Machine Art in the Twentieth Century

From Leonardo

Machine Art in the Twentieth Century

By Andreas Broeckmann

An investigation of artists' engagement with technical systems, tracing art historical lineages that connect works of different periods.





An investigation of artists' engagement with technical systems, tracing art historical lineages that connect works of different periods.

“Machine art” is neither a movement nor a genre, but encompasses diverse ways in which artists engage with technical systems. In this book, Andreas Broeckmann examines a variety of twentieth- and early twenty-first-century artworks that articulate people's relationships with machines. In the course of his investigation, Broeckmann traces historical lineages that connect art of different periods, looking for continuities that link works from the end of the century to developments in the 1950s and 1960s and to works by avant-garde artists in the 1910s and 1920s. An art historical perspective, he argues, might change our views of recent works that seem to be driven by new media technologies but that in fact continue a century-old artistic exploration.

Broeckmann investigates critical aspects of machine aesthetics that characterized machine art until the 1960s and then turns to specific domains of artistic engagement with technology: algorithms and machine autonomy, looking in particular at the work of the Canadian artist David Rokeby; vision and image, and the advent of technical imaging; and the human body, using the work of the Australian artist Stelarc as an entry point to art that couples the machine to the body, mechanically or cybernetically. Finally, Broeckmann argues that systems thinking and ecology have brought about a fundamental shift in the meaning of technology, which has brought with it a rethinking of human subjectivity. He examines a range of artworks, including those by the Japanese artist Seiko Mikami, whose work exemplifies the shift.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262035064 392 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 74 b&w illus., 16 color plates


$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262537452 392 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 74 b&w illus., 16 color plates


  • In Machine Art in the Twentieth Century, art historian Andreas Broeckmann considers the roles of artwork in order to explore our current perceptions of machines and technology. His investigation of selected works of twentieth-century art enables readers to consider tools removed from their productive environment and instead regard them as inspiring commentary on the nature of humanity and human expression. [... ] One of the great contributions of Broeckmann's book is its exploration of alternative approaches to the concepts of the machine, the mechanistic, and technological systems that are not bound to disciplines traditionally associated with the history of science and technology.

    Technology and Culture


  • Finally an examination of the intricate intersections between the 'machinic' and the art of the twentieth century that does not attempt either to oversimplify or ignore the undeniable reverberations of techne across an art historical spectrum that ranges from futurism and Dadaism to system aesthetics and bio art. And finally an assessment that accounts for algorithms, feedback, information theory, and the development of 'machine art,' philosophies of the machine without obfuscation or hype but with an acute grasp of how systems and technologies are interwoven into the artistic imaginary.

    Timothy Druckrey

    Director, Graduate Photographic and Electronic Media, Maryland Institute College of Art

  • An utterly absorbing study of the surprising diversity of artworks that articulate human-machine relationships. Broeckmann's open-minded curiosity, drawing on extensive firsthand knowledge, allows artists' experiments to shine. His historical alertness reveals not linear development but multiple parallel strands that interweave across decades. The book brings a fascinating array of little-known practices into view, blows the dust off well-known artworks, and gives an entirely new shape to a century we thought we knew.

    Laura Marks

    Grant Strate University Professor, Simon Fraser University; author of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art and Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image