There is nothing extraordinary about ice cubes melting in a glass of water. The scene is rather easy to picture: the definition of the translucent rocks slowly dispersing into a puddle. As they come in contact with each other, it becomes impossible to distinguish parts of the once discrete bodies. The experience of observing ice liquefy in a glass of water is the most common example addressed to explain the physical phenomenon of entropy.
When this micro-event is enlarged to planetary dimensions, the prosaic image becomes an experiment in imagining potential futures. This trial concerning the scientific term suddenly points out the irreversibility of time, as well as the most overwhelming ecological and political matters. Whenever this trajectory is mapped out, the glass + ice + water system becomes a ‘trope’: a method to transpose an object or subject into another by non-literal means.
Although semantically distant, the words ‘trope’ and ‘entropy’ share the same ancient Greek root in the word τροπή. Both idioms evoke ideas of turn and transformation. A trope is a literary motif that stimulates associative perception to increase the tangibility of meaning, while entropy is a concept stemming from thermodynamics, which has gained momentum in current times. Translated literally as ‘the change within’, entropy indicates a transmissive process in a closed circuit. Drawing from this specific use to a more general one, the notion of entropy has been widely employed in other areas of discourse to exemplify processes with a certain state of disorder that have a clear start but no defined end. Such phenomena can become quite invisible, as much as they can be omnipresent.
With works by mountaincutters, Angyvir Padilla and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, Three Tropes for Entropy will grow and expand as a transformative exhibition. Conceived in the frame of the Lichen Curatorial Prize, the project delves into these artists’ distinctive practices and the unique site of the former Winterslag coal mine. Having hosted an industrial complex of coal exploitation for approximately a century, this site embodies the capacity to generate and process energy not only through its history but also through its recent transformation into a cultural space.
The exhibition evolves in three consecutive stages, formulated as tropes and named after excerpts distilled from the invited artists’ writings. These stages perform not merely as chapters of a finished narrative but picture an ongoing, mutable and infinite process. The decommissioned mine site resonates with the theme of energy production, which the exhibition pursues, albeit metaphorically. The notion of flux as a spinning stream of intensity that needs to be set forth is approached from the perspective of the internal engines of the artist’s practices. The evolution of the artworks disclose open-ended narratives fuelling one another. From the first to the third trope, gradual changes unfold, and the exhibition evolves from the presentation of discrete entities into an intermingled diffusion of particles, similar to ice cubes melting in a glass of water.