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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

book coverCrang, M. Tristes Entropique: steel, ships and time images for late modernity. In: Rose, G. & Tolia-Kelly, D.P. Visuality/Materiality: Images, Objects and Practices. Ashgate; 2012:59-74.

Author(s) from Durham


There is a long history of thinking about materiality and temporality through flux and flow. The question then is how do we envision such incessant movement? Michel Serres derives this sort of materiality from the physics of Lucretius that sees the apparent stability of the world as an illusion caused by the turbidity of incessant flows, as the flow becomes turbulent it leads to 'vortices in which the atoms combine to form a quasi-stable order’ forming a world out of the myriad combinations of atoms arising from chance encounters so we need to set ‘aside the principles and habits of thinking in terms of solids and treats atoms as the condition for a theory of flow’ (Webb, 2006: 127).

The world is constantly in flow, just some of it at a very slow rate, and full then of nonorganic life as De Landa (1992) argued. Such an approach highlights not things moving through empty space, but the world as becoming-things.

The focus of this essay is though a negative becoming, or a sense of productivity that includes failure, disassembly and destruction. Following the acknowledgement of the crystalline internal irregularities of steel sees them leading to failures as well as strengths, where imperfections in crystalline structures produce both sharpness and brittleness (de Landa, 2008). Rust, breakdown and destruction are immanent propensities of, not exceptions to, the normal state.

Here then we come to the link of the flow and event of things and the moment of visualization – how does that event in its brief happening and lingering image link to the slow happening of inorganic life? It may be worth connecting that slow happening to the notions of entropy – that matter heads towards increasing levels of disorganization – that is, it is things are generally unbecoming.

Department of Geography