archives and entropy


«The paper is to develop some ideas regarding the relationship between archives and entropy, with a particular focus on the way in which that relationship has played out in art since 1945. The archive is generally treated as an institution founded on order and systematic storage. Yet from the earliest times the degradation of information has been an inextricable part of its operations. On the one hand, this is due to the external threats that affect the archive from outside. Yet on the other hand, disorder and entropy threaten the archive also on its inside: as media formats change, information becomes obsolete and dissolves into disorder. In the digital age, the degradation of information stored on the internet has been the topic of much recent debate. The question then is if entropy, rather than affecting the archive from without, might be considered instead an element that is intrinsic to its operations (Freud seemed to think so, as Jacques Derrida has explained). In contemporary art, the multiple effects of entropy and the way in which they affect archival operations have been an issue for some time, and never more so than during the late 1960s and 70s when conceptual artists promoted the rise of information as art. Using select examples the author will analyze the role of entropy in this paradigm shift.»


(2011. “Muntada’s Entropic Archives.” Conference “The Archive as Project” at Warsaw University) [LINK]



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