The Entropy of Ideas or the Global Economic Engine that Could

Posted on August 5, 2011


The Entropy of Ideas

Many architectural concepts found in science-fiction have nothing to do with science or fiction, instead they suggest a new kind of monumentality which has much in common with the aims of some of today’s artists. I am thinking in particular of Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Sol Le Witt, Dan Flavin, and of certain artists in the “Park Place Group.” The artists who build structured canvases and “wall-size” paintings, such as Will Insley, Peter Hutchinson and Frank Stella are more indirectly related. The chrome and plastic fabricators such as Paul Thek, Craig Kauffman, and Larry Bell are also relevant. The works of many of these artists celebrate what Flavin calls “inactive history” or what the physicist calls “entropy” or “energy-drain.” They bring to mind the Ice Age rather than the Golden Age, and would most likely confirm Vladimir Nabokov’s observation that, “The future is but the obsolete in reverse.” In a rather round-about way, many of the artists have provided a visible analog for the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which extrapolates the range of entropy by telling us energy is more easily lost than obtained, and that in the ultimate future the whole universe will burn out and be transformed into an all-encompassing sameness. The “blackout” that covered the Northeastern states recently, may be seen as a preview of such a future. Far from creating a mood of dread, the power failure created a mood of euphoria. An almost cosmic joy swept over all the darkened cities. Why people felt that way may never be answered. ROBERT SMITHSON…  ENTROPY AND THE NEW MONUMENTS written in 1966

Yesterday August 4th, 2011 Wall Street Stumbled. In fact during the past week Global Markets shed Trillions of Dollars, Euros and Yens.

Not being an Economist only an Artist my gut told me that Robert Smithson’s ideas about Entropy, are present in the nature of Global Economy. I wondered what Smithson would think about the events of the past several years. A big downturn in energy in the Global Markets in 2008. A slow restart of the economic engine that powers the world economy. An engine that has been running out of time. An engine in desperate need of a tune up.

So I thought about Smithson’s idea that all systems run down, it is the natural cycle of everything, even the Universe. To put this in perspective that we can all understand. You buy a new car. It smells and runs like a new car. Soon though you get the first ding, a rock chip to the paint or a bump from a grocery cart. After that it’s all down hill until you are driving a late model used car or just a junker. Oh sure you try to keep up with the deterioration, but at some point you realize it is a hopeless battle against the ever present Entropy of Nature. All Systems Run Down.

The powers of the world created a new global economy. That economic engine took off like no other economic experiment in the history of the world. It ran at full speed now for several decades. And everybody embraced it’s power, it’s performance. The idea of a global economy is present today in the everyday thinking of everyone. Sure their are those of who question the idea of a global economy but we don’t question it’s power and existence.

Now it seems this giant almost inconceivable human idea, the engine that could sputtered again. Perhaps in a waring that the engine itself is not only in need of a major overhaul but perhaps we need a new engine. An engine that will run like new until the nature of Entropy takes it’s power away making room for a new idea still yet to come. Another idea that will be obsolete as fast as it can be conceived.

Read Smithson’s essay written in 1966 ENTROPY AND THE NEW MONUMENTS more people should.