^ Notes on Entropy. Installation view courtesy of the artists and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

OTP Review: Notes on Entropy @ Arcadia Missa, Duke Street

A review of Notes on Entropy at Arcadia Missa, 35 Duke Street, Marylebone, London (09/10/20 - 11/12/20). Featuring work by: Jamika Ajalon, Renata Boero, Jesse Darling, Alina Perez, Ser Serpas, Cameron Spratley, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger.

By Eleanor Paine

Creation and entropy; two words whose definitions pull in opposite directions: birth and decay, fruitfulness and decomposition, generation and disorder.


Notes on Entropy, Arcadia Missa’s inaugural winter exhibition, takes root in this troubled terrain. From the seeds of capitalist production and productivity, climate change and social disorder, springs this eclectic collection of works—spanning five decades—which, above all, interrogates what it is to create in times of crisis.

‘The central conundrum of the Anthropocene’, writes Professor Jennifer Fay, is that ‘our collective efforts to make the planet more welcoming, secure, and productive for human flourishing, are precisely the measures that have made this a less hospitable earth’.


With these words, Fay comments on the cruel irony of contemporary society. In an attempt to give order to the wildness of the natural world and fuel a developing economy, humankind has toppled intricate ecosystems, ravaged the fertile land beneath its feet, and set off a chain reaction which, as the science reliably predicts, will spiral into the eventual destruction of our home. So, what of art in the context of this interminable entropy?


^ Ser Serpas, Lickshot dramamine and my ambition flow, 2018, mixed media, 150 x 106 x 17 cm (approx). Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

Ser Serpas’ sculpture work Lickshot dramamine and my ambition flow (2018) responds to this question, constructing the jagged figure of a raincloud from the miscellaneous materials of a modern existence.


Serpas compounds the organic with the artificial in this work: plastic tags and fabric offcuts are sutured together by brightly-coloured strings and ribbons, in an almost cartoonish commentary on waste, excess and climate disorder.

^ Jesse Darling, Virgin Variation 2, 9, 10, 7 & 8, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

With Virgin Variations 2, 9, 10, 7 & 8 (2018), Jesse Darling furthers this commentary on use, disuse and refuse by repurposing found objects to populate the transparent windows of five adjacent lockers.


By assembling fragments into artwork, both Serpas and Darling question whether disorder can be an opportunity for regeneration, and whether this regeneration can be constructive, rather than productive in capitalist terms.


Darling’s vitrines were originally located in the lockers of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where Ursula, the city’s patron saint and the 11,000 holy virgins who accompanied her were barbarically beheaded.


In this memorial to Ursula’s forgotten virgins, whose unnamed remains lie in mass graves beneath the city, Darling considers the intersection between productivity and reproductivity: where the female body is a means of (re)production, and is valued as such.


^ Renata Boero, Cromogramma, 1977, natural elements, canvas, 145 x 85cm. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

Renata Boero’s Cromogramma (1977) also attend to the natural world. The work’s horizontal placement on the gallery floor facilitates direct dialogue with the earth, and the rusted, burnt orange pigment of the tessellated squares carries an almost corroded quality.


This effect is achieved via a series of ritualistic practices: the folding, boiling, and immersion of vegetal elements which are then applied to the canvas.


The artist equates the processes of erosion and corrosion, rusting and rotting, deterioration and decay, with the processes of artistic creation, and in so doing, cites the enduring moment of entropy as an opportunity for renewal.


^ Alina Perez, Untitled (Horse Power), 2020, charcoal on paper, framed, 134 x 104 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

These works engage in open dialogue with the problem of creation, and its fraught relation to productivity in capitalist society. Alina Perez’s Untitled (Horse Power) (2020) explores this both figuratively and conceptually via the use of materials.


The artist’s titular wordplay considers how rates of work and of output are measured in units, but actively refuses them in her depiction of the living figure of the horse, returning to the animal origins of the term.


The artist’s use of charcoal to sketch the creature’s image in smoky grayscale repurposes the fuel of energy production, to create art.


^ Alina Perez, Sending Them Off, 2020, charcoal on paper, framed, 134 x 104 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

Perez’s second charcoal work, Sending Them Off (2020), centres on the figure of a woman, turned away from the gaze of viewer. She kneels, her head placed despondently in her hands. Fallen birds lie dead at her feet, their eyes crudely crossed out.


Beyond her lies a sinister hinterland  of animal carcasses, whose desperately extended wings disintegrate into sooty flames as the eye is drawn up the canvas.


Scored by a barbed-wire fence, this work feels somewhat apocalyptic: the faceless human figure powerless to the ashy rain of death and destruction around her.


^ Cameron Spratley, PRIOR, 2020, Acrylic, flashe, phosphorescent pigment, pearlescent pigment, gouache, glitter, molding paste, collage, colored pencil, and china marker on canvas, 76.20 × 66.04 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

In Cameron Spratley’s mixed-media works, Pamela (2016), PRIOR (2020) and Be Ambitious With Love While Young (2020)—which incorporate acrylic and spray paint, gouache, flashe, collage, glitter, tape, coloured pencil, molding paste, phosphorescent pigment and china markers—it is the viewer who is subject to the multi-sensory experience of disorder.


Here, the artist explores figuration at its most chaotic, capturing the noise of a modern visual world in a sensory onslaught which radiates out of the canvas.


^ Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, 'Universopolis' unbelievable space love, 2020, Oil on canvas and embroidery, Fully extended panels: 250 × 190 cmm. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

‘Universopolis’ unbelievable space love (2020), by Frieda Toranzo Jaeger asks what it means to decentre the human in our view of the universe. Unlike the works of Darling and Serpas, who achieve a similar effect through largely non-figurative means, Jaeger’s work chooses to capture humankind’s travel into space.


Depicting the Earth from this cosmic aspect, Jaeger’s work is profoundly disorientating. It charts an escape from our known physical reality, from our ordered world. The hinged canvas effectively unhinges our ability to relate directly to the image, its winged halves angled obliquely away from us, like the painted panels of a satellite.


Just as it visually deprives the subject of its earthly coordinates, so too does it distort the physical dimensions of the painting. Jaeger’s work exchanges the industrial machinery of the modern metropolis for the space technologies of the ‘universopolis’, questioning the status of the self when removed from the rigid stratifications of power which order modern society.


^ Jamika Ajalon, Cultural Skit-zo-frenia, 1993 [still]. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London.

Jamika Ajalon’s early video work, Cultural Skit-zo-frenia (1993) opens this conversation outwards, as the artist poses the question: ‘how do you identify yourself?’


Captured in the grainy orange glow of a low-resolution camera, figures begin to recount their experience of social categorisation, referring to the arbitrary labels of sex, race, and class which we use to anchor our identity and relate to each other.


Speaking over the laboured trill of a xylophone, the first interviewee aptly summarises: ‘All of us are some little mishmash’. The disintegration of discrete social groups—which cannot contain the film’s subjects, as they themselves articulate—is mirrored by the disintegration of the filmic material itself, as the image quality gradually deteriorates.


In the closing scenes of the film, the camera lingers luxuriously on a burning book, its illegible title consumed by the flames.


^ Notes on Entropy. Installation view courtesy of the artists and Arcadia Missa, London. Photo: Tim Bowditch.

Writing from isolation, I cannot help but read these works as embodying a kind of exquisite liminality. All things break down. All things, therefore, embody entropy.


Hovering somewhere between chaos and regeneration, these works of art consider the politics of creation in an entropic world. In the words of Ernst Fischer: ‘In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.’

London - November, 2020.

See more from Eleanor Paine:


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