Response to Jack Burnham’s System Esthetics

Jack Burnham proposes a reductive thesis which fails to account for human variety and suggests possible modes of artistic expression which are meaningless. While it is true that different eras of art, like science have had predominate themes of focus, it is a gross simplification to compare any art deviating from the norm as being thrown out like a bad scientific data point. Throughout history there have been wide ranges of artistic expression varying by region and culture. There has not been one worldwide monolithic cannon at a time, and when there have been regional cannons, there has been evidence of defectors working outside of the normal mode of creation.

Burnham goes on to ridicule the elevation of craft and claim that the process of material fabrication is taking precedent over the actual object being made. Using technological advances in sculptural fabrication is great but the idea of the process being king over object is boring. It’s a common occurrence in the dFab shop or the freshman makerspace where people will make something and the idea is the process, the fact that it’s 3d printed or laser cut as a novel fabrication tool. This is dull and meaningless, the process should be used as a tool to enhance and further artistic expression which actually says something about the world.