Artist Statement ~ Terrance Hounsell
The Entropy of a Guardrail: In Chaos, Solace
In the context of my art, entropy is the degradation of all matter and energy in the universe into the ultimate equilibrium state of inert uniformity. Energy disperses and systems break down, disorder ensues. The more disordered something is, the more entropic we consider it. The Greek root of the word translates to “a turning towards transformation”
with that transformation being disorder, or dare I say chaos.
Humans tend to like order because where there is order it is inferred that there is a system of control and we like to think that we are the smartest guys in the room, or at least on this planet, so we are ultimately in control. This gives us a sense of security. Conversely we sense loss when we view the disintegration of systems and structures. Chaos evokes unease.
Entropy applies to every part of our lives. We cannot expect things to stay the way we left them. To maintain things as they are requires never-ending effort and vigilance. Order is always artificial and temporary. Does that seem sad, or pointless? It’s not. Imagine a world with no entropy everything stays the way we leave it, no one ages or gets ill, nothing breaks or fails, everything remains pristine. Arguably, that would also be a world without innovation or creativity, a world without need for progress. Endless sameness.
"Photographing the future is a challenge that is beyond most of us as opposed to the past that is accessible."
Why then are we so nostalgic for old things in an advanced state of entropy? Most photographers have photographed the trite run down barn, the abandoned factory, the dilapidated fence. I think it is because when we are experiencing a void in the present we attempt to fill it with something from the past. Why the past? From a practical stand point we simply have not experienced the future yet so we cannot reminisce about something that has not happened yet. Photographing the future is a challenge that is beyond most of us as opposed to the past that is accessible.
The past is reliant on memory, which we can alter to our own ends. Admittedly some artists chose to confront bad experiences of the past, using their art to expose or come to terms with it; short term pain for long term gain. For the vast majority of us the path to happiness usually involves avoiding pain whilst seeking pleasure.
Thus it comes as no surprise that most of us choose to put a positive spin on past experiences.
This is where nostalgia comes in, a place where things are old and familiar. Things are worn, bearing the marks of constant use; comfort and love. This is where our fascination with entropy originates, the safe gentle past. Memory is kind. We have a measure of control in the past and we like to go there.
Those of us who understand that we are not in control surrender to a higher power and in letting go we can find solace in disorder.
Lastly, why a guardrail? Simply because it is mundane.
Mundane subjects challenge an artist to see beyond the obvious. For this artist seeing is more important than the subject itself. The message is subtle and the viewer is challenged to contemplate the image in order to engage it. In the case of the guardrail I challenge you to contemplate your relationship with the all pervading forces of entropy and choas.
“Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And universal darkness buries all.”
— Alexander Pope, The Dunciad