Aspects of Gaia: Roy Ascott's art and the embodiment of second-order cybernetics
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This study lays out the uneasiness of fitting British artist Roy Ascott’s “Aspects of Gaia: Digital Pathways across the Whole Earth” (1989) in the standard classification of cybernetic art and digital art. On one hand, as a digital sphere of incessant information exchange, “Aspects of Gaia” is a precursor to the interactive art and network art of the 1990s. On the other hand, it appears outmoded by adhering to cybernetics, an interdisciplinary science of control and communication which allegedly ceased to influence art world after the 1970s. Given the limited scholarship about the intersections of cybernetics, more specifically second-order, and digital art, this study sheds light on the overlooked history of these arts by evaluating “Aspects of Gaia” while re-examining its context. Moreover, I argue that “Aspects of Gaia” was a successful experiment in the intersection of second-order cybernetics and digital media by opening up a new venue for interactive art.