Splinterfields: Mathematickal Arts #1

Textiles and mathematics have a long but sometimes easy to ignore shared history. The Mathematickal Arts workshop at FoAM in Brussels last weekend celebrated and brought this history to the fore with Tim Boykett and Carole Collet taking us on an exploration including knots, origami, group theory, mobius strips, donut making, weaving, symmetry, crochet and non-euclidean geometry systems.

This workshop underlined the importance of applying a hypothesis led process to creative work – testing your assumptions, recording experiments well and attempting classification to further understanding and avoid repeating mistakes. Right at the start we were confronted by the strange things that happen when you cut a moebius strip in half, a good reminder of the fragility of intuition and common sense.

As always with FoAM, the food blended seamlessly into the workshop with woven, rolled and knotted dishes being provided by Annabel Meuleman. We also contributed to the sugar intake by making donuts from knotted and pleated dough and observing the transformations undertaken while cooking (and shortly after, eating).

This workshop was one of the first activities connected with the resilients project which is engaged with promoting long term thinking. One of the things we discussed related to this was the way that textiles are used to store memory. For example knots were used as a language in the Inca civilisation in order to communicate using Quipu. Carole also introduced us to Ikat, a weaving technique where warp and weft fibres are tie dyed prior to weaving. This is a very complex process, and the accumulation of slight errors results in a hazy look (It’s known as “abra”, or “cloud” in Central Asia). The knowledge of the precise technique – where to tie the fibre to achieve a desired pattern, are passed down the maternal line from mother to daughter.

Many many more pictures here, and another post soon on what I ended up making.

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