INTRODUCTION: Approaching Systems

Panel Organizers:

Jon Cates

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Shane Mecklenburger

The Ohio State University

“We are now in transition from an object-oriented to a systems-oriented culture. Here change emanates, not from things, but from the way things are done.”
Jack Burnham, “Systems Esthetics” [1]

Over the past forty years, systems – technical, social, political, legal, and economic – have become increasingly influential in art-making. Artists also engage games as a specific system or sets of systems. The unique dynamics and accelerating technologies of games present specific opportunities for artists.

A diverse array of new media art practices and histories have come to exemplify the way artists and curators approach systems and respond to the approach of systems: from the exhibitions Cybernetic Serendipity (curated by Jasia Reichardt in 1968) and Software (curated by Jack Burnham in 1968), to more recent Art Games events and festivals.

We invited artists & history/theory-practitioners to address contemporary approaches to art as games and systems. Panelists were also invited to address the approach of systems themselves on contemporary art theory-practices. In APPROACHING SYSTEMS, Eddo Stern, Tina Rivers, Melissa Ragain and Philip Galanter offered nuanced, diverse, and penetrating examinations of our systems and their approaches from the perspective of art practice, art histories and art theory.


1. Artforum 7, no. 1 (September 1968): 30-35.