Art of mathematical logic

By Lee Woo-young
  • Published : Aug 14, 2014 - 20:49
  • Updated : Aug 14, 2014 - 20:49
For many, the thought of solving math problems doesn’t bring positive feelings, but evokes memories of stress from agonizing over equations.

An exhibition commemorating the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians currently underway in Seoul attempts to ameliorate such discomfort in an artistic way. Instead of equations and graphs, the exhibition “Matrix: Mathematics ― Heart of Gold and the Abyss” features artistic aspects of mathematics in the forms of painting, sculpture, design, media, sound and architecture.

The 11 artworks by 15 artists seek to showcase the aesthetics of mathematics and its application to everyday life. The exhibition uses quotes from Albert Einstein, whose achievements made great contributions to the development of math, to lower the psychological burden of the subject and attract a wider audience. A quote reads: “Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you that mine are still greater.”

A wall painting of mathematical formulae by French artist Bernar Venet compares complicated mathematics to the complex modern information society.

Design studio Random Works visualizes numbers related to the everyday life of Seoul citizens. The numbers on their daily expenditures released by Seoul Metropolitan Government appear on a large screen in the form of three-dimensional graphs and numbers. 
“Saturation with a Large Curve” by Bernar Venet. (MMCA)

Designer and typographer Yoo Ji-won highlights “East Asia mathematics.” She presents mathematical thinking and concepts native to East Asian countries including China and Korea. She begins with comparing Chinese and Korean numerical terms with English ones ― the English words for numerical values are larger than the Asian ones, and the discrepancy grows as the number grows. She presents eye-catching diagrams and old documents that explain the East Asian rules of multiplication and geometric standardization used to measure space.

Duo graphic designers Sulki and Min drew attention to math education in Korea. They regarded the state-administered college entrance exam as the ultimate goal of high school math education and analyzed each problem of the 1997 test, which was notorious for its difficulty. They expressed the results of their analysis on panels in abstract geometric forms and titled them “dedication to the 100-minute performance of solving 30 problems.”

Xavier Veilhan has created sculptures of the standard meter tool used in France in the 18th century. The works trace the history of meter standardization initiated by the French government to unify different measurement units. The French government installed 16 standard meter tools in crowded spots in Paris including the Vendome Square and Vaugirard Street.

The exhibition also screens a film directed by German filmmaker Ekaterina Eremenko on Cedric Villani, the winner of the 2009 Fields Medal, the most prestigious honor in mathematics. Villani and Eremenko will hold a discussion on mathematical thinking and the movie on Aug. 23. The exhibition runs through Jan. 11, 2015.

For more information, call (02) 3701-9500, or visit www.mmca.go.kr.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)