Attention, Entropy and the Arrow of Time

Kenning, Dean [Artist] (2020) Attention, Entropy and the Arrow of Time. (video recording with moving graphics online and Kenning's own diagrams).


Final Episode of a four-part web-based presentation by the Diagram Reserach Group, undertaken as part opf the Delta Research Placement at Flat Time House 'to undertake remote research with the John Latham archive'. The Diagram Research Group (DRG), a collaboration between artists David Burrows, John Cussans, Dean Kenning and Mary Yacoob, will conduct four illustrated discussions online that explore their interests in diagrams in relation to Flat Time and Latham’s ideas concerning the unification of scientific and artistic bodies of knowledge and the primacy of time and event (rather than space and matter). Each episode took the form of a verbal presentation accompanied by images and diagrams which appeared on a specially consturcted web platform during the talk and subsequesnt group discussion. Each episode was led by one member of the Diagram Research Group (David Burrows, John Cussans, Dean Kenning, Mary Yacoob). The episode Kenning lead was entitled 'Attention, Entropy and the Arrow of Time' and was written up as follows: I will look at John Latham’s concept of ‘attention unit’ or Delta and link this to questions of time, particularly as they pertain to entropy or the second law of thermodynamics. I argue that Latham’s works often involved entropic and negentropic processes, and yet he does not seem to include entropy within his overarching theory of time and event. This is surprising given the singular importance entropy plays within physics as determining an ‘arrow of time’ i.e. non-reversibility. However, certain physicists such as Carlo Rovelli construct a relativistic model of entropy, suggesting that the relation between order and disorder is a function of what we consider to be special. If all probabilities of energy flow patterns are equally (in)significant then time does not exist. I link this idea back to the notion of ‘attention’ in order to think about what, in the art world, gets understood as ‘special’ and therefore ‘separated out’ for further attention in anti-entropic processes (studio, gallery, archive, etc). Different levels of separating out of ‘order’ from ‘disorder’ by ‘gatekeepers’ (Maxwell’s Demon) may be said to constitute a personal career or cultural timeline – a process of ‘distinction’ without which we lose a ‘sense of direction’.

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