Towards a Comprehensive Technological History of Art?
The development and use of science and technology by artists always has been, and always will be, an integral part of the art-making process. Nonetheless, the canon of western art history has not placed sufficient emphasis on the centrality of science and technology as co-conspirators, ideational sources, or artistic media. Bound up in this problem, there is no clearly defined method for analyzing the role of science and technology in the history of art. In the absence of an established methodology and comprehensive history that would help clarify the interrelatedness of art, science, and technology (AST) and compel revision, its exclusion or marginality will persist. As a result, many of the artists, artworks, aesthetic theories, institutions, and events that might be established as the keystones and monuments of the history of AST will remain relatively unknown to general audiences. My discussion begins with an analysis of Jack Burnham’s Beyond Modern Sculpture, which I shall consider critically with respect to methodology and historiography. Questions pertaining to methodology and canonicity shall be further developed through self-reflections on my own attempts to historicize cybernetic, telematic, and electronic art within a larger art historical context.