Thread Installations by Gabriel Dawe
BY SCOTT BEALE ON DECEMBER 20, 2010
Fast Company Design takes a look at the beautiful thread installations created by Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe.
Munkphilmby Courtney Hoskins
The Light Touch Dust Nebulaby Courtney Hoskins
THREE ENTROPIC MOMENTS
May 25th, 2010 · 32bny · 11: Entropy, John Rajchman No comments
Sometimes scientific ideas suggest new ways of thinking to the arts. Arising out of specific techno-scientific conditions, they become part of larger zones of overlap and crossover. So it was for the idea of Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, worked out in 19th century Europe, but exerting a fascination long after. We already then find a first moment, a first problem. The notion of “dissipative energy” in a system seemed to fit with the problem of a dis-aggregation of vision, loss of attention, shift from object to the larger field in which it figures, as for example with sea and sky. That is why Michel Serres, for example, would see Turner and the imperial ships in his “sublime” as a kind of pictorial “translation” of entropy. One is not far from Freud’s problem of cathexis and unbound energy, or from Bergson’s vital “zones of in-distinction” in a universe of variation and mutation, each now associated with Cézanne.
But the idea of entropy itself drifted away, following different areas in which the notion of disorder in a system would be posed. Thus following World War II, with the invention of information-theory, Shannon would take up the problem in terms of transmission of messages and related questions of redundancy, distribution of marks, readability. That is how it would reach Lévi-Strauss in New York, who associated the idea of information as “negative entropy” with the paradoxes of structure and it’s “outside,” found with Marcel Mauss as “mana,” gift, excess, thus leading back to Georges Bataille and Roger Caillois.
SELECTED INTERVIEWS WITH ROBERT SMITHSON
Entropy Made Visible (1973)
Interview with Alison Sky
On Site #4, 1973. This interview took place about two months before Smithson’s death. Although published posthumously, Smithson and Sky completed the editing of the text together and Smithson provided all the illustrations.
ROBERT SMITHSON: O.K. we’ll begin with entropy. That’s a subject that’s preoccupied me for some time. On the whole I would say entropy contradicts the usual notion of a mechanistic world view. In other words it’s a condition that’s irreversible, it’s condition that’s moving towards a gradual equilibrium and it’s suggested in many ways. Perhaps a nice succinct definition of entropy would be Humpty Dumpty. Like Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There is a tendency to treat closed systems in such a way. One might even say that the current Watergate situation is an example of entropy. You have a closed system which eventually deteriorates and starts to break apart and there’s no way that you can really piece it back together again. Another example might be the shattering of Marcel Duchamp Glass, and his attempt to put all the pieces back together again attempting to overcome entropy. Buckminister Fuller also has a notion of entropy as a kind of devil that he must fight against and recycle. Norbert Weiner in The Human Use of Human Beings also postulates that entropy is a devil, but unlike the Christian devil which is simply a rational devil with a very simple morality of good and bad, the entropic devil is more Manichean in that you really can’t tell the good from the bad, there’s no clear cut distinction. And I think at one point Norbert Weiner also refers to modern art as one Niagara of entropy. In information theory you have another kind of entropy. The more information you have the higher degree of entropy, so that one piece of information tends to cancel out the other. The economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen has gone so far as to say that the second law of thermodynamics is not only a physical law but linked to economics. He says Sadi Carnot could be called an econometrican. Pure science, like pure art tends to view abstraction as independent of nature, there’s no accounting for change or the temporality of the mundane world. Abstraction rules in a void, pretending to be free of time.
One might even say that the whole energy crisis is a form of entropy. The earth being the closed system, there’s only a certain amount of resources and of course there’s an attempt to reverse entropy through the recycling of garbage. People going around collecting bottles and tin cans and whatnot and placing them in certain compounds like the one over on Greenwich Avenue across from St. Vincent’s Hospitals. Well this seems to be a rather problematic situation. Actually right now I would like to quote from Georgerscu-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, about what he calls entropic bootlegging. It’s an interesting conception I think. This is what he says about recycling waste materials. “This is what the promoters of entropy bootlegging fail to understand. To be sure, one can cite numberless scrap campaigns aimed at saving low entropy [low entropy in his definition is raw materials before they’re processed into refined materials. In other words raw ore would be low entropy and high entropy would be the refined material such as steel]… by sorting waste. They have been successful only because in given circumstances the sorting of, say, scrap copper required a smaller consumption of low entropy than the alternative way of obtaining the same amount of metal. It is equally true that the advance of technological knowledge may change the balance sheet of any scrap campaign, although history shows that past progress has benefited ordinary production rather than scrap saving. However, to sort out the scrap molecules scattered all over the land and at the bottom of the sea, would require such a long time that the entire low entropy of our environment would not suffice to keep alive the numberless generations of Maxwell’s demons needed for the completed project.” In other words he’s giving us the indication that recycling is like looking for needles in haystacks.
Now, I would like to get into an area of, let’s say, the problems of waste. It seems that when one is talking about preserving the environment or conserving energy or recycling one inevitably gets to the question of waste and I would postulate actually that waste and enjoyment are in a sense coupled. There’s a certain kind of pleasure principle that comes out of preoccupation with waste. Like if we want a bigger and better car we are going to have bigger and better waster productions. So there’s a kind of equation there between the enjoyment of life and waste. Probably the opposite of waste is luxury. Both waste and luxury tend to be useless. Then other’s kind of middle class notion of luxury which is often called “quality.” And quality is sort of based on taste and sensibility. Sartre says Genet produces neither spit or diamonds. I guess that’s what I’m talking about.