This essay aims to examine the entropic landscape in motion that appears in Floating Island by Robert Smithson, a distinguished earth artist active in the 1970s. Floating Island was a temporary artificial mobile island made with earth, rocks, native trees, and shrubs, towed by a tugboat around Manhattan Island. Smithson attempted to combine his artistic imagination with the theory of science, particularly entropy, a pivotal concept in the second law of thermodynamics while also developing an original idea of his own, namely “dialectics of entropic change” that combined entropy with dialectic. He believed that the dialectic could go beyond entropy and reach toward a continuous ever-changing process, which means that “destruction caused by entropy” is not the end of objects as static or discrete but fluctuating and entangled processes. Smithson’s concept relates to open systems that are antithetical to closed systems that succumb to entropy. Against this backdrop, this paper explores the meanings of entropic landscape in motion based on Floating Island, for which the artist drew inspiration from dreaming of a “mobile” or “moving” Central Park from the perspective of the dialectic of entropic change. Through the island’s movement, which remains elusive from a static viewpoint of a viewer from a central location like Manhattan, Smithson demonstrates how the geopolitical significance and values traditionally ascribed to the city by dichotomous thinking are not immutable truths. The mobility integrated into Floating Island, grounded in the dynamic vitality of nature, draws upon Smithson’s innovative dialectics on entropic change, blurring the boundaries between center (life, structure, city, etc.) and periphery (death, debris, island, etc.) through the set of relationships. This offers a meaningful framework for contemplation on sustainability that transcends the boundaries of dichotomous thinking, particularly resonant in today’s era confronted with climate change.


dialectics of entropic change, entropic landscape, Floating Island, island, mobility, picturesque, Robert Smithson

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)