Void, Information and Uncertainty, February 2012

Jerzy Michalowicz,2010

The cover image, by the artist Jerzy Michalowicz, is a photograph of the surface of the water in the basin of a fountain. The water surface is churned by the water falling from above. The bottom of the basin is lined with blue (in two shades) little square tiles which create a grid of yellow (the color of the putty between the tiles). The image of the grid at the bottom is deformed and disturbed by the churning water it is seen through. The photograph presents a grid in different degrees of disorder.

The five articles collected in the present issue represent different and separate disciplines (fashion, theater/performance, film/philosophy, physics of information, art of the sublime), each of whom addresses itself, in its own unique way, to a number of motifs, all of which are related, in one way or the other, to information, or, to be more exact, to special states of information. These states are spread along a continuum between two extreme information states: chaos (maximum information), and void/zero (complete absence of information). Furthermore they are created under various distinct historical, ideological and cultural circumstances.

The first article, by Israel Belfer, addresses the penetration of the concept of information into the physical discourse in the second half of the 210th century. Information, which in the past was perceived by scientists as an abstract mathematical entity, has in recent years been posited as a having a real physical quality. A number of physicists hold a view whereby information is a physical entity exactly like entropy. Consequently, it should be attributed with a real ontology, and not just a mathematical-platonic one. Attribution of physical qualities to information is based on principles such as the Erasure Principle of Landauer, the holographic principle in physics, the special qualities of quantum information, etc. In his article Belfer claims that roots of this new view are much deeper than they appear to be and they are philosophical, social, and even aesthetic.

In the second article, "Blind Date with the Other: Emptying out of Seeing in Dialogue in Darkness" the author, Dafna Ben-Shaul, discusses the canonical text by the distinguished Polish theater director and theoretician, Tadeusz Kantor. Dialogue in Darkness is an event aiming at achieving the point of "zero theater", signifying a situation in which blindness and darkness lead the participants to the renewed encounter with the I. The eyes of the participants are covered with blindfold, and they are led and guided through a series of rooms by guides who are themselves blind. This project has gained considerable popularity in various countries, and is seen as crossing geographical spaces and fixed identities. In this case void, or the zero point, is a sensory (no seeing or hearing) deprivation experience which signifies a transition through a dark void into the reality on the other side. By placing the equal sign between darkness and zero, Kantor's performance turns into a voyage as a result of which the participant comes to know himself as a stranger.

In the third article, Shoshanna Rose Marzel addresses the minimalist fashion as signifying erasure of information. In case of the minimalist fashion, this erasure can be brought to an extreme, namely elimination of fashion altogether in the course of reduction down to nothing, the zero point: the paradox of design that destroys itself. According to the author, the rise of an extreme phenomenon such as minimalist fashion is related to both esthetical and ideological considerations, with the latter having served more than once in history as fashion unifiers (China of Mao). These two motifs are pillars on which the minimalist fashion rests.

In Cosmotor and Primary Experiences, the author, Guy Assal, embarks on a multi-track voyage following the idea put forward by the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, which posits an imaginary time machine named "Cosmotor", or cosmic cinema, whose limits are those of memory and time, but which nonetheless is capable of instantaneous leap into possible worlds by breaking through the space-time boundaries of everyday life. The purpose of the "Cosmotor"is to enable "the scientist, the artist and the philosopher" to enter chaos and bring back new information in the form of function, concept or experience. In this fashion cinema generates a new philosophical conceptualization in which (in the screening room) one can "observe the basic elements of the material world: light, picture, movement, and time." In the cinema the viewer experiences a true cosmic experience because he adopts the chaotic point of view of the material world, while gaining new insights about space, movement, and time.

In the fifth article in the current issue, "Apotheosis: Sources of the Sublime in the Artwork of Deganit Berest", the author, Nava Sadeh, fleshes out classical motifs in the work of the contemporary Israeli artist, Deganit Berest, particularly the motif of the sublime in the classical meaning of the term, apotheosis, merging with the divine. The author comes to this understanding of the sublime by analyzing the motif of Icarus and Oddyseus as they incarnate themselves in the figures painted by the painter (especially the swimmer). In both cases the relations with the surrounding chaos are not passive, as is the case of lonely figures in Caspar David Friedrich's paintings, but a means to penetrate the chaos in order to reach the sublime. The chaos is just a channel to the sublime, similarly to the passage through the labyrinth – another important motif in the work of the artist. The unambiguously classical position adopted by Deganit Berest is presented in implied terms as an alternative to the well-known romantic sublime in which awe plays a major role in the sublime experience.

In the article "Conservatism and Innovation in the Course of Evolution – Chapters in the Story and Story about Chapters", the author, Ariel Chipman, discusses the latest developments in the science of evolution. The genomic-molecular revolution of the end of the 20th century accelerated the pace of evolution research. The phylogenetic trees of today are in much higher resolution than what we came to expect from past experience, and make possible new insights into the essence of evolution. Chapman offers several examples of such new insights. It turns out that "convergent evolution" is much more common than thought, and that high complexity can coincide with low complexity, so that more ancient organisms are not necessarily the simplest. According to the author "the more we understand, the more we see the extent of our ignorance, and sheer complexity of the evolutionary processes.
In his text "Future as a Nostalgia Object: The Game of Return of Chris Marker in La Jettee", Igor Shiff outlines the complexity of relations between future and the past, as they appear in a short science fiction film made by Chris Marker. The film, which shows a story of an experiment in time travel after a nuclear apocalypse, is made almost entirely of stills.

The virtual exhibition of Yael Tragan deals with the biometric data bank and the legal debate around it. Yael Tragan attempts to take a new and more positive view of the technology of data banks. According to an imaginary script the biometric data bank will be freed from the control of the establishment and turn into a social network. In so doing, it will become available through the net and open to everyone. Technologies for discovering fingerprints will turn from a means of identification and surveillance of citizens into a household utensil designed for everyday use, whereas the fingerprints accumulating on one's clothes will turn from an incriminating sign into a personal and unique sign.

Shai Abadi's work, 'Troubled Nostalgia', made with electric pencil on OSB plates, resonates with his encounter with German neo-classical sculpture in contemporary Berlin, whose Germanic codes both repelled and captivated the artist.