In 1968, Les Levine declared, “What I am trying to do is create an art which avoids art history.” His art, ranging from environmental installations to systems-based and cybernetic work, and, later, to video and “media sculptures,” was self-consciously cast as engaging the forefront of technological change. In its explicit reference to multiple forms of societal control — the media, police, bureaucracy, the law, surveillance — the work sought to make evident the social and political stakes raised by their presence in our daily “environment.” Felicity Scott’s essay will take Levine’s provocation to art history seriously, in the sense of its implied critique of the discipline’s demarcations. Levine’s early practice will be used to investigate contemporary artistic strategies attempting to engage socio-political and technological forces, focusing on his remarkable, if rarely recalled, encounters with architecture between 1967 and 1970, as the euphoria of “art and technology” ceded to a more art-historically familiar notion of conceptualism.
Felicity Scott is Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia University. Her book Architecture or Techno-utopia: Politics After Modernism (MIT Press) was published last year; another book, Time Warp: The Media Fallout of July 21, 1969 (ACTAR Editorial), is forthcoming. Recent articles and essays include “Infinite Rumors” in Installation: Julie Ault/Martin Beck (Secession, Vienna, 2006) and “Acid Visions” in Grey Room 23 (Spring 2006), which was reprinted and translated as “Acid-Visionen” in Documenta Magazine No. 3(2007). Her review “Superstudio: Life Without Objects” was published in Artforum (March 2004). She recently presented “Groovin’ on Time” at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, and “Future Adaptability,” at Film, Kunst, Experiment, Raum in the Künstlerhaus in Stuttgart, Germany.