See this article published on SciArt in America Jan 19, 2014
The Cybernetics of Conceptual Art
Dia: Beacon is an oasis for Minimalism and Conceptual art lovers alike. Lawrence Weiner’s Declaration of Intent (1969) captivates viewers at the museum’s café and ticket foyer with its declarative prose:
1. The artist may construct the work
2. The work may be fabricated
3. The work need not be built
The origin of this piece dates to the groundbreaking exhibition Software: Information Technology: Its New Meaning for Art, curated by Jack Burnham at the Jewish Museum in 1970. Conceptual art is more than an artists’ right to dematerialize, but a subversive investigation into language. The science of language, Cypernetics, explains Weiner’s system of art.
1. The artist may construct the piece
2. The piece may be fabricated
3. The piece need not be built
Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist
the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the
occasion of receivershipThis statement was first published in the catalogue “January 5-31 1969” curated by Seth Siegelaub in New York and has since accompanied all publication of Weiner’s work.Weiner’s piece does not use ‘medium’ in the material sense, but instead uses language. Language is the preliminary mode of meaning in society, existing as a specific social construction. Language is divided into a series of psychological entities called signs; a sign is composed of parts, a sound image and a concept, or a signifier and a signified. The sign has characteristics determined by its context in the line of speech and also by the internal relationships of the signified to the signifier.Curator Jack Burnham explained in the exhibition catalogue, “Signs used in language have to be arbitrary or unfixed in meaning.” Weiner exploits the arbitrary relationship between the signifier and the signified in his piece. The written text of the piece (signifier) need not produce anything at all (signified).
In Software‘s catalogue, Burnham stated, “the goal of Software is to focus our sensibilities on the fastest growing area in this culture: information processing systems and their devices.” Software countered previous exhibitions dramatizing relationships between the machine, technology, and artistic production, notably Pontus Hulten’s exhibition Machine at the End of the Mechanical Age at the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. Hulten’s show inferred the shift from machine technology and the mechanical age to a new era, that exemplified in Software as the era of information technology.
Norbert Wiener, considered the originator of Cypernetics, stated in his book The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society:
“The machine, like the living organism, is, as I have said, a device which locally and temporarily seems to resist the general tendency for the increase of entropy. By its ability to make decisions it can produce around it a local zone of organization in a world whose general tendency is to run down.”