One of a Thousand Ways To Defeat Entropy
Official Collateral Project of the 54th Venice Biennale, Arsenale Novissimo Tesa Nappa 89, Venice, 3 June – November 27, 2011
Hans Op de Beeck, Adrian Ghenie, Ryoichi Kurokawa, Alexander Ponomarev (Curated with Alexander Ponomarev)


Entropy – the Second Law of Thermodynamics – entails the eventual non-differentiation of the universe, caused by increasing disorder in physical processes. The entropic end-state is nothing less than uniform oblivion, which recent art-theoretical discourse has associated with representations of melting and liquidification – an ocean of homogeneity.

Before the end, symptoms of entropy are all pervasive. Venice is no exception: flooded and sinking, it is only a momentary confection in time; a future Atlantis. The sea surrounds its palazzos but they are also encircled by a countervailing aesthetic principle; stone and brick architecture bounded by liquid flux, straight lines contradicted by fluid – the aqua alta greedily licking at San Marco’s colonnade. In the campo, creeping stillness; in the former shipyards, once the largest industrial operation in the world, cavernous reminders that the historical ship of state – the Venetian empire – is already sunk. Looking out across the lagoon from the Arsenale Novissimo there is a view of San Michele – an island graveyard. The whole city is a memento mori.

But something stirs. A small army has recently been at work. Their task is nothing less than defeating the undefeatable second law. The exhibition is a fantastic machine; sailing in the expanding cosmos of the imagination, leaving behind works in space that allow us – for a second at least – to doubt the inevitable domination of entropy. The intellectual course is set: the resistance of fact by fantasy, a seeming paradox that will be resolved in time.

Hans Op de Beeck debuts the latest in his acclaimed series of ‘total’ installations, Location 7: an immersive environment faithfully evoking a pathetic Western European suburban home and garden in grey monotone – within which every aspect, from furniture to blades of grass, is made of concrete. It is as if some Vesuvius has covered anywhere western Europe in ash. Op de Beeck was born in Turnhout, Belgium (1969), and lives and works in Brussels.

Adrian Ghenie will unveil Duchamp Funeral 3, a massive painterly collage depicting Marcel Duchamp’s corpse lying ‘in state’ like Vladimir Ilych Lenin in Red Square. The work is both a meditation on the passing of ideologies and a revenge enacted on a key patriarch of contemporary artistic practice. Duchamp declared painting dead. Ghenie exhumes the deceased dandy in order to re-bury him. Ghenie was born in Baia-Mare, Romania (1977). He lives and works in London and Berlin.

Ryoichi Kurokawa contributes Octfalls, a digital audio-visual work that consists of eight lcd screens and attendant speakers suspended from the ceiling of the Arsenale, arranged in an octagonal three-dimensional configuration. Oscillating footage of waterfalls and digital distortion whirls around the viewer with sound – producing a hallucinatory effect. It is, in the artist’s words, a digital Japanese Garden – a space to contemplate the flow of time. Kurokawa was born in Osaka, Japan (1978). He lives and works in Berlin.

Alexander Ponomarev is represented by Formula. This work consists of two eight-metre high acrylic columns, each clear and hollow with a diameter of one and half metres, containing twelve metric tons of lagoon water. Within each, a kinetic futuro-automobile rises and falls in its vertical casket. Alexander Ponomarev was born in Dnepropetrovsk, Russia (1957). He lives and works in Moscow.

Ship Shapes
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