Markus Butkereit's wide-ranging works focus on the presentation of large-scale multimedia installations and actions based on a spectrum of operations between art and society. The main characteristic are system-theoretical questions. It is asked about the structure of systems, dynamics and causal chains, - chain of effects or cause-effect chain. Butkereit is known for detailed and precise finesse that can end in chaos. He builds accessible discussions between people using fundamental laws from quantum physics, physics, society, and spiritualism by building installations on a foundation of absolute and objective reality.

Informed and knowledgeable, Butkereit poses questions about knowledge and speculation, chance and determinism, and order and chaos.



Time and Uncertainty

“Mankind is at a turning point, the beginning of a new rationality in which science is no longer identified with certitude and probability with ignorance.” Ilya Prigogine, The End of Certainty

Physics is considered the most basic of all disciplines. On its foundations, human beings have calculated the movements of the planets, have invented the steam engine, have constructed the atomic bomb. Since physicists seem to have the deepest insight into nature and how nature is constituted, their statements carry weight. Physics offers an explanation for the world.

When Isaac Newton laid the foundations of classical mechanics, he at the same time was suggesting certain definite ideas about time and space. The connection between forces and motion that is described in the Newtonian laws take place in absolute space. The development of a system is predictable. This means that a state is described in the present by the position and the speed of the total points, and can be calculated on the basis of physical laws for both the past and the future. Time, from Isaac Newton onwards and even for Albert Einstein,[1] is always understood as being reversible.

The second law of thermodynamics makes statements about the direction of processes and introduces the principle of irreversibility. The historically oldest formulation, by the German physicist Robert Clausius, declares: “By itself, heat never transfers from a body with a lower temperature to a body with a higher temperature.” In other words, in a closed system left to itself, entropy can never decrease. It can only either increase or remain constant.

The works of Markus Butkereit play with the idea of entropy: in the closed mechanical installations Wall Panel Saw, Stone Magnet, Jackhammer, or Sprinkler – as a measure of disorder –, and in the quasi thermodynamic installations Kitchen Waste, Seesaw, and Balloon – as the degree of uncertainty in the experimental results.

The chemist Ilya Prigogine, who was cited above, carried out research in thermodynamics, the area of science which, using the idea of entropy, introduced the concepts of irreversibility and the Arrow of Time into physics.[2] Very early on, Prigogine noticed the disparity between the Arrow of Time of physics and that of biology and the historical sciences. While physicists view irreversibility and see disintegration, the loss of order and useable energy, biologists and historians view evolution and history and see creativity and the development from the simple to the complex.

In 1977, Prirogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to the thermodynamics of irreversibility, especially for the theory of dissipative structures.[3] In his research, he was able to show points of branching out, known as bifurcations, from which a system could develop in various directions. Which path the system will choose seems, according to our present knowledge, completely up to chance.

Markus Butkereit purposely creates unstable states, but the concept of bifurcation becomes particularly clear in the explosions: an initially unstable system transgresses the threshold of instability, loses its equilibrium, and in the moment of explosion leaps into a completely new unpredictable state.

His irreversible works make time itself the point of focus, not only in the experimental process and the process of formation, but also through classical vanitas motifs like smoke, candles, scraps of food, or the remains of flowers that turn up alongside contemporary symbols of change like infusion bags, broken umbrellas, and – again and again – explosive devices. But not only in the works Wall Panel Saw, Internal Injury, or Purple Rainis it uncertain whether the observer is witnessing disintegration or the coming into being of something completely new.

[1] Even in the theory of relativity, past and future are considered to be identical.

[2] The idea of a definite and directed connection between the past and the future.

[3] Dissipative structures are the phenomenon of self-organizing, dynamic, ordered structures in non-linear systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium.

Text: Iris Hempelmann