Saturday, March 7, 2009

Digital entropy

Hi All,
Bill's question made me wonder how context and/or environment might effect how the appropriation of terms and materials are experienced. It seems that part of dialogue evolving around the emerging field of art + environment is related to how the "virtual" environment might be taken into consideration as well as the "natural" and "built". When Robert Smithson appropriated the concept of entropy he enacted this through works in both the landscape (natural) and within the gallery (built). I wonder how he (or we) might take up those same interests within the virtual environment today?

A couple of weeks ago a most incredible image of a rock was posted on the BLDG BLOG.


I ended up not paying much attention to the content of the post, but was struck by how much I enjoyed encountering this image online. I realized how rare it is to see such a clear piece of the natural environment existing within the virtual- and how encountering it online simultaneously altered my habitual experience of the virtual, as well as of the natural. Ironically, I have taken the time to look more closely at a rocks since finding this image.

It made me think further about the work of Robert Smithson and what might be an example of "digital entropy" today. I'm just starting to think about this, but for the purposes of this conversation I thought I would give it a try.

I've appropriated the original image from Vicente Guallert and dematerialized it from 100% to 0% over a span of images (my process was to "save for the web" in photoshop at 100%, then 50%, then 25%, then 11%, then 5%, then 0%. "Save for the web" is a process that is key to the "environment" of web-publishing). I offer it here as a possible visualization of how a scientific term such as entropy might be re-appropriated in the virtual environment today. I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else has ideas about how concepts appropriated from science into the field of art might begin to take on new and different (and potentially less or more productive) dimensions when taken up in the virtual environment.



click image to enlarge to full-size


5 comments:

Chris Drury said...

I still think the virtual is very removed. We stare at screens all day long. Better to get out there and pick up a real rock in its own place, at its own time. It has been around a whole lot longer than we have and you can touch and smell that time and then put it back where it belongs.
In time rocks break down into soil, gather microbes and grow plants - the beginnings of biodiversity and life. This is entropy and renewal.

jamie kruse said...

Hi Chris,
I agree, the virtual is quite removed from the natural. I definitely hope that the virtual doesn't wholly replace the natural by any means. But, I don't think they are mutually exclusive. Within the emerging field of art + environment I think it's productive to consider the different potentials that the natural, the built, and the virtual offer each other. Also, it is interesting to consider where they each might fall short in generating new ideas, provocations, and access to emerging ideas at the contemporary moment. I think much potential lies in the juxtaposition between the three, and how they might take up the same set of ideas in different ways - that the difference is quite rich.

Chris Drury said...

Hi Jamie,

Right now the virtual has demonstrated just how dangerous it is. Bankers and traders, completely out of touch with reality, just a terminal and a set of figures and ideas - divorced from the actuality of peoples lives, gambling away virtual money. Result - almighty chaos in the money markets and real people with real lives are effected; jobs and homes lost.
But this is nothing when it moves over into the environment, because the same divorced sense of reality is going on here. When you actually see and experience the effects of climate Change, then you understand. Like those poor people in New Orleans. Up to that point it is all theoretical and you can dismiss it at the click of a mouse.
You can also Google a set of figures for population levels and think 'well yes that's a little high,' but the effect of over crowding and lack of land can set off a genocide like we saw in Ruwanda.
All this knowledge and information gives us a sense of being in control, but the virtual is a very limited tool, and it can give an illusion of reality, which I think can be quite dangerous.

Chris

jamie kruse said...

Hi Chris,
It's fun to be chatting with you...thanks for being so participatory! Here's a response to your last post.

My post concerning the virtual was less about entering a familiar discussion about the internet being either "good" or "bad" (for culture at large) than to possibly bump the conversation around the virtual into something new and different for the topic of art + environment. I think many artists, including yourself, have online documentation of places and works concerning the environment that were not intended to replace the real, embodied experience of the original work. I feel that I have benefited from having access to view and consider these works online, though I am far from believing that my virtual experience of them could replace an on-site experience. But in lieu of being able/or wanting to visit so many remote and fragile landscapes (such as Winnemucca Whirlwind or the locations that the Canary Project conducts their work) I am glad to have had a virtual experience of them.

That being said, my question, now a bit strayed from Bill's original provocation, is: could the virtual offer a new context for artists participating in the emerging field of art + environment to work in? I'm completely unsure of possible answers myself, but wonder how the virtual might be taken up by artists working in this field, at this contemporary moment, in ways that are different from the ways that the "natural" and "built" have been used in the past? Could the virtual become a context other than a space to digitally network people and ideas, or document existing works online, and become an entirely different environment where artists can make new works in ways unforeseen from here?

Jamie

Chris Drury said...

Hi Jamie,

Yes I am sure that is possible and is happening, we can only watch and see what emerges. My suspicion however is that we get increasingly attached to screens, and our friends are becoming virtual friends so we slowly get sucked into a virtual world, cut of from reality.
But I agree, that it could certainly be a creative and communicative tool.

Chris