Abstract

In 1973 cybernetic artist Nicolas Schöffer drove his SCAM through the streets of Paris, passing by the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, creating a curious urban spectacle and highlighting the confrontation between different concepts of urban monumentality that had been at stake in post-World War II European society. Part sculpture, part automobile, the SCAM utilized the cybernetic technique of feedback and Schöffer’s application of it in the aesthetic concept of perturbation, in which light, sound and movement effects were orchestrated to interrupt the increasingly rapid cycles of perceptual saturation that Schöffer associated with modern urban life. The following analysis considers Schöffer’s SCAM in relation to the development of the “space-time” concept in the arts and how the technology of cybernetics suggested a new kind of temporality that complicated the role of art and architecture in defining the urban realm. It also considers the appearance of the SCAM idea in Schöffer’s entry to the Plateau Beaubourg architectural competition and its significance as a counterpoint to the “new monumentality” of the completed Centre Pompidou.

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