When fully developed, technique established the primacy in art of making, in contradistinction to a receptivity of production, however that is conceived. Technique is able to become the opponent of art insofar as art represents – at changing levels – the repressed unmakable. (Adorno, T. (2004) Aesthetic Theory, Continuum, London, p.78,)
Adorno delineates a crucial dilemma, which is precisely linked to the awkward relation of artistic making to broader regimes of industrial and post-industrial making. Technique is vital to art in terms of its integral relation to processes of making and yet is inevitably informed by these broader regimes. Art’s failure to reconcile technique and aesthetics, as well as to establish adequate frameworks for making, is closely related to its critical function, which cannot permit making to attain determinate, predictable shape – which has to highlight “the repressed unmakable”. In this manner the field of making becomes strangely alienated from art. Art loses means to conceive its status as an activity within space and time. The challenge is, perhaps, to craft tentative, self-critical forms of making that position the uncertainty of making as their explicit subject. However – and this is for me a crucial problem – the space of technique cuts against the grain of any sense of purely constituted aesthetic criticality. Technique, as a motion of repetition, as something logically conceived but depending upon non-reflective manual, mechanical or electronic agency, can never be drawn entirely to the side of a conceptually-grounded aesthetics. It is worth recalling that the ancient Greeks positioned art as a form of techne, of artisinal making. The most complete break from this conception occurs in strands of avant-garde modernism that reconceive aesthetics not as a form of making but as a form of radical insight and critique. The problem here, for me, relates to the failure to acknowledge and sense the complex dialectical and intractable relation between the blindness of mechanism and the possibility of insight.
Technique is the definable figure of the enigma in artworks, at once rational and conceptless. (Adorno, T. (2004) Aesthetic Theory, Continuum, London, p.279)