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lnfluencing Macb ines

Tbe Relationship Betuteen Art and Tecbnology

T he g e sta tj on of Jones Randolph M iller coincided with that of " l nfl ue n ci ng Machines,, in its sever al for m s, and with the ma te ri a l i za ti on of ln a Sfate, Ber nie M iller ,s sculptur e for Part Two of the lnfluencing Machines group show al YYZ. Six days after I had left the maternity ward, and by then it was May 19g4, I was admitted to the Women,s C o l l e g e H o sp i tal i ntensive car e unit. ,,lf it tur ns out this is a pulmonary emboliim,', the doctor said, .,you better men ti on to B e rni e that you m ight die tonight.,, M ay 7th I left the hospital briefly to accompany Bernie and Jones to the Part One opening of Influencing Machlnes, showing th e w o rk o f D ou g Back, Reinhar dt Reitzenstein and Jana S te rba k. A n o n g o i ng hubbub, which had star ted back in January with a party to celebrate the first issue of C, had th e n e n l i ve n e d F e br uar y. One event had been yyz,s cr itics, series "The practice of pictures; Representation in Toronto A rt." T ha t's w he re philip M onk had r ead his har r owing pa p e r " A X e s of D i ffer ence.,, ,,...constant jnter change and cro w de d o n e -da y e vents _ som etim e I should count up how many artists and writers live right in the neighbourhood,,, l 'd no te d i n my di ar y that night, ,....W e can all show up so mew he re l o ca l si multaneously,,_ like at the ,,M enswear : A B ri e f H i sto ry,, fa shion show or ganized by David Buchan, a n d " D ressi ng U p," or ganized by Tim Jocelyn. And in September al The New City of Sculpture organized by David Clarkson and Robert Wiens.

The problem now is that technology's perception of culture is becoming our only perception of culture. Culture is losing the perception of itself that is apart from technology, and becoming unable to offer its own perception of technology, to interact with it, to influence its development and qualify society's assimilation of technological processes.Can artworks ever offer perceptions of technology that influence technology's effect? Is it possible that artworks can embody within their very materials, methods and imagery a potential relationship between art and technologyl There are many problems to confront in the search for a theory of the relationship between the arts and technology. The urgency of the danger from military technology may even provoke us to believe it is too late to solve the general problem of the internalizationof technical processesas a cultural value. It may already seem that the time has come to conscript art in the service of what appears to be an impending contest for physical survival. If so, che worst has already happened to culture, that those involved in it have acquiesced to the utilitarian view of art. The utilitarian view sees as valid only those problems that can be solved by a rationalapplication of a useful technique. In such a view, art, which does not achieve material or political change directly, may be considered as ineffectual.

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Change of perception as a social force is more and more denied its relevance and power - so much so rhar the change of perception that a technological advance itself creates may be considered by those who produced it as beyond their responsibility. Could it be that artists are enacting a rolc as voyeurs ro technological power when they accept technology's underlying assumption that experience and social life are material first before they are anyrhing else? Is art yielding passively to the notion that meaning, ethics, motivations are epiphenomena determined by material factl Technology must be defined, and there are rwo approaches to what may be considered to be technological. Jacques Ellull defines technology wirh the term "technique," meaning any human function for which the prioriry is the power to maximize both the utiliry of a task and the efficiency with which it is accomplished.This generalizeddefinition of teehnology is based on seeing technology as a proces,s,rather than as a product. It would therefore include chopsticks, laser surgery, and even reading as a technology. "Technique" could even be thought of as an ideology, in which human experience is defined and perceived exclusively in rerms of goals to be achieved as efficiently as possible. The ideal of "rechnique" is to find .,the one best way" to accomplish each goal. Thus technology will not concern itselfwith the experience of rhe subject, but instead wirh

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the materialiry of the object. The opposite of this point of view would be to define technology in rerms of its most literal manifesrarion. By such a definition, technology would be perceived so narrowly as ro include only very recent actual inventions. These would be the very recent inventions that conform for the most part to the following condirions: first, they are controlled by institutions rather than by individuals; second, their maintenance requires specialists; and third, their power to accomplish a specific job

physical capability ofany ordivastly supersedes the unaided Such a definition would nary human or group of humans' and include predominantly eliminate chopsticks and reading' such as surgical hardware" "high-tech what we think of as etc' missiles' cruise lasers,telecommunications satellites, is abstract Regardless whether the definition of technology implicated or literal, technology as an issue is most extensively induspredominantly is medium in those works of art whose imThe products' or trial, i.e. utilitarian materials, processes one will' you if plication of technology as one of its themes or, even stronger is artwork an of asPects object" of the "found or installation sculpture a when the work is three-dimensional, or to machine' actual an that appears in some sense to be SuchJ physically' obviously include some form of machinery divestedl machine materials, structures or imagery can never be contexti ofthe experience or ofthe associations,interpretations inAnd realm' in which they originated - the technological potential cluded among these associationsare a dehumanizing many and the power to do evil. So obvious are the dangers of indusoften somdbiomedical, military, technological producm, for trial, that the major dimension of technology forcing itself Is destruction' consideration is the question of its capacity for to there an evil, malevolence, indeed inhumaneness inherent how of Regardless productions? and technological processes technology is defined, there remains the question of wherein any destructive power of technology truly resides' a Regarding how the machine, in art or in everyday life' is the how of example classical metaphor of technology, the machine is perceived as malevolent is typified by the paranoid symptom known asthe delusion ofthe Influencing Machine' In a 1933 translation of his article, f'Origins of the Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia,"zjVictor Tausk examined the delusion of the Influencing Machine in painstaking detail' This

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Eachof thesepsychoanalysrs examinedrhisthreat,but from differentbases. For Tausk, the threaris that willful subjecriviry can becomeirrenievutly-irolatedfrom rhe remperingeffects and opportunities of political and cultural inrerchange.F.or circumsrances will unfold I $"hsj the threatis that sociopolitical ] in isolation from any responsero or responsibility for,the ' subjectivedimensionof experience. In an affluent, heterogeneous, pluralistic society,both of these schismsberween subjectiveand sociopolitical life can developside by side,deepenedby technology. These dangers are embeddedin the very idealsthar the technologically en_ dowedsocietyholds,especially in the idealsofprogress, reason and efficiency.Technologyneednot askwhethersomethingis wanted or meaningful, but only whether it is feasible. ks; productsmay be offered not only with a denial that they willl influence attitudes,perceptionsor values,but also with thei claim that they fulfill them. Artworksconcerned with technology aresignificant not only when they evoke the Influencing Machine, bur when, para_ doxically,they embody ih" d";i;Gf it as'well. which is the RomanMachine.Both thesevisionsof rhe machine, and hence of technology, canseemto be equally unmistakable in a work. Yet the work, manifestingthem borh, will never concedero either.What I am suggesting is that the perceptionor inrerpre_ tation of technologycan be suspendedbetween rhese two visions, whoseextremeeffectsnevertheless cannotbe denied. Eachof theseextremistvisionshasits genesis in conditionsand experiencesthat Tausk and Sachsexplored,visions arising from idealsand dangersimpinging upon rhe citizen, the artist and culture itself. Artworks that are seriously concernedwithl technology must surelyremainvigilanrto both the danger.arrdi the ideals, andyer embodyan interchange betweensubjective, I bodily-based experiences and the technological condition. i

From a psychoanalytic point of view, the question is in what 1 way wo-rksof art have the capacity to contribute to and interact 1 with external reality, specifically technological reality. How can 1 arrworksconfronttheproblemofenmeshmentofthe individual's J rage for destruction with the society's instrumentalization of I destruction - yet not collude with determinism, escapism ori despair. There are two psychoanalytic approaches that clarify this question. One ofthese approaches offers a persPective on the challenge to resolve the relationship of power to powerlessness, the other approach demarcates the boundaries of cultural experience within which power relationships,utilitarian paradigmsortechnical ideology are both unwelcome and indeed metapsychologically and philosophically untenable. l ElliottJaques' 1965paper "Death and the Mid-Life Crisis"T t1 is an analysis, using Melanie Klein's theory, of the process by which acknowledgement of one's own lust for destruction is crucial to continued creativiry after the age "when one has stopped growing up and begun to grow old.... Death lies beyond."8 Jaques cogitated carefully upon this after noticing that a random sample of 310 painters, composers, poets, writers and sculptors "ofundoubted greatnessor genius" had an abnormally high death rateeat ales 35 to 39. And if they didn't die, their art bt*<< did. But when their art didn't, its character was serenely 5f v { ' "f transformed - to "the tragic, reflective and philosophical."l0 I

A possible interpretation of Jaques' analysisis that the I the , prospectof one's own annihilationforcesone to seParate actualityof it' personal meaningdeath hasfrom the experiential andto reviewthe questionof whetherthis ultimatethreatto the ' Self comes from within or from without. These confusions about cannotbe resolved without revisingone'spresumptions evil and destruction. The question Jaques addressedwas whether there is a valuableway to faceone's absolutepowerlessness of the impossibilityof effecting in the specificinstance

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or aesthetics. Jaques'view would be that art docs nor presume to eliminate imperfection, for this would be a wish for a power beyond - and more to the point foreign to the kind of power art does exerr. The nature of power is in fact in need of reconsid_ eration from the point of view of what culture is and what technology is not, what is culturally, as distinguished from technologically,true. Melanie Klein and her followers such asJaqueswent only so far as to validate repararion as rhe foundarion not only of psychological integrity but of artistic integrity. D.W. Winnicott extended rhe Kleinian depiction of reparative synthesis by emphasizingthe interaction between rhe arristand the external world.l3Winnicott, unlike F reud and Klein, did not discussthis interacrion,or rhe arrwork that embodies it, using dualiriessuch as inside versus outside, fantasy versus fact, intuition versus Instead, he assertedthat there is an inrermediate kind , reoSon. i of human acriviry or experience in which there is a deliberare blur of the distinction between these.That third area,between autistic, privare fantasy and public, pragmatic convenrion, be_ tween bodily function and sociopolitical function is, in fact, culture. Phenomena rhat are broughr into this intermediate or third realm of activity no longer exist solely on their own te rms. In the cultural realm the objective and the subjective merge. A judgemenr regardingthe value of phenomena subjected to this blurring within the cultural area is rerurned to the people affected by the phenomena, who can now inreracr with the latitude to revise the phenomena perceprually rather than merely reacr literally with complicity or dismissal.In this third, cultural realm of acrivity, phenomena become found objects that are free ro be re-defined aswell asactually reshaped, so thar their inrerprerarionis multiplied. This, accordingto Winnicott, is possiblepreciselybecausethey become not only ..something objectively perceived" but also "in some sensealreadv subiec_
BER N IE M ILLER , IN A ST AT E, 19A4. Steel s heet m etal , pow er tr ans m i s s i on c om po n e n t s , e l e c t ri c mo t o r 274.3x r 52.4 x 38.1 c m . Photo: Peter M ac c al tum .

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tively conceived of." The person who relocates such found objects into the intermediate or cultural area, whether that person is the artist or the viewer ofart, contributes subjectively to those aspecrs of the found object that are in fact in need of aesthetic, ethical and metaphorical complerion. The technological objecr, or technology as a "found idea" then, would only be partially perceived in terms of its own utilitarian ideal. Made to reveal itself in a context where there is ambiguity and irresolution, rhere is a heightening of technology's ethical, aesrhetic, philosophical vacuiry, imperfections that cannor dictate rheir own degree of relevance, but which are given meaning by the person who interacts with them. In the intermediate, cultural realm, a phenomenon, even technology, can be considered from the point ofview that states of being are as real as taking action. This, of course, is antithetical to technology, whose only reality is implementation in rhe active, literal or material sense. To insist that what is subjectively true is absolurely separable from what is objectively true is intrinsic to technology - and constitutes its brutality. The escalatingprocessof acculturarion rhar the Technological Ethos demands is promulgated as if ir were pure objectivity; it is actually a powerlessness to acknowledge ethical and philosophical ambiguity. The effect of this disavowal of ambiguity, ambivalence and incompleteness, is that by technical standards people seem ro be becoming physically more and more powerless, while at the same time their body function and appearance are more intensive ly promoted as the sole source of their strength, status and pleasure. There remains norhing berween the body and death by disease or war - except technical expertise. Or so it would seem. But art has not yet been completely marginalized; the ambiguity, perceprual fluidity and noncomplicity of art have not been made to seem totally irrelevant yer, although

as these unique qualities of artworks are increasingly doubted constitutes what of to definitions contributing cap^ble of pressure to "rcality" or power. Already artworks are under function in a technically correct way, satisfying the criteria of rhe rechnological ideal: to provide an efficiently recognizable, singular message that confirms the superiority of the physical and literal over perc ! ptual paradox, subjectively-distorted experience and the impulse to contribute to or interact with exrernal reality irrespective ofone's sexual or aggressiveneeds. When we consider the actual, physical artwork itself, the conditions that can be discovered and responded to within it are therefore vigilance, perceptual paradox, ambiguity, ambivalence, the reparative potential. These are the qualities of the artwork that alarm and stir the viewer into becoming a contriburor to the definition, positioning and form that technology has the potential to take in its relationship to culture. No interpretation of technology can seem settled, no principle or policy demonstrafed, no resolution offered. Resolution is itself a danger to free perception. A critique oftechnology is kept in flux by embodying the malleability of technological issues, objects, processes, effects, not by presenting these as unambiguous. The elimination of ambiguity is exactly what the ideology of technique demands, forwithout ambiguity there is no opportunity to contribute multiple and alternative interpretations. Viewers who cannot contribute subjectively to the interpretation or perception of a phenomenon cannot be in a position of responsibility, but must either submit to the authority of the work, or attempt to dominate the work by proving their power to explain it. Artworks surely could resist those kinds of relationshipsbetween audience and themselves,relationshipswhich are after all the relationship of the empowered to the powerless. One could say then that when technology is embodied in an artwork, technology is no longer what it claims to be, but has

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become an amenable object,laamenable to the interpretarion and valuation of the people affecred by it, viewers who, as has already been stated, are freed from the demand that they either buy it or not, comply or reject, collude or denounce. As an amenable, rarher than a utilitarian object, the artwork itself never acquiesces to any mutually exclusive polaririesit seems to manifest. A collegial interaction, in which the viewer contributes equally to meaning and interpretation, is made possible, rather than a relationship in which the artwork is an authority ,and the audience is a voyeur. An amenable objecr does not require that a distinction be made between what is objectively true and what is subjectively true, becween what is real and what is illusory. Such distinctions are made for the purpose of implementing a plan of action. If either artwork or viewer is relevant to each other in terms of implementing plans of action, then either artwork or viewer becomes a means to the other's ends. Using something as a means to an end is itself a technological process. Technique would then unforrunately be the ideology that determined the interaction between audience and artwork. Art intervenes between technology and fundamental survival not by proving technology so dangerous it must be extirpated, not by conceding it is so powerful that it is the best medium through which to comprehend our condition, but by constantly embodying the difference between the cultural realm and the technological realm. Technology can be perceived for all its limitations relative ro the cultural realities it denies. If the arts do not insist that technology be perceived as a found object, malleable, revisable, unfinished, culture will have abdicated its power.

published as the introduction to the exhibition This essaywas first Machines,at YYZ Artists' Outlet in Toronto, 1984' Influenci.ng

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(New York: Vintage Books, Sorz'a4 1.JacquesEllul, TheTechnological 1964). z Victor Tausk, "Origins of the Influencing Machine in Schizophre2 ( I 93J): 5 | 9' Qaarterl1 nia." ThcPsyrhoanallrir 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Hunnt sachs, "The Delay of the Machine Age"' Tle Psltcltoanalltic 2 (1933). Quarterl1t 6. Ibid. International "Death and the Mid-Life Crisis," Tlte 7. Elliott Jaques, 46 (1965). Journal of Psyclto-Analysis 8. Ibid.,506. 9. Ibid..502. 10.Ibid.,505. 1 1 .I b i d . . 5 0 9 . Reflectedin a 12.Melanie Klein, "Infantile Anxiety-Situacions Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse," T/teInternational l0 (1929):433436. Journalof Psycho-Analysis 13.D.W. Winnicott, Playingand Realiry(London: Tavistock Publications. l9Tl). 14.JeanneRandolph,"The AmenableObject," seepp. 21-35 this book.