Page 16 - Studio International - February 1968
P. 16

The Ascott galaxy                        human sensibilities perpetually under bar­  a sociological cross-referencing, instead of
                                               rage from the higher efficiency of scientific  the  outmoded  principles  of  'righteous
                                               technologies. Of course, the modern move­  forms'  invested  in  what  amounts  to  little
                                               ment up until now has served its purpose of  more than eclecticisms of styles. One of the
                                               appeasing the communal angst heroically.  delights  in  the  vision  of  visual  art  incor­
                                                Its main attributes consisting of inventive­  porating cybernetic awareness is that it is
                                                ness  in  this  crisis  and  bizarre  ingenuity  equally relevant when applied to the work
                                                within stifling predetermined structures. As  of Ellsworth Kelly or Cezanne, as well as of
                                                long as civilized evolution remained simply   Roy Ascott.
                                                mechanical,  a  question  of  measureable   What then does  Roy Ascott have in mind
                                                geometry, weighed matter, cause and effect  when  he  advocates  a  cybernetic  vision  in
                                                seen as determinable action through space  art?  I can do no better than to quote from
                                                as time and distance, the visual art devices  his recently published paper 'Behaviourist
       Eddie Wolfram                            of  perspective,  image,  tone  and  colour  Art and-the Cybernetic Vision'.
                                                weighed as metaphorical to space, could all   'By this term we do not mean "the Art of
                                                connive and strike adequate enough poses  Cybernetics" nor do we refer to an art con­
                                                to survive in the matrix of human conscious­  cerned to illustrate Cybernetics, nor yet an
       I  do  not  know  of  any  other  artist/teacher  ness  with  some  meaning.  But  with  the  art  embodying  cybernetic  machines  or
       who projects such a high incident of inte­  emergence  of  the  electric  age,  of  instant  robot art-although any one of these things
       gration between his teaching ideas and the  interconnection between impulse, message  might be involved at some point, and again,
       art-hardware that he makes, than Roy Ascott.  and response,  the old determinist game is  they might not.
       When you make contact with the objects on  finally  up.  Here  in  our  new  world  of  tele­  'We  are  referring  to  the  spirit  of Cyber­
       the  terms  in which they  operate,  it  auto­  video fact and computer facilitation, in this  netics which may inform art and in turn be
       matically  implies  subscribing  to  his  con­  cybernate situation where light is impulse,   enriched  by  it.  We  contrast  the  Cyber­
       cepts  about the future  of art  activity from  the image activator and SPACE activated,   netic  Vision  in  Art  to  the  Deterministic
       now  on.  This  real  interdependence  of  his  all simultaneously, simple metaphysical and  Vision of the past which has already been
       work as an artist and his work as a teacher,   plastic  aesthetic  about  visual  phenomena  outlined. We say of Cybernetics that, before
       alone, makes him a worthwhile subject for  becomes  inadequate  and verges  on  obso­  it is a method or an applied science, it is a
       discussion;  at a time when the majority of  lescence.  Roy  Ascott is  one of the first to  field  of  knowledge  which  shapes  our
       artists who do teach, even with the highest  grasp  the  new  significance  and  the  first  philosophy,  influences  our  behaviour  and
       degree of integrity accepted, do so only as  artist to apply himself positively to the new  extends  our  thoughts.  There  is  reason  to
       a means to an end. Art learning as a kind of  realities.                          suppose  that  a  unity  of  art,  science  and
       apprenticeship towards a particular  deter­  To go along with Roy Ascott's work and his  human values is possible; there is no doubt
       minist professionalism, involving the mani­  art advocacy does not imply discarding the  that it i� desirable (Bronowski). More speci­
       pulation  of  traditionally  agreed  plastic  vestiges  and  attributes  of  the  rest  of  the  fically  we  propose  that  an  essentially
       means,  is  still  the  acceptable  standard;  modern  movement.  Rather,  to  understand  cybernetic vision could unify and feed such
       even with the most enlightened art educa­  Ascott  is  to  become  aware  of  a  new  and  a culture.  The grounds for supposing that
       tion courses.  And although this in itself is  more fruitful way of assimilating the art of  Art  has  anticipated  this  integral  situation
       not  necessarily  bad,  in  Ascott's  terms  it  our time.  It is to glimpse the proposition of  and is prepared for it can be found in the
       really is just not far-sighted enough.   an open-ended aesthetic situation involving  emphatically behavioural tendency which it
        The question that Ascott insists  we  must
       initially ask, before continuing to make art in
       the annals of a defined tradition, or in hand­                                                                   ..
       ing out art education in appropriation, is the
       very  earnest  one,  of how and what  in the                                      Roy Ascott
       middle  of  the  twentieth  century,  we  con­                                    Parameter 2 1967
       ceive the function of art activity to be. How,                                    polymer stained wood
       today, can the artist operate in a pertinent                                      84  X  58 in.
       relationship to society? And in what kind of                                      Private collection
       frame of reference therefore is the hardware
       that  he  makes  most  satisfactorily  desig­                                     Right
       nated?  These  are  the  questions  and  they                                     Process notes
       are  by  no  means  new.  They  were  last
       seriously  posed  at  the  Bauhaus  and  are
       probably as old as modern art itself.  How­
       ever, what is radically new is the situation in
       which they are being asked today.
        The  first sign  of  strain  between  art  and
       social structure, all too painfully obvious in
       our own time, probably has its roots in the
       age of reason;  the  advent of the  machine
       age  simply  pushed  the  malady  into  the
       open.  Without  the  significance  of  inte­
       grated active function, involved in the pro­
       gressive  furtherance  of  civilizing  develop­
       ment in its time, modern art is only evidence
       of this tumour; or at best it can be read as
       an  art  of  compensation  for  repressed
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