Publication 994

Filippone C. (2013) Ecological systems thinking in the work of linda stein. Woman's Art Journal 34(1): 13–20. Fulltext at
Scholars have described the sculptures of Linda Stein, limbless, classicizing, thick-waisted female forms that are often wearable, in the context of gender performativity and/or embodied subjectivity, informed by the sumptuousness of her materials, which invite a haptic or touch-centered response. To encompass the performative nature of her wearable sculpture used as a component of her political activism and her developing concept of the interrelationship between individual, society and environment, I propose a reading through the lens of systems theory, particularly the concept of open systems. Associated with life, growth, and change, open systems took on political and social resonance for artists like Stein maturing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Historically coincident with the American women’s movement, the theorization of open systems in relation to society, biology and the environment was deployed by women artists in the early 1970s as an alternative means of conceiving social and environmental relationships. Relevance: I discuss the artist’s work through the theory of Gregory Bateson. In 1972, the anthropologist and cyberneticist argued that individuals, societies and ecosystems must be conceived integrally, as a complex, interrelated system. The notion of a self-sufficient, independent self is a fallacy in this model. According to Bateson, Mind itself expands to become “immanent in the larger system [of] man plus environment.”


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