Mathematics – A Beautiful Elsewhere is a wonderful exhibition created by the combined minds of eight mathematicians and scientists alongside nine artists. The Foundation Cartier also invited ideas from a selection of prestigious scientific institutions such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and Institut Henri Poincaré (IHP).
This exhibition further informs MPDClick’s forecast for the season encompassed in the trend ‘Innovate’ for autumn/winter 11/12 . ‘Innovate’ looks to nature under the microscope, equation inspired formations and calculated designs as keen observation and understanding enables us to learn from past events and push for a formulaic attitude to global advancement.
On the ground floor you walk into The Room of Four Mysteries designed by David Lynch. Dominated by a giant semi-spherical screen – resembling a giant half-grapefruit on legs, artist Beatriz Milhazes has created Mathematical Paradises – a beautiful looped film that explains key mathematical concepts in nature and names the scientists who discovered them, such as Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity.
Our favourites are the series showing those concepts connected to the animal world, such as Bernoulli’s principle of flight, shown here as a parrot swooping through a jungle; his wings and body morphing into 3D planes to show how the equation works. Others explain the iridescence of a peacock’s tail or the skin patterning of a jaguar.
Beatriz Milhazes has also created some beautiful visuals around the irregular patterning that make up the Penrose Tiling theory, as well as Ulam’s Spiral’s prime number theory and Eastern mathematical theories and calculation techniques.
The ground floor also houses The Library of Mysteries, a white structure in the shape of a zero also created by David Lynch. This showcases a chronological virtual library of books selected by Franco-Russian mathematician Misha Gromov to explain the history of mathematics and human thought. Against a soundscape created by Lynch, we move from Heraclitus in 5 BC, through Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein to American physicist Richard P. Feynman. Across the dome appears objects found in the universe arranged according to size: from Planck’s tiniest speck (the smallest conceivable object with a radius of 10ˉ³³ cm) up to the observable universe (a sphere with a radius of 1028 cm).
Head downstairs to see more, including a film by Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret entailed The Joy of Maths. The film allows mathematicians involved in the creation of the exhibition to express themselves in their own words and includes Sir Michael Atiyah, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Carolina Canales González and Giancarlo Lucchini, Alain Connes, Nicole El Karoui, Misha Gromov, Cédric Villani and Don Zagier.
Back upstairs, walk over to a large open egg for Flower Fields: Artifical Curiosity and Language to meet a group of young robots that have been programmed to learn from their environment. Developed by the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA) with the University of Bordeaux/LABRI, over time, the gestures and movements the robots ‘see’ from visitors teaches them to respond positively with a ‘dance’, non-recognition leads to a droop of the head. We failed miserably to make the robots dance – but maybe next time…
Mathematics: A Beautiful Elsewhere at the Fondation Cartier in Paris continues until March 18 2012.
Image credits left to right by row: Artwork by Tadanori Yokoo, (drawing: David Lynch / photos: ESO; © Sebastian Kaulitzki/Fotolia.com); The Room of the Four Mysteries, Photo Olivier Ouadah; Beatriz Milhazes, O Paraiso, 2011. Artwork Beatriz Milhazes; Heat Diffusion (Fourier’s equation), image from the film Mathematical paradises, 2011. Artwork BUF; Bird Flight (Bernoulli’s principle) image from the film Mathematical paradises, 2011. Artwork BUF; The Library of Mysteries, Photo Olivier Ouadah; David Lynch, Galaxy, 2011 © David Lynch; The Joys of Maths, Raymond Depardon & Claudine Nougaret, 2011 (filmed portrait of Cédric Villani)