Issue 1: Research Festival

Red Dots, Entropy, and Syntax

in the Textual Shoes of Sandor Krasna1

1 The name of the fictitious cameraman whose imaginary letters read by a female narrator constitute the narration of the film ‘Sans Soleil’ (1983) by Chris Marker.

Part 1. Parting of Ways

When we were animals, we existed in chaos of nature. The world surrounding us posed dangers every minute and the “eat or be eaten” principle defined our fast lives. Instincts2 and laws of nature governed us but were not accessible for us to comprehend or analyse. We didn’t choose it; we were just like a herring gull chick that just hatched and kept on pecking at the red dot on its parent’s bill (Fig.1), and like its gull parent (Fig. 2) who had no choice but only the reflex to regurgitate freshly caught food into the chick’s wide-open mouth (Alcock, 2001).

2 ‘a behavior pattern that appears in fully functional form the first time it performed, even though the animal may have had no previous experience with the cues that elicit the behavior’ – Alcock, J. (2001)

We were wired that way to pay maximum attention and priority only to those stimuli in our environment that were relevant for sustaining and reproducing life (Alcock, 2001). The rest of the stimuli were blissfully ignored.

  • Aren’t you happy?

We yawned3 and parted ways…

 3 a herd instinct which purpose is supposedly to synchronise mood and sleeping patterns in gregarious animals – Wikipedia.

When we stopped being animals, we got bored and created another world. We are the mimetic beings (Aristotle, 1983) and since we knew nothing else but the chaos of nature, this new world was predetermined to turn out a world of chaos too. We imitated nature (Fig. 3) and now on top of the natural chaos we have built our own anthropocenic one4. Red dots replicating red dots (Fig. 4).

4 a proposed geological period characterised by the significant human impact on the planet – Wikipedia

In our mimetic attempts did we double or triple the pre-anthropocenic chaos (Plato, 2015)? How many beds5 and chairs (Fig. 5) are there in the universe after all?

5 Socrates’s metaphor of three beds: one is an idea, one is a real object imitating the idea, one is an image imitating the object (Plato, 2015)

Fig. 5. Joseph Kosuth. One and three chairs. 1965

Or did we multiply it? And by how many times? How far did we remove ourselves from the truth by now (Aristotle, 1983)?

Part 2. Entropy and Order

The Universe unfolds towards chaos. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all closed systems tend to maximize entropy (Clasius, 1987), where entropy is a measure of disorder, randomness, uncertainty, and destruction. The entropy of the universe always increases.

I bathed in the warm waters of the Indian ocean and surfed in the cold waves of the Atlantic6 (Bois and Krauss, 2000). My feet trod on the white beaches of Australia and the black sands of Bali7. In the same shoes. I was bound to mix the white and black sands. Whatever entropy is I added to it and only God knows the size of the carbon footprint that resulted from my actions (I better calculate8).

6 Roger Caillois’s example for entropy: ‘hot and cold water mixing together to settle into a uniformly tepid blandness’ (Bois and Krauss, 2000)

7 Robert Smithson’s metaphor for entropy: mixing the white and black sands by child’s feet (Bois and Krauss, 2000)


Georges Bataille (1929) joked: “In fact, for academic men to be happy, the universe would have to take shape”. We, humans, strive for order, systematic approach, categorisation (Aristotle, 1939). We can’t ignore the masses of stimuli that reach our swollen brains. We can’t cope with the ever-multiplying chaos of nature and the Anthropocene. We can tolerate a mess only to a certain degree and we would preferably limit it to our bedroom (Fig. 6). Otherwise, all we get is the ‘New Order’ song ‘Confusion’ (1983) playing on repeat in our minds (Fig. 7).     

Fig. 6. Tracey Emin. My Bed. 1998
Fig. 7. New Order. Confusion. 1989

We, humans, actively try and establish order. Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich tried to tame entropy in painting (Fig. 8; Fig. 9).

Fig. 8. Piet Mondrian. Composition IV. 1914                 
Fig. 9. Kazimir Malevich. Black Square. 1915

When entropy wins, we break down, we collect the rows of our toys in order of decreasing sizes9 (Fig. 10). We invent new obsessive and compulsive routines10. It feels as if it calms our nerves.

9 A common type of repetitive compulsive behaviour in autistic children.

10 Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might range from light to severe (and life-threatening) behaviours.

Sometimes I skip every other step on stairs on purpose. I always set the alarm for odd minutes (Fig. 11).
Fig. 10. A young autistic boy who has arranged his toys in a row                                                          
Fig. 11. My Alarm Clock. 2022

The only way to fight entropy and stay sane in our universe is to obtain negentropy, i.e. negative entropy. According to Schrödinger (2012), negentropy is a progress of a system towards order and organisation. The degree of entropy in a living system is constantly increasing, and reaching its maximum means death of this system. A living system is an open system. In order to survive it must constantly self-organise through exporting entropy and importing negentropy from the surrounding environment.

Part 3. The Syntax of Dogs

Chomsky (2002) argued that we are genetically predisposed to use language as a mean of communication and that grammar is our innate universal mental ability which we can use regardless of the exact language and even lexicon. Syntax is translated from the Ancient Greek as “coordination, ordering” and governs combinations of words into a text (‘Syntax’, 2020).

And did you know we can build an infinite number of sentences?

One day in 2007 I was walking my dog in a park by a prison in my hometown Perm in Russia (Fig. 12). I suddenly saw life around me as a text and invented a little “dictionary” of my own.

Bataille (1929) said: “A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words, but their tasks”.

Just like I give a task to my dog to fetch or leave it.

Russian was my main language of communication at the time and I formulated a sentence in Russian:

Я выгуливаю мою собаку в парке у тюрьмы.


I’m walking my dog in the park by the prison.

Fig. 12. Me and my dog Terra. 2015

A human (Yulia) is a noun as a part of speech and a subject as a part of a clause.

A dog (Terra) is a participle and a modifier, modifying its subject.

In the Russian language participles have such features as past and present tenses, active and passive voices, perfective and imperfective aspects and they also inflect for cases, genders, and numbers. Dogs in Russia are typically present participles, active or passive, and once in the participle’s lifetime its tense changes to the past.

examples: играющая, ведомый, ушедший

translation: playing, being walked, passed

A park is a modifier of place where nouns bring their participles to connect with them and have them connect with other participles.

A prison is a modifier of place where nouns are placed against their will when their meanings deviate from the norm.

My dog is from a dog shelter where participles are placed when they don’t have or lose a noun to modify. There are also cemeteries, kindergartens, and kennels, societies, and packs, etc.

My mum has two cats. The essence of cats is prepositions, of course.

A cat sleeps IN an armchair.
A cat sits ON my lap.
A cat walks BETWEEN my ankles.
A cat is ON the table – shoo-shoo, not allowed!

Some nouns connect with participles, the others with prepositions. Or both. Some don’t connect with either. They might connect with birds if they wish. What would birds be? Birds might be dots. And rats might be commas we never pay attention to.

In 2008 I moved to Berlin and my brain “switched”11 to the German language. Passing Volkspark Friedrichshein I saw “Hunde” and they turned into specific to the German language constructions – extended attribute phrases which serve as nominal modifiers.

11 Chomsky: we can set ‘switches’ in the brain for any new acquired language (1995).

example: Die von zwei Hunden an beiden Seiten begleitete Frau ging vorbei.

translation: The accompanied-on-either-side-by-two-dogs lady passed by.

In 2010 I moved to Exeter, a town in England surrounded by fields with grazing sheep and dogs barking at them and chasing them, or maybe that was herding. In England my “dog syntax dictionary” expanded to include the gerund12.

12 A nonfinite verb form that in the English language has the properties of both verb and noun and distinguished from present participle.

In English a dog is a present participle but it looks just like a gerund. It acts in a sentence differently though. Gerund acts in a sentence like a noun, it is a subject in its own right. The English found it! The gerund is the true essence of dogs:

playing, barking, herding

Since then, I also spent considerable times in the Czech Republic, Portugal, Australia, and Indonesia:

pes, cão, doggo, anjing.

My “dictionary” turned into a mess of words, parts of speech and clause from different languages. And Bernard Sumner’s13 voice missing every other note sounded in my head:

Confusion. Confusion. Confusion.
You just can't believe me
When I show you what you cannot see.

13 the vocalist and musician of the band ‘New Order”.

As my confusion was being multiplied by the ever-growing mass of linguistic information entering my brain, Wittgenstein’s (2010) proposition number 7 came to my rescue

“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen”

translation: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”.

So, I turned silent and to Derrida (1997) and his sous rature – ‘under erasure’ that taught to learn “to use and erase our language at the same time.”

  • What would you erase?

I would erase some nouns, subjects and objects from my life. Some people. I would even erase entire places from my history. Portugal and Prague, Melbourne and Bali were the modifiers of place where the noun Yulia searched for something that wasn’t there. The presence of missing and the missing of presence. Nevertheless, I would never erase the participles, gerunds, extended attribute phrases I met in those places. Even those that turned from the present to the past tense right in my arms. I want to erase but remember. There is no contradiction. Sandor Krasna wrote: “The function of remembering is not the opposite of forgetting but rather its lining. We do not remember; we rewrite memory as much as history is rewritten” (Marker, 1983).

I am erasing and rewriting.


Memo Akten , Deep Meditations:

Scott Eaton, Contemplating Mass Unemployment II:

Bill Viola:


Rest of images from Rui Tian’s work:


Alcock, J. (2001) Animal Behavoir: An Evolutionary Approach. 7th ed. Sinuaer Associates.

Aristotle. (1983) Poetics. Russian edition.

Aristotle. (1939) The Categories. Russian edition.

Bataille, G. (1929) L’Informe. Documents 1. Available at: 

Bois, Y. and Krauss, R. (2000) Formless: a User’s Guide. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (2002). On Nature and Language. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press.

Clausius, R. (1987). The Mechanical Theory of Heat with its Applications to the Steam Engine and to Physical Properties of Bodies. Russian edition.

Derrida, J. (1997). Of Grammatology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

New Order. Confusion. [CD, single]. New York City: Factory, 1983.

Plato. (2015) The Republic. Russian edition.

Sans Soleil [documentary] Directed by Chris Marker. France, 1983. 100 mins.

Schrödinger, E. (2012). What Is Life?: With Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches. Cambridge University Press.

‘Syntax’ (2020). Wikipedia. Available at

Wittgenstein, L. (2010). Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. London: Cosimo Classics.

About the author

Yulia Rotkina is a contemporary artist based in London. She graduated from MA Fine Art: Sculpture at Camberwell, UAL in 2022.

Her artistic research is centred on themes of time, memory, nature, collective knowledge, as well as post-imperialism and post-socialism.

For contact, / IG