Imagine admiring a caged bird and it suddenly squawking, "All systems go!
All systems go!" It would be quite a moment. In 1971 artist Hans Haacke
named a caged mynah bird after the founder of cybernetics Norbert
Wiener. 'Norbert' the bird was trained to speak the catch phrase of the late
1960s: "All systems go!" But all did not go to plan; Haacke's exhibition at
the Guggenheim was cancelled and the bird remained mute in the studio.
Despite its failure to be realised the work lives on as an evocative example
of art's engagement with real-life and real-time systems. At the same time
that Haacke was creating numerous works exploring the broad contexts
of systems, including polling systems and critical environmental systems,
Jack Burnham (a curator and good friend of Haacke's) was connecting
systems thinking directly with art practice. Artists including Haacke,
La Monte Young, John Cage and Nam June Paik were looking for ways to
open up the properties of the art object to relationships of time, control,
biology and communication.