Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-06-04 - 12:13 p.m.
This is Smithson on Entropy:
‘Through direct observation, rather than explanation, many artists have developed way to treat the theory of sets, vectoral geometry, topology, and crystal structure. The diagrammatic methods of the "new math" have led to a curious phenomenon. Namely, a more visible match that is unconcerned with size or shape in any metrical sense. The "paper and pencil operations" that deal with the invisible structure of nature have found new models, and have been combined with some of the more fragile states of minds. Math is dislocated by the artists in a personal way, so that it becomes "Manneristic" or separated from its original meaning.
This dislocation of meaning provides the artist with what could be called "synthetic math." Charles Pierce (1839-1914), the American philosopher, speaks of "graphs" that would "put before us moving pictures of thought." (See Martin Gardner's Logic Machines and Diagrams.) This synthetic math is reflected in Duchamp's "measured" pieces of fallen threads, "Three Standard Stoppages," Judd's sequential structured surfaces, Valledor's "fourth dimensional" color vectors, Grosvenor's hypervolumes in hyperspace, and di Suvero's demolitions of space-time. These artists face the possibility of other dimensions, with a new kind of sight.’
We can see a VFT-like eagerness to utilise some of the emerging new formal concepts from the sciences - and take them into art and see what happens. Smithson is suggesting that this is one of the drivers behind minimalism.
Interesting that he uses the mannerist school as a model for the dislocation of meaning. VFT takes a different tack - her idea is that you work with the new forms and hold off introducing or constructing any meaning for as long as possible. My claim is that you find the same thing in ND - formally structured and ambitious work with the meaning thrown in as an afterthought - eg the odd numbers on the sublime side of 5LL and the very dense structure and construction of PM.
Amidst all of this Smithson is arguing for embracing entropy and the gradual loss of form and meaning as fundamental feature of the world we find ourselves in. Shortly after this writing Smithson took a truck load of ashphalt and poured it down a cliff in a desert - as a novel move in Land Art. You can spend a lot of time thinking about the ways in which this was or wasn’t entropic. I certainly think it is aesthetic - but then I think deserts are sublime. I know if I went to see the piece I would find the experience very intense.
Smithson has a great rep - and oddly - like ND and VFT and Eva Hesse he doesn’t make it to 1976.
This is very direct for Mintheory - all those right angles and regularities are meant to be an expose of standardisation in modern civilization. This allover average-ness unmasks the utopian promise of modernity. The future turning out crap is entropy at work. Modernism falls foul of entropy - as does everything else.
This is exactly what Ahux’s grandad said in his Romanes Lecture at the end of the 19C. So is Min a footnote to BNW? Hux’s BNW aesthetics went as far as predicting the synth and against that he set the Savage doing perversions and getting off on Shelley. Clearly the Mins think there is another option - BNW High Art as practiced by Judd Stella LeWitt etc.
(Actually I saw my first LeWitt in the Yorks Sculpture Park - I found it very intense. The heat death of utopia is a symmetrical pile of bricks or a skeleton structure. Not Henry Moore.)
As a matter of futurology I did some stuff today on the Williams Manufuture Agenda (no 4) - its about the dynamics of value chains in the future - the emergence of niches - and the ability to spot the high value added moment within a global supply chain. G Brown had a hack at this in Skills and the Global Economy (Dec 04) - quite frankly I think we are more utopian than that. In the future people might want to be assisted to go out into the Arizona desert and contemplate the ashphalt rundown. I d go a long way to see the Spiral Jetty.