Jack Wesley Burnham Jr. (born 1931) is an American writer on art and technology, who taught art history at Northwestern University and the University of Maryland. He is one of the main forces behind the emergence of systems art in the 1960s.
- A Systems Esthetic will become the dominant approach to a maze of socio-technical conditions rooted only in the present.
- Jack Burnham, "Systems Esthetics," Artforum, (Sept 1968) as cited in: Francis Halsall. "Systems Aesthetics and the System as Medium," in: Francis Halsall (2008), Systems of Art, Peter Lang.
- The computer's most profound aesthetic implication is that we are being forced to dismiss the classical view of art and reality which insists that man stand outside of reality in order to observe it, and, in art, requires the presence of the picture frame and the sculpture pedestal. The notion that art can be separated from its everyday environment is a cultural fixation [in other words, a mythic structure] as is the ideal of objectivity in science. It may be that the computer will negate the need for such an illusion by fusing both observer and observed, "inside" and "outside." It has already been observed that the everyday world is rapidly assuming identity with the condition of art.
- Jack Burnham (1969). "The Aesthetics of Intelligent Systems" in Edward F. Fry, ed. (1970). On the Future of Art. New York: The Viking Press, p. 103; as cited in: Edward A. Shanken. "The House That Jack Built: Jack Burnham's Concept of 'Software' as a Metaphor for Art" in Leonardo Electronic Almanac 6:10 (November, 1998)
Beyond Modern Sculpture, 1968
Jack Burnham (1968), Beyond Modern Sculpture,
- The tools of scholarly criticism-stylistics, iconographical analysis, historical context, and formal analysis in the last 50 years remain as trusted now as ever. Yet they explain with diminishing clarity what has happened after 1800, and almost nothing of what has happened in sculpture in the last 60 years.
- The cultural obsession with the art object is slowly disappearing and being replaced by what might be called "systems consciousness." Actually, this shifts from the direct shaping of matter to a concern for organizing quantities of energy and information. Seen another way, it is a refocusing of aesthetic awareness – based on future scientific-technological evolution – on matter-energy information exchanges and away from the invention of solid artefacts. These new systems prompt us not to look at the skin of objects, but at those meaningful relations within and between their visible boundaries.
- p. 369-70
- Unless the world is substantially altered for the worst, the logical outcome of technology's influence on art before the end of this century should be a series of art forms that manifest true intelligence, but perhaps more meaningfully, with a capacity for reciprocal relationships with human beings.
- Cited in: Robert Horvitz, 'a node for jack burnham'.
Quotes about Jack Burnham
- In 1968 the American critic Jack Burnham published Beyond Modern Sculpture, the first of a series of books and articles on contemporary sculpture produced over the following five years that attempted to establish a post-formalist discourse. The culmination of this project was the exhibition Software staged at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1970 and Burnham’s theoretical treatise The Structure of Art, which was perhaps the first sustained attempt to provide a model of structuralist art criticism and theory.
At the root of Burnham’s project were two inter-related concerns; the first, a quasi-determinist notion that the historical development of sculptural practice during the 20th century was the consequence of scientific and technological innovations and, second, a notion that traditional art historical terminology was inadequate to its critical analysis.
- Matthew Rampley. Systems Aesthetics: Burnham and Others. at virose.pt