Mathematical Cognition Embodied in Art Making

We recently discovered a mutual interest in dancing braid and rope into being through several serendipitous meetings. Both Eva and Susan happened to visit textile museums in different places a few years ago (Eva in Sweden, Susan in France) and both were captivated by the ‘dance’ of the bobbins on 18th-19th century machines that produced decorative braids for garments. They shared videos they had both made of these machines in operation. Eva and Susan both have experience of doing folk dances that involve a braiding motion (a ‘hey’ or ‘grand chain’), and discussed the ways that dancers might be able to make actual flat or round braid, in different patterns, through a variety of different movements in a dance.

Eva and James met in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she was giving a presentation at the art university. They discovered a shared interest in using embodied dance movements akin to traditional Maypole dances to create architectural and textile structures through community interactions. James’ interest in linking digital processes to pre-industrial bodily movements echoes Eva's and Susan’s interest in connecting abstract mathematical ideas with visceral bodily movements on various scales.

James writes:

The feeling and rhythm of dance communicate viscerally. The symbolic representations of dance scores communicate by stimulating mental imaginations of the body in space. Folding these poetic vocabularies of dance into the pragmatic activity of architectural communication, our project replaces obtuse architectural instruments with a dynamic oscillation between imagery, movement, and the construction of space.

James' sense of folding metaphoric imagery, bodily movement and abstract architectural ideas in a dynamic oscillation is resonant with Susan's and Eva's educational model of folding bodily movement at different scales with verbal imagery and metaphor, diagrams, and the abstract ideas of mathematics in a dynamic oscillation to promote learning/ understanding.

James' current research explores prototypes for architectural braidings to create permanent architectural elements and structures of cementitious textiles. These small scale prototypes model a process where twelve-foot tall, rigid helical structures can be shaped through community maypole dances. This research involves physical and virtual prototyping that explores the parametric potentials of the helical braiding process to create structures of varied shape, proportion, and density.

Our interest in rope as a practical, beautiful, mathematical art form has been influenced by the very recent work of a handful of artists with similar interest, including Susie Brandt’s Ropewalk and Sharon Kallis’ work on handmade rope.

Susan’s Bridges presentations on the geometry of longsword locks and the two related films that arose from it explore ‘physical algorithms’ through traditional folk dance that produces similar woven forms.

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