This chapter discusses the ways in which twentieth-century artists have engaged with the aesthetic dimensions of algorithms and machine autonomy. It extends the narrative on the history of machine art from the previous chapter, beyond the program of Hultén’s 1968 “Machine” exhibition. It explains how the dialogue between art and cybernetics has evolved from the 1950s cybernetic artworks of Nicolas Schöffer, through the 1968 exhibition “Cybernetic Serendipity” and Jack Burnham’s concept of Systems Aesthetics, to the more contemporary software and robotic artworks of Max Dean, Seiko Mikami, and others. A focus is placed on the work of Canadian artist David Rokeby who has explored the aesthetics of the human encounter and interaction with technical systems since the 1980s. The analysis aims at adding two further aspects of the aesthetics of machines to the list of five such aspects developed in the previous chapter: one is the aspect of “interactivity”, which adds the dimension of a charged dialogue and exchange between human and machine; and the other is the aspect of “machine autonomy”, which becomes a determining factor in the human experience of increasingly independent and self-referential technical systems.
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