some of the papers from that conference, see e.g., Interdisciplinary Perspectives of Time, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 138, no. 2 (February 6, 1967). Also see the program notes for the conference in GAKA. The mid-sixties also saw the formation of the International Chronosophical Society, later known as the International Society for the Study of Time, founded in 1965. Kubler was an active member of the society, serving on its advisory board. The societys major publication was J. T. Fraser, ed. The Voices of Time (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1966). Note that Smithson footnotes this book in Quasi-Innities. 33. For the most comprehensive history on the Macy conferences, see Steve Joshua Heims, Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America: The Cybernetic Group, 19461953 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991). For a shorter, but no less important account, see N. Katherine Hayles, Contesting for the Body of Information: The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, in How We Became Posthuman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), pp. 5084. 34. Wiener, Cybernetics, p. 15 . 35. Wiener, ibid., p. 155. Note that a sociologist as conservative as Daniel Bell acknowledged Wieners ambivalence over this issue, even as Bell employed models of information classication to describe the economy. Daniel Bell, The Social Framework of the Information Society, in The Computer Age: A Twenty Year View, ed. M. L. Dertouzos and J. Moses (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1979), p. 171. 36. Peter Galison, The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision, Critical Inquiry 21, no. 1. (Autumn 1994): 253. Also see N. Katherine Hayles, Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetic Anxiety, in Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, pp. 84113. 37. See also Norbert Wiener, cited in David Noble, Progress without People: In Defense of Luddism (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1993), p. 153. My thanks to Allan Sekula for the reference. 38. For an important exception within the study of architecture, see the work of Reinhold Martin, as in The Organizational Complex: Cybernetics, Space, Discourse, Assemblage 37 (December 1998): 102127.


39. Jack Burnham, Systems Aesthetics, Artforum (September 1968): 35. It bears saying that Burnhams place within the history of sixties art remains controversial. Rosalind Krausss formative work on modernist sculpture, Passages in

Modern Sculpture, represents an explicit critique of Burnhams thesis in Beyond Modern Sculpture; she argues against Burnhams notion that modern sculpture is anthropomorphic and by extension, mimetic. See Krauss, Mechanical Ballets: Light, Motion, Theater, in Passages in Modern Sculpture (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1977). Edward A. Schenkens extensive research on Burnham usefully articulates the relationship between structuralist theory and the notion of software in his criticism as well as the organization of the Jewish Museum exhibition. Among other texts on Burnham by the author, see Schenken, The House That Jack Built: Jack Burnhams Concept of Software as a Metaphor for Art, in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, MIT Press ejournals; 6:10 (November, 1998). 40. See note 15. To repeat: the relationship between Kubler and Kuhn represents yet another episode during this period in which the disciplines of art history and science confronted one another. 41. Jack Burnham, Note on Art and Information Processing, in Software: Information Technology. Its Meaning for Art (exhibit catalog) (New York: Jewish Museum, 1970), p. 10. 42. Baldessari acknowledges the importance of The Shape of Time for his generation of artists and connects his reading of it to his thinking about Kuhn at the same time. Baldessari in conversation with the author, February 20, 2000, San Francisco. It is hardly coincidental that Burnham cited Kubler on the back jacket of Beyond Modern Sculpture. Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of This Century (New York: George Brazillier, 1968). The citation from The Shape of Time reads: The value of any rapprochement between the history of art and the history of science is to display the common traits of invention, change and obsolescence that the material works of artists and scientists both share in time. 43. Kubler, Shape of Time, pp. 89. 44. Ibid., p. 17. 45. Ibid., p. 31. 46. Robert Smithson, interviewed with Patty Norvell in Flam Robert Smithson: Collected Writings, p. 194. 47. Wiener, Human Use of Human Beings, pp. 33, 6. 48. Heims, Constructing a Social Science, p. 23. 49. Kubler, Shape of Time, p. 21. 50. Ibid., p. 22. 51. Ibid., p. 61.



52. Wiener, Human Use of Human Beings, p. 134. 53. Ibid., pp. 117118. 54. Ibid., p. 134. 55. Ibid., p. 134. 56. Ibid., pp. 2848. 57. Yve-Alain Bois attends to the communicative model of entropy in his writing on the formless in modern art. Yve-Alain Bois, Entropy, in Formless: A Users Guide, ed. Bois and Rosalind Krauss (New York: Zone Books, 1997). See also Boiss discussion of entropy in the word paintings of Ed Ruscha, Edward Ruscha, Romance with Liquids: Paintings 19661969 (New York: Rizzoli and Gagosian Gallery, 1993). 58. Alison Skye, Entropy Made Visible, (interview with Smithson,) in Flam, Robert Smithson, pp. 301302. 59. Kubler, Shape of Time, pp. 11, 62. 60. Ibid., p. 124. 61. Sandlers survey was later published in Flam, Robert Smithson, pp. 329, with Smithsons remarks far different from his drafted version. The earliest, handwritten response by Smithson to his question Is there an avant-garde today? contains lines that were subsequently published in Quasi-Innities, June 15, 1966, Robert Smithson, Archives of American Art (hereafter RS AAA), Roll #3832, Biography, Schedules, Correspondence. 62. Robert Smithson, unpublished version of Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space, dated October 6, 1966, RS AAA, Roll #3834, 011394, Writings. 63. To the extent that I am describing Smithsons text as aphasiac, his essay might also conrm Fredric Jamesons diagnosis of postmodernism as a kind of Lacanian schizophrenia. On schizophrenia, see Jameson, Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 2532. 64. Ibid., p. xvii. 65. Ibid., p. xvii. I borrow the expression endless slide show from Jameson. 66. George Kubler, undated notes, c. 1981 related to the lecture The Shape of Time Reconsidered, GAKA, box #1, folder #2. 67. George Kubler, The Shape of Time Reconsidered, in Reese, Collected Papers of George Kubler, p. 430, n. 12. 68. Robert J. Horvitz, Toward a Synthetic Overview: A Talk with George Kubler, July 7, 1973, unedited transcript of interview later published in Artforum, October 1973, GAKA box #2, Folder Conversation with G. A. Kubler.


69. Kubler, Shape of Time, p. 19. 70. Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 22.


Chapter 5: Conclusion: The Bad Innity/ The Longue Dure 1. See, for example, Jay Gleick, Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything (New York: Pantheon Books, 1999); Jeremy Miller and Michiel Schwartz, eds., Speed: Visions of an Accelerated Age (London: Photographers Gallery and Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1998); Doug Aitken and Dean Kuipers, I Am a Bullet: Scenes from an Accelerating Culture (New York: Crown Publishers, 2000). 2. Peter de Jager, Doomsday 2000, Computer World (September 6, 1993): 105109. 3. Ibid., p. 105. 4. Jay Romano, Your Home: Dealing with the Y2K Bug, New York Times, August 16, 1998, sec. 11, p. 3, col. 1, Real Estate Desk. 5. Ibid., p. 3. 6. Travel Advisory, New York Times, October 24, 1999, Sunday, sec. 5, p. 3, col. 3, Travel Desk. Japan Rail stopped services a few minutes before midnight, and Eurostarthe high-speed train that runs under the English Channel canceled all services that day. 7. Keith Nuthall, Countdown to the Millennium: Greenwich Fears Cult Mass Suicides, Independent (London), January 17, 1999, News, p. 7. 8. Ed Hayward, Century Turns Uneventful in Yawning of Millennium: Y2K Fears Unfounded as Calendar Hits 2000, Boston Herald Sunday, January 2, 2000, p. 6. 9. On the one hand, Francis Fukiyama proclaimed in the late eighties that the rise of liberal democracy signaled the end of history. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Fredric Jameson described the seeming loss of a sense of history through the logic of late capitalism, drawing upon the Marxian time frame of the economist Ernst Mandel. Hal Foster, who has done the most to think about the relevance of postmodernisms afterlife within art history and criticism, gives a compelling brief on Jamesons behalf and provides a genealogy of its concerns in both the mid-1930s (of Walter Benjamin and the surrealists) and the 1960s of Guy Debord and Marshall McLuhan. Hal Foster, Postmodernism in Parallax, OCTOBER 63, (MIT Press) (Winter 1993): 320. 10. Andrew Ross, Getting the Future We Deserve, in Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 169192.


11. In contrast to Lyotard, Habermass discourse ethics sees modernity as an unnished project. Habermas still maintains faith in certain democratic values inherited from the Enlightenmentnamely communicative action and consensus although conceding to the progressive dismantling of Reason as discussed within critical theory. Habermass notion of consensus, the collective agreement reached between all members of a democratic polity on shared rules and procedures, has been especially subject to critique. Jrgen Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975), pp. 6875. 12. Jean-Franois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. xxiii. 13. Ibid., p. xxiv. 14. Ibid., p. 14. 15. Fredric Jameson Preface in ibid., p. xix. 16. Reinhardt Koselleck, Modernity and the Planes of Historicity, in Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985) pp. 1314. 17. Ibid., pp. 1314. 18. Ibid., p. 13. 19. Ibid., p. 18. 20. Alvin Tofer, Future Shock (New York: Random House, 1970), p. 17. 21. Nicholas Reschler uses the phrase the Advice Establishment to describe academics, working scientists, technical experts, and pundits of all sorts serving on advisory boards, policy study groups and public commissions developing information, ideas, and speculations to provide guidance about the future. Nicholas Reschler, Predicting the Future (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), p. 29. 22. Donald Schon, Forecasting and Technological Forecasting, in Daniel Bell, Toward the Year 2000: Work in Progress, ed. Daniel Bell (Boston: Beacon Press, Daedalus Library, 1967), p. 130. 23. Reschler, Predicting the Future, p. 29. 24. This is a subject whose history can only be pointed to briey. For the most incisive critical analysis on the future as it relates to the fate of the Left, see Andrew Ross, Getting the Future We Deserve, in Ross, Strange Weather. For a more extensive Marxian reading, see Raymond Williams, The Year 2000: A Radical Look at the Futureand What We Can Do to Change It (New York: Pantheon, 1983). An introduction to this phenomenon, if written at the moment of its emergence, is John McHale, Prophets of the Future, in his widely read


The Future of the Future (New York: George Braziller, 1969), pp. 241264. McHale collaborated closely with Fuller in his World Design Initiative. Also see Nicholas Reschler, Historical Stagesetting, in Reschler, Predicting the Future, pp. 1937. The founding of the Club of Rome provides an especially interesting case study in the history of future studies research because of its relationship to the historical movements of global capitalism. Its founder, Aurelio Peccei, was an Italian industrialist and president of Fiat and Olivetti, and the group became well known for its deployment of systems analysis in its predictive enterprise. The Club of Rome is perhaps best known for their 1972 document The Limits to Growth, authored by Donella Meadows. Translated into thirty-seven languages, the book confronts the potential consequences of population growth as projected at intervals of 10, 20, 50, and more years. The group engaged the services of the prominent cybernetician Jay Forrester in preparation of their study; the Systems Dynamic Group at MIT facilitated the collection and processing of data that was the foundation of their research. 25. Dr. Glenn T. Seabord, cited in Daniel Bell, 2000: The Trajectory of an Idea, Toward the Year 2000: Work in Progress, ed. Daniel Bell (Boston: Beacon Press, Daedalus Library, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967), p. 2. 26. Ibid., p. 6. 27. Gordon Moore, Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits, Electronics 38, no. 8 (April 19, 1965): p. 1. 28. Ibid., p. 1. 29. On the viability of Moores Law, see Charles C. Mann, The End of Moores Law? Technology Review 103, no. 3 (MayJune 2000): 4248; and Ted Lewis, The Next 10,000 Years: Part 1, Computer 29, no. 4 (April 1996): 6470. 30. Douglas Davis, Art of the Future (New York: Praeger, 1973), p. 106. 31. Ibid., p. 184. 32. Ibid. 33. John Chandler and Lucy Lippard, The Dematerialization of Art, Art International, February 20, 1968, pp. 3136. 34. G. F. W. Hegel, The Aesthetics: Introductory Lectures on Fine Art, trans. B. Bosanquet (New York: Penguin Books, 1886), pp. 1011. 35. See, e.g., Arthur Danto, The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of the Commonplace (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); and Hans Belting, The End of the History of Art, trans. Christopher Wood (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). 36. Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985).



37. G. F. W. Hegel, A. Quality (8698), in The Encyclopaedia Logic (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Press, 1991), p. 149. 38. Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 18. 39. Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Any Warhol (New York: Harcourt, 1975), p. 117. 40. Peter Wollen, Raiding the Icebox, in Andy Warhol: Film Factory, ed. Michael OPray (London: British Film Institute, [BFI] 1989), p. 14. 41. Gregory Battcock, Four Films by Andy Warhol, in Andy Warhol: Film Factory, ed. Michael OPray (London: BFI, 1989), p. 46. 42. David James, Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 62. 43. Ibid., p. 65. 44. Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol Sixties (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1980), pp. 32, 50. 45. Stephen Koch, Stargazer: The Life, World, and Films of Andy Warhol (London and New York: Marion Boyars, 1963), p. 39. 46. Ibid. 47. Ibid. 48. Gregory Battcock, Four Films by Andy Warhol, in OPray, Andy Warhol: Film Factory, p. 45. 49. Warhol and Hackett, POPism, p. 50. 50. Here Id like to acknowledge the work of Carrie Lambert and her research on Yvonne Rainer and the thematics of attention and sixties media culture. Carrie Lambert, Yvonne Rainers Media, Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 2000. 51. Ibid., p. 50. 52. Alexander Alberro, Time and Conceptual Art, in Tempus Fugit: Time Flies, ed. Jan Schall (Kansas City, Mo.: Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, 2001), pp. 144157. 53. For the clearest explication of Darbovens practice, see Anne Rorimer, Systems, Seriality, Sequence, in New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redening Reality (London: Thames and Hudson, 2001), pp. 165166. 54. See Anne Rorimer, On Kawara, in Reconsidering the Object of Art, ed. Ann Goldstein and Anne Rorimer (Los Angeles and Cambridge, Mass.: Museum of Contemporary Art and MIT 1995), p. 144; and Rorimer, The Date Paintings of On Kawara, in Date Paintings in 89 Cities (exhibition catalog) (Rotterdam: Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, 1991), pp. 220227.


55. Karel Schampers, A Mental Journey in Time, in Date Paintings in 89 Cities, p. 198. 56. The title of the enormous catalog on Kawara, Whole and Parts, implicitly points to one of the key structural relations within systems discourse: the extent to which the part (e.g., variable) informs the whole (system) in that systems disposition toward change over time. See On Kawara, Whole and Parts (Villeurbanne: Le Nouveau Muse/Institut dArt Contemporain and les presses du rel, 1996). Kawaras work has been discussed in the rhetoric of systems and communications before. On Kawara: Le Opere E I Giorno, Domus 600 (Milan), (November 1979): 49. 57. Kathryn Chiong, Kawara on Kawara, in OCTOBER (MIT Press) 90 (1999): 5073. 58. Ichiro Haryu, for instance, acknowledges (but does not expand upon) Kawaras work with respect to postwar Japanese art and what he regards as its shared interest in reproduction. Ichiro Haryu, Le rle de la reproduction dans lArt, in Xxe sicle (Paris), no. 5, vol. 5, no. 46 (September 1976): 8496. 59. See, e.g., Immanuel Wallerstein, Introduction, in The Essential Wallerstein (New York: New Press, 2000), p. xxii. The Fernand Braudel Center was founded in 1976 at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where Wallerstein is professor. 60. Fernand Braudel, History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Dure, in On History, trans. by Sarah Matthews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 32. 61. See Wallerstein, Time and Duration: The Unexcluded Middle, or Reections on Braudel and Prigogine, in Essential Wallerstein, p. 163. 62. Braudel, History and the Social Sciences, p. 28. 63. Ibid., pp. 2930. 64. I need to show my hand here. The time of endlessness I am describing relative to Warhol and Kawara recalls for me two other modalities of time. The rst is Friedrich Nietzsches considerations of eternal return or eternal recurrence of the same, a deeply anti-dialectical notion of time (and therefore an anti-Hegelian temporality). Nietzsches famous aphorism in The Gay Science (developed in Thus Spake Zarathustra) poses an ontological as well as ethical question, which might be paraphrased as follows: if confronted with the possibility of living ones life over again, exactly as it happened, would you accept the possibility? Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kauffmann (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 273274. Numerous philosophers have argued that Nietzsches eternal return is less a cosmological proposition (as in, for example, the prospect of reincarnation)



than an ethical one: it is a proposal for thinking of the future in terms of selection and of the will to act in the present as speculation. In both Warhols Empire and Kawaras work, the afrmation of a failed dialectic (a bad innity) squares with a particular kind of ethics that is eternal return. Gilles Deleuzes words on Nietzsche apply here, particularly to the notion of art as a mode of willful resistance to time. It is the thought of the eternal return that selects. It makes willing something whole. The thought of the eternal return eliminates from willing everything which falls outside the eternal return, it makes willing a creation, it brings about the equation willing-creating. Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 69. The second mode of temporality follows on Baruch Spinozas speculations on the revolutionary plane of immanence in the context of globalization. This is the time that upholds functional inconclusiveness against the end of the dialectic of modernity under Empire. See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 4243. See also Negris discussions on Spinozas philosophy of immanentism as metaphysics of time as constitution, the time of further constitution, the time that extends beyond the actuality of being, the being that constructs and selects the future. Antonio Negri, Difference and the Future, in The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinozas Metaphysics and Politics, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p. 228. 65. Slowness, of course, has its politic uses: the union slowdown remains a common strategy in labor negotiations. But consider more recent developments, such as, for example, the Slow Food movement, which emphasizes sustainable agriculture, environmental consciousness, and regional or slow culinary techniques in the face of the fast-food industry and its implications for global capitalism. On Slow Food, see Slow Food, ed. Carlo Petrini (White River Junction, Vt.: Slow Food Editore and Chelsea Green Publishing Company). On a kind of slow time, see Stewart Brand, The Clock of Long Now: Time and Responsibility (New York: Basic Books, 1999). Note also that Brand authored Cybernetic Frontiers and The Whole Earth Catalog books with marked implications for this study.



A phase, 311n17 Acceleration, 162 Accumulations, 197 Acknowledgment, gesture of, 47 Adorno, 33 Aesthetic fatigue, 247250 Aesthetics, 68 Aggressiveness, 173176, 180, 211. See also Domination; Obliteration; Study for an End of the World, No. 2; Suicide machines Airplanes, 22, 23f, 24 Aldrich, Larry, 167168, 168f with Op fashions, 170171f Ambivalence, 164 Anderson, Cheryl, 193 Anthropomorphizing art, 7374 Anxiety, 113 Apollo 11, 5, 6f, 7, 8 Approximate knowledge, 124 Aristotle, xx Art and Objecthood. See under Fried Art and the Future (Davis), 272274 Art and Time (Smithson). See Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space Art in America, 169, 170171f Art in Movement (Bewogen Beweging), 96 Art object, 275 ATTENTIONS: ROBOTS, 114

Automation, 57, 105106, 109111, 113116 connotations, 109110 denitions and meanings, 108109 Automatism, 5561, 75 Autonomy over senses, 186 Autopoiesis, 61, 67, 68, 75, 321n59 Autopoiesis and Cognition (Maturana and Varela), 320321n59 Avant-garde, 139, 178, 229, 230, 271, 276 and neo-avant-garde, 328 329nn2526 Bachelard, Gaston, 123124, 334n73 Baldessari, John, 239241, 241f, 350n42 Ballet magntique (Takis), 95f Bateson, Gregory, 6768, 80, 245 Battock, Gregory, 283, 284 Beauty, 59 Behaviorism, 342n84 Bell, Daniel, 332n42 Bell, Larry, 40, 41f Beniger, Joseph, 190 Benton, Fletcher, 9798 Bergson, Henri, 122123 Bernal, J. D., 273275 Black-and-white works. See under Riley Bodily confusion, 212

Bodily space, 207 Bonnards, Pierre, 188 Boredom, 288 Borgzinner, Jon, 183 Bourdon, David, 343n89 Brand, Stewart, 6263f Braudel, Fernand, 299, 301, 303, 305, 306 Brett, Guy, 126, 127 Bridget Riley (Snowden), 155, 158 159f Brinkley, David, 85, 87, 140, 143, 147, 149 Bronowski, J., 231, 232 Buchloh, Benjamin, 80 Brger, Peter, 328329n25 Burnham, Jack, 70, 7275, 77, 239 240, 349350n39 Bury, Pol, 116118, 119f, 120125 Camargo, Sergio, 131 Canaday, John, 104, 190 Causality and causal explanation, 67 68, 245, 246 Cavell, Stanley, 46, 47, 5560, 319n42, 320n46 Certainties and uncertainties, 104, 164 Chamberlain, John, 1619, 22 Chandler, John, 275 Change, 106 Cheyenne helicopters, 22, 23f, 24 Christianity, 47, 264, 265, 317n22 Chronophobia, xii, xiv, 8, 38, 81 Chronophobic impulse, xii, 8 Cinema. See Film Cioran, E. M., xi Circular causality, 245, 246 Clark, Lygia, 96, 96f, 131, 132133f Clothing, 167, 169, 171. See also Dresses Cloud Canyons: Bubble Mobiles (Medalla), 128, 129f Club of Rome, 354n24

Communication, 64, 65, 69, 70, 246. See also Cybernetics ethics of, 46, 47 over time, 235 Communications media and networks, 330331n33 Conceptual art, 275 Conditioning, 191 Contemporaneity, problem of, 231, 254255 Control, 190. See also under Sense ratios Counterculture, 31, 32 Criticism, 61 Cube, 80. See also Grass Cube (Haacke) Current, 155, 156f, 157 Cybernetic Serendipity, 240 Cybernetic temporality, 245 Cybernetics, 62, 6470, 91, 231, 233, 236, 237, 244, 320321n59. See also Human Use of Human Beings; Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space Cybernetics (Wiener), 190, 235 Cyclo-Graveur (Tinguely), 98, 99f, 100 Danger, 173174 Darboven, Hanne, 288 Davis, Douglas, 272276 Deleuze, Gilles, 54, 263, 277 Dematerialization (of art), 128, 240, 275 Destruction, 173176, 180. See also Obliteration; Study for an End of the World, No. 2; Suicide machines Desublimation, 314n51 Dialogue of Hands (Clark), 96f Digital technology, xv Discontinuity, 124, 125 Distance and television, 187 Domestic arts, 171172 Domination, 2630. See also Aggressiveness Dresses, 167169, 170f, 172



Drift, 233, 235239 Driving, xvi Drugs, hallucinogenic, 193194 Duchamp, Marcel, 96, 97 Duplicity, 179, 182. See also Haptical objects; Illusionism Duration dialectic of, 116118, 120125, 357n65 experience of, 44, 45, 280281 (see also Long forever) Edwards, Jonathan, 37, 47, 48 Efciency, 109 Ehrenzweig, Anton, 179182 Ellul, Jacques, 184 Empire, 330n33 Empire State Building, 279, 282f Empire (Warhol), 282f, 283, 284, 285 286f, 287288 End of the World. See Study for an End of the World, No. 2 Endlessness, 44, 45, 48, 49, 307, 356 357n64. See also Long forever Ends, 85, 87, 89, 92, 271278 End-time, 264 Energy, 128 Enlightenment, dialectic of, 246 Entropy, 66, 244 and the collapse of art history, 246 250 Entropy Made Visible (Weiner), 248249 Epistemology, 124 Eternal. See Endlessness Events are dust, 303 Existence, 90 Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), 1213, 15, 2122 Extensions, 185, 186 Eye and Mind (Spalding), 181 Eye Body (Schneemann), 195, 202, 203f Eye hurting, 173176

Eye/Body problem dened, 155 Krauss and, 182 Merleau-Ponty and, 181182 Riley and, 155, 157, 159, 174176, 181, 196 Schneemann and, 195, 200, 201, 212 and sixties media culture, 159, 181 184, 186, 187, 196, 212 Fall into Time, The (Cioran), xi Fashion(s), 171. See also Dresses; Op fashion(s) meaning and essence of, 172173 of the times, 172176 Feedback, 64, 244 Feminine arts, 171172 Feminism and feminists, 196, 197, 204 Film, 5455, 60 automatic quality, 5455 time and, 279281, 283284, 287, 288 from total thereness to recursiveness, 5562 Fission (Riley), 165, 166167f Focillon, Henri, 200201, 228 Forecasting, 264269, 271, 275 Form class, 228 Formalism, 74, 75, 201, 230 Foster, Hal, 329n26 Foucault, Michel, 342n80 Free will, 186, 193 Fried, Michael, 40 Art and Objecthood, 3740, 4350, 5456, 60, 74, 75, 77 moral tone of, 46, 47 Smithsons response to, 4850 Cavells dialogue with, 46 and duration, 4445 ethics of communication, 46, 47 on lm, 5455, 60 and minimalism, 4245 modernism of, 43, 56 nature, naturalism, and, 49


Fried, Michael (cont.) presentness is grace, 34, 38, 45, 46 theater, theatricality, and, 38, 45, 49, 5455, 77, 81 and time, 39, 4345, 6162 urgency and moral tone, 46 Future Shock (Tofer), xiii, 103, 104, 265266 Futurism, 102, 264267, 272273 Futurity, 289, 293 Gardiner, John, 127128 General System Theory, 62, 64, 65, 240, 323n78. See also Systems theory Ghost Rev (Schneemann), 205207, 208f, 209 Giant Ice Bag (Oldenburg), 1011, 11f Giorno, John, 280 Globalization, 104, 105, 265, 267, 330331n33 Gosling, Nigel, 172 Grass Cube (Haacke), 76f, 77, 78, 80, 81 Greenberg, Clement, 40, 43, 5254, 177178, 316n7, 319n37 Gutenberg Galaxy, The (McLuhan), 184186 Haacke, Hans, 76f, 7778, 79f, 80 Habermas, Jrgen, 353n11 Habituation, 193 Hallucinations, 181, 182, 199. See also Illusionism Hallucinogenics and technics, 192 195 Haptical objects and phenomenal subjects, 176182, 193 Hardt, Michael, 330331n33 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 275 277 Heidegger, Martin, 9091, 140141, 149, 153 Heisenberg, Werner K., 124, 127 Helicopters, Cheyenne, 22, 23f, 24

Hesitate, 167169 Hess, Thomas, 188190 High and Low, 171 Highways, 5052 Historical time, 299, 301, 303, 305 History, 228, 229, 242, 243, 255256. See also Shape of Time, The (Kubler) technological rationality as suppression of, 33 History and the Social Sciences (Braudel), 299 Homage to New York (Tinguely), 134, 135136f, 137140 Hopkins, Terence K., 311n17, 331n33 Horvitz, Robert, 254255 Huebler, Douglas, 73 Huizinga, Johan, 100 Hulten, K. G. Pontus, 98 Human Use of Human Beings, The (Wiener), 218, 231, 234235f, 246248 Humor, 100, 101 Hysteria in women, 196, 199 I got up (Kawara), 300301f Ideology, 42 Illusionism, 165, 176, 178181. See also Haptical objects Im Not Going to Commit Suicide, Dont Worry (Kawara), 304305f Im Still Alive (Kawara), 302303f Imagination, 334n73 Improvisation, 60 Innite perspective, 45 Innity, bad, 276279, 281, 289, 301, 306 Innity Nets, 197 Information Age, 34 Information exchange, 64 Information processing, 108 Information technology, xiiixiv, xviii Instances, 59 Institutional critique, 78 Intermedia, 205 Intermedia Systems, Inc., 206



Invisible, the, 127128, 181182 Ionesco, Eugne, 121, 125 Jameson, Fredric, xv, 263, 307, 311n18, 327n9 Kawara, On, 269, 271, 278, 289, 291, 293, 296f, 297307, 356n56 I got up, 300301f Im Not Going to Commit Suicide, Dont Worry, 304305f Im Still Alive, 302303f One Million YearsFuture, 297, 299f One Million YearsPast, 297, 298f Title, 289, 290291f Today Series, 289, 291, 292f, 293, 294295f, 306 Keeler, Paul, 126, 127 Kennedy, John F., 110 Kepes, Gyorgy, 69, 70, 71f Kinetic art, 9293, 159 and the art world, 9398, 100105 historical uncertainty evoked by, 104 international dimension, 104 prewar history, 103 ruptures into the narrative of, 116 118, 120128, 130131, 133 Tofer on, 103105 Kinetic image, 108 Kiss (Riley), 162, 163f Kiss (Warhol), 281f Klver, Billy, 12 Koch, Stephen, 280, 281 Koerner, Joseph, 317n22 Kondratieff cycle, 311n17 Koselleck, Reinhardt, xii, 265, 277 Kozloff, Max, 24, 191, 194 Krauss, Rosalind, 5860, 178179, 181, 182, 227, 309n3 Kubler, George, 221, 223, 245246, 249250, 252256, 347n15 actuality for Smithson, 223, 225, 227231, 233 Horvitzs interview of, 254255 as Mesoamericanist, 223, 225

model of time, 242243 The Shape of Time, 223, 224f, 227 231, 241242, 246, 254, 255 Kuh, Katherine, 97 Kuhn, Thomas, xxi Kusama, Yayoi, 197, 198f, 199, 200 Language abridgment of, 3032 of blindness, 208209 Laocon (Lessing), 52, 55 Le Mouvement, 96, 98 Leaeting, 331332n35 Lessing, G. E., 52, 318n32 Life of Forms in Art (Focillon), 200 202 Limit conditions, 43 Lippard, Lucy, 275 Literalist sensibility, 44, 45 Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, 22, 23f, 24 Long forever, 4851 Longue dure, 299, 301, 303 Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Art and Technology program, 9, 12, 1417, 21, 22, 24, 28, 30 catalog, 19 Luhmann, Niklas, 66, 321322n60, 324n82 Lye, Len, 94f Lyotard, Jean-Franois, 261264, 307 Machines. See Automation; Technology Making of a Counter-Culture, The (Roszak), 31 Manifesto for Statics (Tinguely), 106, 107f Manovich, Lev, 69 Marcuse, Herbert, 2633, 313n34, 314n47 on art, 26 background, 2526 Eros and Civilization, 26, 28


Marcuse, Herbert (cont.) One-Dimensional Man, 27 The Afrmative Character of Culture, 139 Mattering of time, 128 Maturana, Humberto R., 320321n59 McLuhan, Marshall, xvi, 110, 194 195, 266 The Gutenberg Galaxy, 184, 185 Understanding Media, 186189 Mechanization, 109 Medalla, David, 126128, 129f, 130 Medium, 5152, 60, 69 time and, 5254 Memories of Mike (Bell), 40, 41f Memory, 33 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 181182 Metalogical, 7778, 8081 Metalogue, dened, 8081 Meta-matics, 105, 111, 112f, 113 115, 117, 133, 134, 139 Metanarrative, 306, 307 Metaphor(s), 231, 233, 242 Meyer, James, 46, 47 Middle (condition), 5155 Minimalism, 80, 81, 277279 the anthropomorphic within, 74 Burnham on, 74, 75 Fried and, 4245 Greenberg on, 40 Meyer on, 46 technology and, 68 time and, 4344 Minimalist cube, 77, 78 Minimalist objecthood, 75, 77 Minimalist sculpture, 4445, 51 as musical loop, 316317n13 Modernism, 37, 52, 5456, 178, 223 as chronophobia, 3940, 4248 Modernist art, 45 Modernist painting, 5759 Modernity, xii, 264 MoMA Visitors Poll (Haacke), 78, 79f Moore, Gordon, 268269, 270f, 271

Moores law, 269, 270271f Movement, 106. See also Film Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), 133 134, 137139, 160, 167, 188 Nature and naturalism, 49 Negri, Antonio, 330331n33 New Jersey Turnpike, 50, 52 New media, xv, xvi, xix, 69, 192, 271 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 356357n64 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering, 12, 15, 16, 72 1960s, xxii, 259, 307. See also specic topics forecast in, 264269, 271 No. Green, No. 1 (Kusama), 198199f Noncontemporaneity, xi Norris Industries, 20f North American Rockwell Corporation, 20f Norvell, Patsy A., 243 Numbness, 194195 Obliteration, 195197, 199202, 204 207, 209, 211212, 214 Observation, 66 Oldenburg, Claes, 10, 11f One Million YearsFuture (Kawara), 297, 299f One Million YearsPast (Kawara), 297, 298f 1110 Dots Leaving a Hole: Punctuation (Bury), 118, 119f One-dimensional man and society, 2730 Ontogenesis, 64 Op (art), 157, 178, 179, 341n64, 342nn7980, 343n89 feminization, 171 history, 159 illusionism, 176 Riley and, 157, 159, 161, 168169, 171174, 188, 196



sense ratios, the problem of control, and, 183192 technics, hallucinogenics, and, 192 195 and the Two Cultures, 159161 Op art dresses, 168169, 170f Op Arts Tiny Time Pill (Anderson), 193 Op fashion(s), 169, 171174, 187 Aldrich with, 170171f temporality, 173174 Open endedness, 45 Optical painting, 157, 178179. See also Op Organization, 64, 65 Oster, Gerald, 193194 Painting for Kubler (Baldessari), 241, 241f Paradigm shifts, xxixxii Passivity, 190 Perceptual abstraction, 161 Periodic structure, 164 Perpetual presents, 278281, 283 284, 287289, 291, 293, 297299 Perpetual revolution/self-creation, 46 Phobias then and now, xivxviii Photography, 54, 57, 319n37 Physics, modern, xx Political artists, 78 Pop goes to Op, 173 Postmodernism, 261263, 307 Postmodernism (Lyotard), 261264 Prediction. See Forecasting Presence, 316n7, 319n42 Presentness, 45, 57, 59, 60, 70, 319n42 of kinetic art, 101 time beyond, 62 Presentness is grace, 38, 45, 46 Prime objects, 228229 Probabilities, 264269, 271 Programming, 190191, 193 Protestants, 317n22 Psychological warfare, 331332n35

Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space (Smithson), 219, 220f, 221, 222f, 223, 230, 232f, 233, 250254 RAND Corporation, 1618, 22, 29 Rational prognosis, 264265 Rationality vs. irrationality, 27, 33, 34 Rauschenberg, Robert, 12 Recursion/recursiveness, 57, 6061, 64, 67, 68, 75, 323n76 Refutation, 49, 61 Remembrance, 33 Ren, Galerie Denise, 96, 327n12 Repetition, difference within, 164, 277 Repression and oppression, 2627 Reproduced reproductions, 252 Reschler, Nicholas, 353n21 Responsive Eye, The, 160, 161, 178, 183, 188, 191, 192, 204 Retinal art. See Op Revelation, 181 Revolution, 8 Rickey, George, 328n24 Riegl, Alois, 177 Riley, Bridget, 181, 190 and art criticism, 177178 black-and-white works, 162, 163f, 164167f Bridget Riley (Snowden), 155, 158 159f career as artist, 161162, 165, 167 172, 174 Current, 155, 156f, 157 exchange with Sylvester, 175176 and Eye/Body problem, 155, 157, 159, 174176, 181, 196 and fashions of the times, 174176 Fission, 165, 166167f illusionism, 165, 176, 178, 180181 and interconnectedness of senses, 176 Kiss, 162, 163f Krauss and Ehrenzweig on, 179182 meets Larry Aldrich, 167, 168f and Op, 157, 159, 161, 168169, 171174, 188, 196


Riley, Bridget (cont.) painting in the show Hesitate, 167 169 phases in the experience of her paintings, 180 pleasure, pain, aggression, and the art of, 173176, 180182 position toward her work, 181 Schneemann compared with, 159, 195, 200, 212 The Hermaphrodite, 196 version of transcendence, 195197, 200, 212, 214 as woman artist, 157, 159, 171172, 190, 196 Robots, 114. See also Automation Root, Waverly, 115 Rorimer, Anne, 289 Roszak, Theodore, 3132 Rupture. See Signals; Slowness Sainte-Phalle, Niki de, 87, 89, 141, 143 San Diego, 313n31 Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, xvi Schneemann, Carolee, 345n124 Eye Body, 195, 202, 203f Ghost Rev, 205207, 208f, 209 and language of blindness, 208209 Snows, 205206, 209, 210f, 211 USCO and, 205206 version of transcendence, 195, 200 202, 204212 Science, history of, 124 Scientic revolutions, xxi Sculpture, 40, 4244, 54, 7475. See also Minimalist sculpture Secret Life of Hernando Cortez, The (Chamberlain), 17 Seitz, William C., 160161, 190191 Self-amputation, 194195. See also Obliteration Self-creation, 46 Self-criticality, 45, 61 Self-destructive art, 151. See also Suicide machines

Self-reproduction, 75 Sense ratios dened, 184185 and the problem of control, 183192 Senses, 176177, 181, 202, 204205. See also specic senses Serra, Richard, 9, 10f Sexuality, 26, 204 Shape of Time, The (Kubler), 223, 224f, 227231, 241242, 246, 254, 255 Sign, Image, Symbol (Kepes), 70, 71f Signals, 125128, 130131, 133 time and, 242243 Sine Curve Man (Csuri), 273f Singular object, 53, 55 Skepticism vs. antiskepticism, 4647, 49 toward artists, 87 Skullcracker series, 9, 10f Sleep (Warhol), 279, 280, 280f Slowness/dialectic of duration, 116 118, 120125, 357n65 Smith, Tony, xvii, 43, 5051 Smithson, Robert, 218, 219, 221222, 224, 250254, 256, 348n29 on Frieds Art and Objecthood, 48 50 interview of, 243 Kublers actuality for, 223, 225, 227 231, 233 Quasi-Innities and the Waning of Space, 219, 220f, 221, 222f, 223, 230, 232f, 233, 235 Some Void Thoughts on Museums, 221 Ultramoderne, 221, 225, 226227f, 230 Snow, C. P., 1314 Snowden, Lord, 155, 156f, 157 Snows (Schneemann), 205206, 209, 210f, 211 Socrates, 53 Software: Information Technology. Its New Meaning for Art, 70, 72, 73



Space, waning of. See also QuasiInnities and the Waning of Space stars, art, and, 253255 Space-time continuum, 201 Spalding, Frances, 181 Spatial (accounts of) time, 122 Specic object, 42 Spinoza, Baruch, 357n64 Square, 80. See also Grass Cube Stabilities and instabilities, 164 Statics, 106, 124125 Stevenson, James, 212213f Structuration, 323n76 Study for an End of the World, No. 2 (Tinguely), 85, 86f, 87, 88f, 89, 92, 139, 142f, 143, 144, 145146f, 147, 148f, 149, 150f, 151, 152f, 153 Suicide machines, 133134, 137141, 143144, 147, 149, 151, 153 Swiss character and stereotypes, 115 Sylvester, David, 174175 Symbols, visual, 70, 72 Systems, 6170, 7275, 7778 meanings, 62 open, 6566, 323n71 problem with, 243246 promise of, 239243 real-time, 78 Systems aesthetics, 68, 239, 274 Systems analysis, 65, 69, 77 Systems discourse, 62, 64, 65, 75 Systems theory, 61, 62, 6467, 7274, 77, 320321n59, 321322n60. See also General System Theory Systems-oriented society, 243 Tactile sense, 177, 179. See also Haptical objects and phenomenal subjects Takis, 95f, 126 Techne, xx Technics, 26, 27 and hallucinogenics, 192195 Technocracy, 3132


Technological determinism, 186 Technological rationality/thinking, 2630, 3233 Heideggers critique of, 91 Technological Society, The (Ellul), 184 185 Technology, xiiixxi, 64. See also Automation; Sense ratios; Signals; Suicide machines; Systems art and, xxxxi, 7, 14, 34 (see also Experiments in Art and Technology; Kinetic art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art) Two Cultures divide, 13, 25, 28, 30, 6970, 159161, 189 eros, civilization and, 9 (see also Marcuse) as means to an end, 1516 Technophobia, 30 Television, 144, 184, 186189 Temple, Greek, 91 Theater. See also under Fried time and, 4445 Theatricality, 38, 43, 4849, 67, 75. See also under Fried Time, 8, 33. See also specic topics calling over, 233, 235239 literalist preoccupation with, 45 (non)entitlement to, xi obsession with, xiv Tinguely, Jean, 85, 86f, 88f, 89, 90, 93, 106, 124125 in America, 133134, 137141, 143 153 Bury compared with, 116117 Canaday on, 104 Cyclo-Graveur, 98, 99f, 100 For Statics, 122 Homage to New York, 134, 135136f, 137140 and kinetic art, 98, 102105, 108, 116 Manifesto for Statics, 106, 107f Meta-matics, 105, 111, 112f, 113 115, 133, 139

Tinguely, Jean (cont.) Study for an End of the World, No. 2, 85, 86f, 87, 88f, 89, 92, 139, 142f, 143, 144, 145146f, 147, 148f, 149, 150f, 151, 152f, 153 suicide machines, 133134, 137 141, 143144, 147, 149, 151, 153 technology and, 104, 105, 110, 116 (see also Meta-matics) vision of world, 144 worlds of, 9192 Title (Kawara), 289, 290291f Today Series (Kawara), 289, 291, 292f, 293, 294295f, 306 Tofer, Alvin, xiii, 103105, 265266 Total thereness, 5860 Touch. See Tactile sense Transcendence, a woman artists version of, 195197, 199202, 204 207, 209, 211212, 214 Transience, 92, 103, 104, 116, 153 Trickery. See Illusionism Tuchman, Maurice, 21, 34 Two Cultures divide, 13, 25, 28, 30, 6970, 159161, 189 Ultramoderne (Smithson), 225, 226227f, 230 Universe (Lye), 94f USCO (Us Company), 205207 Valry, Paul, 5253 Varela, Francisco J., 320321n59 Vasarely, Victor, 96, 97 Vietnam, 192, 211 Violence. See Destruction; Obliteration Virilio, Paul, 8 Virtual movement (in time), 159, 164 Virtual temporality of the environment, 160 Visual rape, 206207. see also Eye hurting Visual tempi, 157, 164, 196 von Bertalanffy, Ludwig, 64, 65, 322n67, 323n71

Wallerstein, Immanuel, 331n33 Warhol, Andy, 269, 271, 278281, 283, 287, 288 attitudes toward time, 279 Empire, 282f, 283, 284, 285286f, 287288 Kiss, 281f Sleep, 279, 280, 280f Weber, Samuel, 187 Whitney, John, 274f Whole System (Brand), 6263f Wiener, Norbert, 244, 252, 256 Cybernetics, 190, 235 drift, 233, 235239 on entropy, 244, 246248 The Human Use of Human Beings, 218, 231, 234235f, 246248 theory of control, 238 Will Moores Law Stand Forever?, 269, 270271f Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 46 Women, 171 in art, 100 Women artists, 157, 190, 195. See also specic artists version of transcendence, and obliteration, 195197, 199202, 204207, 209, 211212, 214 World Viewed, The (Cavell), 5560 World(s) concept of, 90 systems analysis, 65, 69, 77 (see also Wallerstein) within worlds, 8993 Y2K phenomenon, 259261