In this paper I consider how Luhmann's systems-theoretical account of art and medium can be compared with Jack Burnham's account of a 'Systems Esthetic'.

Burnham's claim for the 'systems esthetic' (1968) was that a burgeoning interest in systems amongst artists and writers on art would lead (in both art practice and discourse) to a paradigm shift from object to system. In this paper I outline the implications of Burnham's claim by describing some key characteristics of a 'systems-esthetic' such as the shift from medium specificity and an artistic interest in systems. I then discuss how this is compatible with Luhmann's radical account of art in Art as a Social System.