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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the 1960s and 1970s, improvisational artists explored the use of feedback, both as a creative method and a model of the self in relation to its social and physical environment. As an alternative to centralized authority structures, feedback loops could be used to organize decentralized events or activities. The result would be a self-informing system, or autopoiesis. This idea informed the new field of cybernetics and the social philosophy of Paul Goodman and Gregory Bateson. Max Neuhaus’s realization of John Cage’s composition, Fontana Mix—Feed, made use of this structure, as did his later broadcast works, Public Supply and Radio Net, and the dance form of “contact improvisation” developed by Steve Paxton. In these works, attention to the dynamics of interaction (“deutero-learning”) fostered an improvisational style based on a heightened environmental awareness rather than an exteriorization of the internal psyche, thus pioneering the postmodern, networked self.

Keywords: feedback, deutero-learning, autopoiesis, cybernetics, contact improvisation, John Cage, Paul Goodman, Gregory Bateson, Max Neuhaus, Steve Paxton

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