Cybernetic-Existentialism: Freedom, Systems, and Being-for-Others in Contemporary Arts and Performance offers a unique discourse and an original aesthetic theory. It argues that fusing perspectives from the philosophy of Existentialism with insights from the ‘universal science’ of cybernetics provides a new analytical lens and deconstructive methodology to critique art.
In this study, Steve Dixon examines how a range of artists’ works reveal the ideas of Existentialist philosophers including Kierkegaard, Camus, de Beauvoir, and Sartre on freedom, being and nothingness, eternal recurrence, the absurd, and being-for-others. Simultaneously, these artworks are shown to engage in complex explorations of concepts proposed by cyberneticians including Wiener, Shannon, and Bateson on information theory and ‘noise’, feedback loops, circularity, adaptive ecosystems, autopoiesis, and emergence.
Dixon’s groundbreaking book demonstrates how fusing insights and knowledge from these two fields can throw new light on pressing issues within contemporary arts and culture, including authenticity, angst and alienation, homeostasis, radical politics, and the human as system.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Cybernetics and Existentialism in Arts and Popular Culture; 2. Visual Art: The Aesthetics of Systems; 3. Interactive Art: Communicating, Controlling and Being-for-Others; 4. Participatory Art: Autopoiesis with Strangers; 5. Theater Art: Staging Cybernetics, Dread, and the Existential Crisis; 6. Performance art: actualizing science fiction and invoking transcendence; 7. Identity Art: The Adaptive System of the Authentic Self; 8. Uncanny Art: Existential Absurdity within Cybernetic Environments; 9. Conclusion: the eternal return and being-in-new-systems
Steve Dixon is President of LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, one of Asia’s leading arts institutions. He is co-founder and Advisory Editor of the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media (Routledge), and author of the award-winning 800-page book Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art and Installation. He was co-founder and co-Director of the Digital Performance Archive and has published on subjects including theater, film, performance studies, digital art, science fiction, and robotics.