Robson, Louise (2016) Has a Systems Esthetic Become the 'Dominant Approach'? An Investigation into the Significance of Systems Thinking in Art Today. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis explores the writings of Jack Burnham, examining the veracity of his claim made in 1968 that a systems aesthetic would become the “dominant approach”. It thematically traces the presence and influence of systems art within art production from the 1950s up to the present day, analysing work produced before, during, and after the period of the 1960s and 70s that is traditionally associated with the systems perspective. It is argued here that works made both before and after the time of ‘systems art’ can still be viewed through a systems lens. Thus works of Rauschenberg, Cage, Bulloch, and Eliasson are placed within the systems sphere alongside Graham, Nauman, and Haacke. It also considers the value of a number of contemporary theoretical and critical positions which appear to have grown from, or at least have significant resonance with Burnham’s “Systems Esthetics” – in particular the Relational Aesthetics of Nicolas Bourriaud’s, and the Actor-Network theory of Bruno Latour and John Law. After some consideration of the relational and trans-institutional characteristics of these positions, it is suggested that Actor-Network Theory might stand as the heir to Burnham’s “Systems Esthetics”, and that as a consequence, something resembling a systems aesthetic has in fact become the dominant approach – not only the context of artistic production, but also in the context of society as a whole.

FINAL THESIS - ROBSON.pdf - Accepted Version
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