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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reprogramming Systems Aesthetics: A Strategic Historiography


This paper offers close-readings of selected literature pertaining to Burnham’s “systems esthetics,” the subject of significant scholarly attention recently. It identifies, compares, and contrasts several attempts to engage Burnham’s theories in contemporary art historical discourses, noting strategic and interpretive shifts in approaches and goals between 1997-2009. This research hopes to offer insight into current art historical practices and the processes by which history informs, and is transformed by, the present.

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