Multiverse, multichorus


^ A detail from an etching made by me with the help of Scott Kolbo and a group of students for the inaugural print residency at Seattle Pacific in 2014: “230 of an infinite number of possible universes,” and…string_dimensions

^…an illustration based in super string theory found here.

It occurs to me slowly that my art practice as it relates to science is not unlike the way that I have spent my life collecting, keeping, storing, packing and displaying rocks I find and like. These rocks do not end up in gridded boxes with identifying markers (though I do like that natural history museum aesthetic), but instead get shoveled into bowls and lined along window sills, funneled into glass jars with other curiosities– rubber toys and unidentified mechanical parts– charms and seeds and coins. I have collected them because I like how they feel in my hand– or their opaque luminosity or their unusual shape or texture– without, to be honest, thinking much about their classification. Theories or principles in mathematics and science are collected by a similar aesthetic process. I collect ideas that I like in my hand– the ones that give the world a shift of perspective and a “freshness deep down” (a la Gerard Manley Hopkins).

The print at top is a direct example of this mode– I love to think about the possibility of the multiverse, and the way it falls into my hand becomes a stream-of-consciousness free write imagining the shapes of unborn universes. It is not likely to be used as an illustration for hard science, dear reader, since it contains, in addition to string-theory-like forms, universe seeds that look like fried eggs or walnuts, or like 1950s decorative linoleum.

Bathsheba Grossman allows herself to dream around math as well, but some of her 3D printed sculptures are so wedded to “pure math” and so stunning that I wish I were more committed to the irresistible linkages between disciplines. Alas, my mind wanders, and there I am in class, doodling in the margins.

Bathsheba Grossman
Bathsheba Grossman

Here’s her description of the piece above:

“This is one of a delightful class of objects known as Seifert surfaces. Every knot and link (in mathematics knots are closed loops, links are assemblages of knots) has a continuous surface which it is the edge of […] These surfaces are often beautiful, especially for symmetrical knots and links, and here I’ve produced one of the sweeter ones. This surface has three edges, each a simple closed loop, which are locked together in an ancient form xcalled the Borromean Rings. Named after its use in an Italian coat of arms, these three rings are locked together inextricably although no two of them are linked. Their Seifert surface twists through the loops smoothly and gracefully, and I’m very happy with the organic mesh. It’s wide enough to let light through, while responding sensitively to the curvature and giving a tactile texture.”

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