Abstract- Image, Process, Performance, Machine. Paradigms of Media Art Theory

For many centuries, machines have influenced the way we construct, read and understand the world. Such mediated approaches to the world have been further dramatised by digital apparatuses. They abstract the visible as well as the conceptual, all sensory and mental information, to a high level of ephemerality where only the reconstruction in recognisable, concrete abstractions like text, image, sound, etc., bring them into our perceptual range. Meanings, pleasures and desires are increasingly dependent on their construction or transmission, and thus translation, by digital devices. What does it mean to think through the machine - understood in a broader sense - in artistic practice? This question lies at the heart of this brief investigation into an 'aesthetics of the machinic'. There is a notion of the digital which posits a deep break of a digital aesthetics, away from the aesthetics based on analogue techniques, and hinges on the technical aspects of artistic production. In contrast, an approach that highlights the experiential qualities of art, and the aspects of reception, is more likely to identify an aesthetic continuum between analogue and digital aesthetics. In this respect, media art should not be discussed in separation from contemporary, or historical, art practice in general. There is a lot of media art 'avant la lettre' in earlier historical periods which can be re-read through the paradigms of an aesthetic theory that does not take digital technology as its main cue, but the machine as a productive and transformative principle.