Call for Papers: Art as Open System since the 1960s

We welcome your 1-2 page abstract for the session:

Art as Open System since the 1960s

Co-chairs: Christine Filippone and Johanna Gosse

Deadline: April 25, 2014

The Panel is proposed for the 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) October 9-12, 2014 in Dallas, Texas

Introduced into critical art discourse by Jack Burnham in 1968, systems theory was one of the most influential scientific theories for artists working in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Related to the fields of cybernetics, computer technology, automation and systems engineering, the concept of open systems served as a model for artists interested in making dynamic, fluid, and interactive art works. By definition, open systems, such as biological, ecological, or social systems, are characterized by a fluid exchange of matter, energy, and information. Open systems are associated with life, growth and change, qualities that took on special political and social resonance for artists seeking to resist the technocratic logic of Cold War America. An exemplary work of systems art, Hans Haacke’s MoMA Poll (1970), consisted of an interactive polling station where visitors were asked to respond “Yes” or “No” by paper ballot to whether Museum of Modern Art trustee and New York gubernatorial candidate Nelson Rockefeller’s support of Nixon’s policies in Vietnam would influence their decision to vote for him. The poll’s outcome was utterly contingent on visitor participation, and prompted a reconsideration of the supposedly “neutral” politics of the museum institution and of modern art in general. This panel asks about the legacy of systems theory for art since the 1960s. How might we use the concept of “open systems” to understand art works that were not explicitly responding to systems theory? What kinds of problems does art-as-open-system pose to the art institution or market?  Does it retain its subversive potential?  How do contemporary critical paradigms such as “relational aesthetics” or affect theory reflect the inheritance of open systems? This session examines the concept of open systems in relation to a wide range of art practices, including mail art, video art, conceptual art, computer art, Fluxus, intermedia, performance art, expanded cinema, sculpture and installation, feminist art, art and technology, land art, new media, and exhibitions. We welcome presentations by scholars, scientists, artists, and curators working on or at the intersection of art and systems.

Please submit a 1-2 page, double-spaced abstract and CV to and by April 25th.