Saturday, January 26, 2013


Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Most of us think we understand the word “entropy” and yet we don’t. You can think of entropy as a measure of chaos or the amount of disorder in a system. That is, the more chaotic or disordered a system is, the greater amount of entropy it possesses. Clearly, the hotter a system, the more chaotic or disordered it becomes, the more entropy it possesses. To understand this, the surface of the sun is hotter than a warm towel and so its surface is more chaotic. On the other hand, the colder the system the less chaotic, and the more ordered it becomes, the less entropy it possesses. For example, ice is more ordered than liquid water, and liquid water is more ordered than steam.

If we have a closed or isolated system – that is, a system where energy cannot escape from its boundaries – then the total energy contained within the system is fixed. The Universe that we live in is by definition an isolated system and so our Universe contains a fixed amount of energy. To use this energy to conduct any processes means that such an action tends to occur only with a resultant increase in entropy and that the direction of change will always lead to greater disorder. This is called the second Law of Thermodynamics.

Chaotic nature of our Universe
Photography Courtesy of NASA.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics has many different definitional guises but basically the above definition is probably easiest to understand. Let us give a few examples of how it works.

Example 1: I create artwork and as I do my mark making exercise I change the chemical energy stored in my body as fats (more ordered) into heat (less ordered). I have increased the heat, and therefore increased the disorder of the room.

Converted brown and beige colored fat cells that converted energy into heat.

Examples 2-3: I hold a cup in my hand and accidentally drop it. It smashes onto the floor, breaking into little pieces (more disordered than before). Hot winds (more random air molecules) blow into cold regions (more ordered) in order to make the latter regions more random, driving the system closer to equilibrium. All of these trivial examples (and millions more) tend to confirm that this Law is valid.

Shattered coffee cup on a floor.

Eventually since natural processes are using up the fixed amount of energy within our Universe, the stockpile of available energy in our Universe will continually decrease, since it is being used to create a more disordered system.

What is surprising is the order does appear to be constructed on a regular basis that overcomes this notion of natural disorder. Gravity is a perfect example of a self-organization mechanism. We have planets and a solar system, which were created after great chaos (big bang theory). The best way to reconcile the two is to realize that gravity is a form of global order arising out of local interactions between components of an initially disordered system. It is spontaneous and moreover, can self-repair substantial damage or perturbations to the order it creates.

Gravity at work. In this NASA photo of our Milky Way galaxy, the dark patches in front of the brighter background are opaque clouds of clumped dust grains known as dark nebulae. It is gravity that pulls these dust grains onto clumps and eventually into stars and planets.

Self-organization is found in such diverse areas as: chemical, physical, biological, social and cognitive systems. For example, it is used to explain the psychology of the markeplace, how crystals are formed and swarming of groups of animals.

In a study published on July 15, 2011, in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics, researchers have shown that swarming, a phenomenon that can be crucial to an animal’s survival, is created by the same kind of social networks that humans adopt.

It is the juxtaposition of these two organizing principles – entropy and self-organization – that underlies the basis of my ArtCloth work – Entropy.

Entropy - An ArtCloth Work
In order to create this work I needed to give fragments of rationality or self-organization embedded in a field of chaos or disorder. To invoke images of rationalism, who better to go to than to appropriate images of Leonardo de Vinci and blocks of wall art. As for random fluctuations, then by far the best mark making of choice is plain “scribble”, since it tends to be incoherent and moreover, entangles itself at every opportunity, leaving a distinct feeling of chaos.

Armed with my mark making tools, the next step was to work my ideas on my medium of choice – cloth.

Artist Statement: From chaos (entropy) self-reorganization suddenly emerges. The ArtCloth “ENTROPY” examines the explosion of painterly images that arose from a fragmented societal framework during the renaissance to the recent explosion of contemporary wall art within a similar societal framework.

Techniques and Media: Multiple discharge processes, silkscreened, stenciled and mono printed employing gels, transparent, opaque and metallic paints on rayon.

Size of Work: 1.1 (width) x 3.2 (height) meters.

Entropy (Full view)
Note: Photograph taken from side angle.

Entropy (Close up 1)

Entropy (Close up 2)

Entropy (Detail 1a)

Entropy (Detail 1b)

Entropy (Detail 2a)

Entropy (Detail 2b)

1 comment:

Lesley Turner said...

Such exciting new work, Marie-Therese