Publication Details

Ballard, S. "Entropy and digital installation." Fibreculture Journal: internet theory criticism research .7 (2005):


What would it mean if communication were exact? That, in spite of the real, material, spaces of message, channel, format, filters, modulations, mediation, and plain old error, it might be possible to exclude all noise and see through to some pure space of connection and transmission. Despite my curiosity, I suspect the result would be disappointingly dull, or simply redundant. The search for perfect communication is as pointless as trying to find an audio space not infected with electromagnetic waves, or a gallery space where only one work is apprehended at a time. Our communications spaces are always already determined by the varieties of noise that constitute their surfaces. In scientific and informatic models there are laws that repeatedly demonstrate the futility of any attempt to maintain purity as a static form. Key to these demonstrations is the role of entropy. Entropy is both a force and a probability measure. This essay examines shifting roles and definitions of entropy in two recent digital installations. What I suggest is that an understanding of the operations and implications of entropy helps us to unpack operations of noise and materiality in these works. The installations discussed here use the tools of distributed media at the same time as they locate themselves within the physical spaces of the art gallery. Furthermore, a focus on entropy and its role in digital installation acknowledges that both information theory and aesthetics are themselves impure and inexact.

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The Fibre Culture Journal