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"There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear." So said John Cage in his 1958 lecture, 'Experimental Music'. This article argues that the aesthetic or cultural transformation of absence into presence, the revelation, by subtraction, of new raw materials or free inputs, bears a relation to the logic of accumulation in an era of financialized capitalist self-cannibalization. What Cage valorized in the aesthetic sphere, developing concepts of feedback and self-regulation formulated in cybernetics, anticipated the innovations of modern finance and the production—by subtraction—of empty/full spaces of accumulation.
The term 'feedback' originates from the inter-disciplinary science of cybernetics. Cybernetics is concerned with regulation within closed systems. It looks for and exploits circular causal relationships, 'feedback', within these systems. Negative feedback is a process in which action and its effects are fed back to the actor in order to better coordinate aim and result. The loop proceeds from action (e.g. firing a machine gun at an enemy plane in order to shoot it down), to sensing (how is the target affected?), to comparison with the desired goal (has the plane been shot down?), to action (shoot again, a degree to the right), and so on. The circle of action, monitoring, correction and further action, integrates error in order to regulate and improve performance. Incorporating indeterminacy and recursive logic enables an automation and expansion of control. On the other hand, as we will see, this virtuous circle of negative feedback can also invert into its opposite. 'Positive feedback', from the perspective of control, is not positive at all, but represents a spiralling disorder or perturbation of the system. A vicious circle.