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High Techne

Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman

1999
Author:

R.L. Rutsky

High Techne

Explores our changing cultural perceptions of the relations between technology and art.

In an age of high tech, our experience of technology has changed tremendously, yet the definition of technology has remained largely unquestioned. High Techne redresses this gap in thinking about technology, examining the shifting relations of technology, art, and culture from the beginnings of modernity to contemporary technocultures. Progressing from the major art movements of modernism to contemporary science fiction and cultural theory, Rutsky provides clear and compelling evidence of a shift in the cultural conceptions of technology and art.

Rutsky suggests an aesthetics of technology for the past two centuries: from the arrival of photography in the later nineteenth century, to the adoption of technology as a kind of allegory of usefulness in the work of modernist designers such as Gerrit Tietveld (whose famous chairs are not noted for their usefulness per se); to Eisenstein’s insistence that the disciplines of the machine age had a moral significance as well as a practical one, the political ambiguities of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and the ‘cyberpunk’ genre of the 1980s and 90s.

Times Literary Supplement

In an age of high tech, our experience of technology has changed tremendously, yet the definition of technology has remained largely unquestioned. High Techne redresses this gap in thinking about technology, examining the shifting relations of technology, art, and culture from the beginnings of modernity to contemporary technocultures.

Drawing on the Greek root of technology, (techne, generally translated as “art, skill, or craft”), R. L. Rutsky challenges both the modernist notion of technology as an instrument or tool and the conventional idea of a noninstrumental aesthetics. Today, technology and aesthetics have again begun to come together: even basketball shoes are said to exhibit a “high-tech style” and the most advanced technology is called “state of the art.” Rutsky charts the history and vicissitudes of this new high-tech techne up to our day—from Fritz Lang to Octavia Butler, Thomas Edison to Japanese Anime, constructivism to cyberspace.

Progressing from the major art movements of modernism to contemporary science fiction and cultural theory, Rutsky provides clear and compelling evidence of a shift in the cultural conceptions of technology and art and demonstrates the centrality of technology to modernism and postmodernism.

High Techne

R. L. Rutsky is assistant professor of communications and theatre at the University of Notre Dame.

High Techne

Rutsky suggests an aesthetics of technology for the past two centuries: from the arrival of photography in the later nineteenth century, to the adoption of technology as a kind of allegory of usefulness in the work of modernist designers such as Gerrit Tietveld (whose famous chairs are not noted for their usefulness per se); to Eisenstein’s insistence that the disciplines of the machine age had a moral significance as well as a practical one, the political ambiguities of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and the ‘cyberpunk’ genre of the 1980s and 90s.

Times Literary Supplement

Rutsky’s discussion of the history of the phenomenon of high-technology up to today, ‘from the machine aesthetic to the posthuman’, is illuminating and will make significant reading for all who have an active interest in current cultural debates and developments related to technical developments. The relationship between art and technology as explored in this book is highly relevant and of primary importance for our domain as well.

Mousaion

From Baudelaire’s confrontation with the specter of art photography to the present age of mirror shades, Pentium-envy and ambient dance tracks, Rutsky provides a fairly comprehensive, overview of the development of the modern ‘aesthetic of technology.’ for Rutsky, technology, once clearly defined as ‘other’ than what is human, has perhaps replaced religion and psychology as the main source of metaphors for how the mind (and soul) work. Lucid and cogent in its presentation of highly complicated issues, this study will reward those interested in the fatal attraction of art and culture.

Publishers Weekly