Final draft version. Printed version is available here.
Mathematics and Art at Bridges/ISAMA 2003
Review by George W. Hart
Dept. Computer Science
Stony Brook University
The International Society of Art, Mathematics, and Architecture (ISAMA) conference and Bridges: Mathematical Connections Between Art, Music, and Science are inspiring forums which bring together people who love mathematics and art. A vibrant community meets annually to share ideas, show off new works, and recharge their inventive energies. To such people, art and mathematics is a single subject, a creative, intellectual, enriching, and worthy study of patterns and relationships in sensual form. Every mathematical topic, including chaos theory, non-Euclidean geometry, polynomials, and tangrams, and every form of art, including architecture, origami, pentatonic scales, poetry, and sundials, is welcome at these interdisciplinary gatherings.
mathematics has been central to the liberal arts for over 2000 years,
renaissance artists and architects considered mathematics absolutely
to their crafts, our popular culture of the past 100 years has largely
track of these relations. So conferences which celebrate the links
and art help restore a great intellectual tradition. The grandfather of
recent meetings is Michele Emmer, the Italian mathematics professor and
maker who has been a seminal impresario of math and art conferences in
Figure 1. Take-apart sculpture by Rinus Roelofs
July 2003 Meeting
The 588 page conference proceedings is an attractive book containing sixty five papers and thirty abstracts. While the talks extended to complex variable theory and a feminist deconstruction of philosophy of mathematics, the bulk of the work focuses on things which are simply beautiful to perceive and think about: artworks inspired by mathematics and mathematical results inspired by art. And doubly creative, there are many contributions which are simultaneously original mathematics and original art.
so many excellent offerings, I can only adumbrate a few of my favorites
evoke the richness of the goings on: Manuel Baez presented large
sculptures assembled from sticks, influenced by Louis Sullivan. Jay
an analysis of Islamic geometric ornament illustrating multi-level
self-similarities. Claude Bruter showed
designs for a mathematical village and fountain being erected to
ideas such as energy minimization and bifurcation. Jean-Marc Castera demonstrated a lucid construction for
the elaborate muqarnas (carved wooden
ceilings) at the
Figure 2. Origami box by Chris Palmer
Palmer presented dynamic mandala-like
ingenious geometric origami partly based on designs he studied while
six months in a cave outside the
An exhibit room allowed attendees to spend three days appreciating in depth many of the artifacts mentioned above plus a wide range of other works brought by the attendees. This included playful tessellations of pinned beetles by Jennifer Angus, origami jewelry folded from sheets of silver by Fred Bryant, three-dimensional stone mosaics based on hyperbolic tilings by Irene Rousseau, multilayered textile constructions by Beninga Chilla, a patterned paper scroll by Susan Happersett, ornamented zonohedral dome models by Marc Pelletier, and paper polyhedra by Magnus Wenninger. Out in the lobby was a large construction made of kite-like multicolored cloth triangles by Eva Knoll and Simon Morgan. In addition, a concert performance of Tessellations composed and improvisationally performed on the piano by Veryan Weston provided a musical highlight one evening.
Figure 3. Bottom-up view of novel tower structure by Akio Hizume
Splendid as the presentations and artifacts were, the best thing about these conferences is always the people. Elsewhere one might find two cultures of narrowly focused artists and mathematicians who would claim little interest in the other's field, but here one has a chance to chat with convivial multidisciplinarians who love to share their expertise. Anyone who enjoys a visual mode of thinking is certain to enjoy the experience of attending these conferences, which are especially valuable opportunities for creative educators looking for ideas to enhance the curriculum. There were many examples of how art and math may each be used as a hook to engage and enrich students.
Grateful recognition must be given to the many organizers for putting together such an outstanding event and permanent proceedings record, especially to Reza Sarhangi for overall organization, Carlo Sequin for editing, Javier Barrallo, Juan Antonio Maldonado and Jose Martinez Aroza for local arrangements, and Nat Friedman and Beninga Chilla for curating the exhibit.
his opening remarks at For
further information on this and past conferences, see:
For further information on this and past conferences, see: