Contemporary spaces around the entropic dynamics of everyday life

by Alice Zucca

The human being has an innate inclination to catalog, classify, label anything, from the books on a shelf to the different tasks that are part of our daily schedule, to the objects placed on the top of a desk. Using the word “system” to indicate any portion of a material space, entropy, basically, represents the “degree of disorder” of said system. So: if the “disorder” increases we will have an increase in entropy as well, vice versa a decrease in “disorder” will result in a decrease in entropy itself. We tend to “put in order”! Or rather, we try to reduce entropy! Nature, on the other hand, seems to follow a diametrically opposite pattern: the wind and rain that crumble the rocks, reducing them to grains of sand, the earthquakes that destroy buildings are all events that obviously lead to an increase in entropy. So, does nature tend to chaos and disorder while we work to achieve harmony and precision? In reality, things are not quite like that. A radical perspective change is needed in order to approach the analysis of concepts that escape any attempt at observation that is conditioned by self-referential criteria. The indispensable prerequisite is the conscious acceptance of the limits deriving from the intrinsic imperfection of the human being. Then, it becomes possible to understand that the disorder, to which the inevitable triumph of entropy seems to lead us, is in reality a sublime order of infinite degree that simply transcends our ability to understand. The myth of novelty, as often pursued in the past, has died. What remains is the amusement that comes from an accumulation of experiences and a critical conscience that is filled with educated quotes, which serves as the chaotic setting of a lot of art of our time and implicitly is also a side effect that influences its access and the fruition of modern media which empowers – and guilty deforms – collective and individual memory.

In information theory, entropy is intended as a measure of predictability of a communication, or indicates that a message is open to a plurality of possible interpretations making it difficult and not immediate to understand. When there’s a feeling of losing control the human being is lost and tries to fight chaos to ensure tranquility and physical and psychological stability. The categorization of reality (of natural events, of climatic changes, of atmospheric dynamics, of the moods and of the rhythms generated by machinery in operation) takes place to achieve, through an elaborate analysis and synthesis process, a sort of measurement of the degree of disorder on the basis of which we define an acceptable equilibrium.

Levi Van Veluw, “The relativity of matter” 2017, Photo Giovanni Romboni

The entropic processes that dominate our daily lives can be seen in this sense in the silent darkness of Levi Van Veluw’s “The relativity of matter”, an experiential, intimate and claustrophobic installation with which the Dutch artist explores the theme of disorder and order. An actual room of a lone collector. We find ourselves thrown into an obsessive space, a multitude of icosahedrons in series neatly arranged on shelves, contrasting with a plane loaded with a myriad of objects of various shapes scattered without a precise order. A chair and a desk then allude to an absent protagonist who maniacally tries to have control of the universe through the stubborn attempt to classify matter. An attempt destined to fail due to the infinite variety of forms that matter itself is capable of taking.

Levi Van Veluw, “The relativity of matter” 2017, Photo Alice Zucca

The human brain acts in the same way. The idea that the brain is constantly committed to do an “inventory” of reality, classifying everything it perceives so that it can be labeled and homologated in a category, is true. Just as nature abhors emptiness, so the brain abhors chaos. Learning the most basic skills, the study of the most complex subjects, collecting memories, our whole existence is based on the ordering of information. That is the result of the unintentional and incessant commitment of our mind to the cataloging of reality, classifying everything that is perceived, so that it can be assigned a label and put it in a category and where it can be finally recognized.

Zimoun, 375 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm, 2017 video Alice Zucca

Starting from these assumptions, with his sound sculptures, articulated devices based on industrial objects of daily use that radiate the space with information that are mechanically produced by the naked materials of which they are composed, Zimoun explores mechanical rhythms and the acoustic consequences of their presence in space.

Zimoun, 375 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm
Zimoun 2017 – Photography by Zimoun ©
Courtesy the Artist

Especially peculiar is the choice to accompany the titles of his works with a meticulous and detailed list of materials and mechanical components used to achieve the ultimate formation of the composition; thus imposing on the observer a further stretch of imagination, which leads him, in the impossibility of foreseeing what happens in the multitude of random sound information received, to assume the role of accomplice of the artist in completing the cataloging / ordering of the work itself, despite the confusion of the random acoustic buzz of natural phenomena.

Zimoun, 375 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated, cardboard boxes 35x35x35cm, 2017 Photo Alice Zucca

Perhaps we should simply admit that, due to the limited perception of our senses and the limited analytical capacity of our mind, we as human beings, in the presence of the most precise, accurate and perfect order possible, would still end up considering it pure inextricable chaos.