Moving Through Space

Magdalena Atria, Platonic Solids

Magdalena Atria, Platonic Solids, 2011

Magdalena Atria, Platonic Solids

Magdalena Atria, Platonic Solids, 2011

This past Saturday I caught Magdalena Atria’s MAVI show, “Love and Space” and was thrilled to see these works. Atria actually showed these reed-rendered sculptures a couple of years ago in a show dedicated to platonic solids. As an art historian, I feel the best way to understand platonic solids is through visuals.

Perhaps because of the visual nature of geometry it was the highlight of my mathematical education in high school. I still fondly remember the Icosahedron I made out of neon pink straws and neon green yarn. There’s something deliciously tactile about these shapes, too, that is also appealing. I could watch the great Mexican sculptor Sebastián (aka Enrique Carbajal) play with these objects all day.

I came back to geometry in the most unlikely ways during my PhD exams. Up to that point my graduate studies were very much rooted in conceptual art, collage, and installation art. In an effort to become more well-rounded I designed an exam question on early modernism and fell into the Fourth Dimension. Or rather, floated through it. One of the greatest texts I have ever read is Claude Bragdon’s “A Primer of Higher Space” (1913). His visual explanation of the Fourth Dimension was so instructive and really helped me understand this tricky topic.

Claude Bragdon, Generation of Corresponding Figures, from "A Primer of Higher Space," 1913.

Claude Bragdon, Generation of Corresponding Figures, from “A Primer of Higher Space,” 1913.

Claude Bragdon, Correlations in Form and Space, from "A Primer of Higher Space," 1913.

Claude Bragdon, Correlations in Form and Space, from “A Primer of Higher Space,” 1913.

I also love his visualization of cubes falling through space and the various shapes they make as they cross a plane.

    Claude Bragdon, Cube Traversing a Plane, from "A Primer of Higher Space," 1913.

Claude Bragdon, Cube Traversing a Plane, from “A Primer of Higher Space,” 1913.

Bragdon’s visuals remind me of the School of Valparaíso’s games from the 1970s, notably “Edros y Oides.” In an effort to redesign the wheel faculty and students endeavored to make several geometric shapes roll.

School of Valparaíso, Edros y Oides, Ritoque Beach, 1979. Scanned from Manuel Casanueva's "Libro de juegos." Valparaíso, Chile: e[ad] Ediciones, 2009.

School of Valparaíso, Edros y Oides, Ritoque Beach, 1979. Scanned from Manuel Casanueva’s “Libro de Torneos.” Valparaíso, Chile: e[ad] Ediciones, 2009.

School of Valparaíso, Edros y Oides, Ritoque Beach, 1979. Scanned from Manuel Casanueva's "Libro de juegos." Valparaíso, Chile: e[ad] Ediciones, 2009.

School of Valparaíso, Edros y Oides, Ritoque Beach, 1979. Scanned from Manuel Casanueva’s “Libro de Torneos.” Valparaíso, Chile: e[ad] Ediciones, 2009.

I can’t help but think of Bragdon when I visualize the shapes carving shapes through the salty air. The School’s experiment also reminds me of Theo Jansen’s “Strandbeests.”

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