CHAPTER 1
Breaking the Time Barrier

In the introduction I suggested that the history of modern art can be read, at least in part, as a history of various artistic responses to the increasing speed and accelerating evolution of technology in the modern era and, secondly, that if art is to have a role or a meaning at all in the age of realtime technologies it is to keep our human relation with time open in the light of its potential foreclosure by such technology.

In order to understand the second argument, which underpins and underwrites the first, it is necessary to go back several tens of millennia, to the first examples of what we would now describe as art. Writing in the 1950s about the drawings in the Lascaux caves, Georges Bataille explicitly connected the birth of art with the emergence of tool use:

There have been two capital events in the course of human history: the making
of tools (with which work was born); the making of art-objects (with which
play began)… The birth of art has its obvious connections with the prior
existence. Not only requiring the possession of tools and some acquired skill
in fashioning and handling them, art had in relation to utilitarian activity an
opposite importance or value: it was a kind of protest against the hitherto
existing world … itself indispensable to articulating the protest… At its outset
art was primarily a game. In a major sense it still is. (Bataille, 1955: 27)

For Bataille tool use is instrumental in introducing humans to the idea of time:

Only through working stone did man make an absolute break with the animal.
What caused this scission was the exclusively human thinking work demands.

-13-

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Art, Time, and Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1: Breaking the Time Barrier 13
  • Chapter 2: Morse's Inventions 35
  • Chapter 3: The Writing of Van Gogh 53
  • Chapter 4: Taking off 73
  • Chapter 5: John Cage's Early Warning System 89
  • Chapter 6: Art in Real Time 113
  • Chapter 7: Is It Happening? 139
  • Chapter 8: Short Films about Flyin 159
  • Bibliography 179
  • Index 189
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