Systems+Art Showcase

2018 Student Research Symposium

“A “sculpture” that physically reacts to its environment is no longer to be regarded as an object. The rang of outside factors affecting it, as well as its own radius of action, reach beyond the space it materially occupies. It thus merges with the environment in a relationship that is better understood as a “system” of interdependent processes. These processes evolve without the viewer’s empathy. He becomes a witness. A system is not imagined, it is real.”

The State of Real: Aesthetics in the Digital Age


  1. Globalization and Self
  2. Privacy and Security
  3. Internal vs external conflict
  4. Systems Theory

How do these things come together?



The building blocks of my grad project began one year ago with my first tutorial, where I focused on “The Other”. The disparity, it seems, between the “known world” (or the position of the individual) and “the global perspective” (a hot umbrella term that tries to embody everything) is endless. “The Other” is as ambiguous in definition as “Power” was to Foucault. My attempts to try and produce evidence or hard details for a “Other” only staged a hall of mirrors, revealing more about myself than anything external. The global West/East division is a riff on the elusive tension between data and the senses. Cultural beliefs have been evangelized so thoroughly throughout history that either argument is overheated and too light to grasp. By surrounding the conflicting beliefs with a cooler approach, human contact, and with it, an opportunity for connection, the hot air can be lifted. The objective system of behaviours, beliefs and prejudices that Sayid warned his Western readers of, define the essential components of our newly online global network.

My second research tutorial began to look at the repercussions of the objective system. Other-ing produced closing effects on the expanding network—the Internet, an interesting path since the “infinite” glory that defines the modern Internet began as the closed ‘Intranet’ system. The buzz words that direct Internet behaviour are no longer associated with “free” , but infer a dystopian vision of connection. Crypto and “smart” technologies have groomed an untraveled path that begs for the need of cyber security, a bizarre concept for an era past to wrap their minds around, I’m sure. I looked at the 800-metre dash that Canadian courts, along with other global nations, are running to keep up with the protection of non-objects for their citizens. This has sparked higher philosophical discussions around privacy, and in turn, engulfed my attention throughout my research. Michel Foucault’s analysis of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopitcon was central (pun intended). His concept connected many of the fear-focused behaviours and positions that had emerged as reactions to the first global network. As Bentham had it, the Internet’s proposed ability to connect people has lead to rich and complex isolation, in the name of civil protection.

Here is where the Luddite’s come out of hiding and sharp corners of “freedom” begins to reveal themselves. Conflict likes to pluck civil society like an over-wound cello, eagerly checking for a string out of tune. My final tutorial approached the provocative conflict fantasies described in science fiction— the fairy-tales of the grown-up world. I immersed myself in Kafka, Moore, Vonnagut, and other dystopian daydreams. They used vivid symbols and complex characters to unveil their interpretations and experiences of reality, and it’s disparity with ideology. Science fiction closes readers off from reality. It steers the senses to abstract places, characters and events, and can invent space to rehearse intolerance, injustice, and chaos. Science fiction can open a fire hose to the thirsty mouths of moral thinkers and reality defenders, objective laws no longer constrain the boundless agency of character. Internal or emotional “truths” are usually the man behind the curtain in these tales, they seem to bite back with seminal force.


The final research piece on Systems Theory, interrogated the power struggle between the Sciences and Art, and the unstable process of isolated processes of understanding. In the previous cases of Us vs. Them, security and privacy, and internal vs. external conflict, the institutions or, the West, has been more interested in the information, than the experience. The shared experience, as physical human beings, ought to be considered holistically, as elements of a global system. Our bodies are not simply extended objects, but rather constituted of endless opportunities to remake ourselves through experience. Here, the idea of process takes precedence over the results. A system does not revolve around definite boundaries, but addresses organization of complex components that are always in interaction. Art, like any system, is adaptive— it is constantly being redefined with every interaction since each brings new contesting ideologies, popular culture and interests.

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