Week 8 - Entropy and Chance Art - Miki Koga

Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, has always been an interesting topic for me to study in chemistry as it is based on human experience. The natural order of the universe is towards increasing entropy or disorder. Ice melts in warm weather, iron rusts over time, objects fall when dropped. My chemistry teacher once told me that entropy is also a good excuse for a messy room: “Oh, it’s just the second law of thermodynamics…” Anyway, I never fully comprehended how it translates into art until we explored various examples on Thursday’s lecture. Guest lecturer Gil Kuno spoke about John Cage, the American composer who explored chance in art. Cage delved into notions of “indeterminacy in composition” by composing pieces like Music of Changes, Imaginary Landscape No. 4, and ‘prepared piano’ works. Gil also mentioned the famous 4’33”. I remember coming across a YouTube of the composition a while ago and simply being confused and indifferent. Therefore, I decided to revisit the work:


Although I still cannot fully appreciate it like the many admirers of his work, I do find it creative and thought-provoking. Every performance of the piece is unique and contingent on the environment. It forces the audience to slow down, listen, and become aware of the music in their surroundings. It is up to them to fill the blank sheets, space, and time with beauty of their own. Such chance introduces a new twist to the art. It supports the philosophy that chaos is just organized confusion. The piece is organized in that it is divided into three segments and lasts 4 minutes and 33 seconds. However, the composition itself is ultimately indeterminate.

Like John Cage and his piano compositions, Gil also explored chance art in his multiple creative projects. One work that stood out to me was the slinky sculpture that he created in The Hammer Museum courtyard. The kinetic, in-the-moment art coordinated into a sort of performance by incorporating two WAC students made for an exciting, unique creation that could be filmed in real-time.

The ‘Six String Sonics’ performance with the six instrument strings was such an incredibly executed concept as well. The orchestra of chaos created made it a much more interesting composition with an added layer of depth that cannot be produced otherwise. I perceived an ethereal, electronic-pop sound and vibe from the particular performance piece we viewed in class. The structure with the various musicians sitting around jamming on their one-string instruments seemed to be the solid foundation in the otherwise chaotic atmosphere.

Lastly, this is a little off-topic with my blog but I just wanted to share this version of “Powers of Ten” that I found interesting:

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