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Chapter 7

Shannon’s Law

Pierre Clement & Maarten Van Roy 


26 November 2021
'Shannon's Law', the duo exhibition of Maarten Van Roy (1985, BE) and Pierre Clement (1981, FR) is a first dialogue of the two artists, moderated by curator Jérôme Nicod of the project space ‘10N’, and can be understood as a reflexion on entropy.

Entropy is an important concept in thermodynamics. It is also used in information theory: here entropy expresses the measure of order or disorder in the organisation of a message and becomes an instrument of probability. To calculate the quantity of information in a message, we assume a low probability '0' and a high probability '1'. 'The quantity of information conveyed by a given message is equal to the binary logarithm of the number of possibilities necessary to define the message without ambiguity.' Information theory assumes that messages are organised systems, subject to the laws of probability. If the information of a message depends on its organisation according to the laws of probability, then the message is subject to entropy.

Shannon's law is situated in information theory and combines logic and information technology: he showed that '0' and '1' logic could be used to simplify the connections between switches, and defines the bandwidth to which information can be transferred without error. Entropy here is to be understood as the ratio of signal to noise, and then refers to the loss of information – to which also the work of Maarten Van Roy and Pierre Clement can be related.

Texts by Els Vermang




Maarten Van Roy

Van Roy's sculptures form an assemblage of materials and objects that have lost their original function but won a poetic and mnemonic dimension: a past which can be reactivated by recalling its stored information. Holy Ghost (Knee 5) scattered on the ground shows a deflating American football and its replica. The ‘Battle Cry’-series uses steel tubes, folding and welding them into a form incorporating movement in its process as much as in its expression. Some of his sculptures store the information of the environment in their form-finding process: wax is spread and sculpted after which bronze poured. In ‘The Sand, the Barrier’ or the ‘BH.BS.DA.’-series a new kind of information is given shape: that which arises from the confrontation of a cold and a warm material leaving a visual trace on the surface. In the ‘Stellar Blade’–series, the impact of metal spills underline the science of forensics: every contact leaves a trace of information. 

Pierre Clement

Clement's reliefs form an assemblage of the information hoarded by the artist: a canvas in an aluminium frame is worked with geometrical fragments relating to ancient civilisations, is augmented by different layers of information. Upon a close look, we discover in the ‘huRI,meshGTi’- series fragments of weather forecasts of Hurricanes, announced by pieces of text embedded in a printed plexiglass on which paint patterns appear. The centre piece of the exhibition; ‘firaXT,krypXT:5‘ confronts fragments of microscopic images of bacteria in the back with a beehive motif in front, confronting biological and mathematical structure. For those who didn’t get it yet, a Wifi antenna fixed on its side acts as a technofossil reminding us of past technology while obliging us to think about the future.

The dialogue between the two works provides a laboratory for research into post-apocalyptic processes in the technosphere - that part of the environment made or transformed by man and consisting of structures or processes and their interaction with the biosphere - incorporated by Clement’s ‘emerG/COM:ant’ -sculpture disguised as a survival tent. In these processes, information is lost. What remains is a memory of something that was or could have been.

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