Tuesday, 21 March 2000

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

As an aside, as if that wasn’t an aside, I think all this correlates interestingly with a change in the dominant scientific metaphor that the arts use to understand themselves and the world. A very influential stream of 20th Century art, from Dada to John Cage and beyond, was concerned with ideas and acausality, indeterminancy and randomness which ultimately derived from quantum mechanics. Then, some time in the 1970s or 80s, the concept of randomness was called into question when people became aware of ideas emerging from chaos theory – the possibility of unpredictable behaviour arising in simple physical systems which are so constructed as to be extremely sensitive to their initial states (“The Butterfly Effect”). I think an artist like Cage was very much of his time: when he used chance operations to isolate objects and events for contemplation outside of any system or causal chain, a contemporary artist would be more likely to start from the premise that nothing can ever be considered as outside of a system or causal chain, that all the elements of a work are mutually interdependent and the ramifications are more complex than an artist can hope to control.

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