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Human Mathematics - Oaxaca

Human Mathematics, Oaxaca-Mexico November 2014

 

Human Mathematics is an artistic/alternative drawing methodology that serves to make abstract/mathematical art. Formal, factual, or personal data can be used in this technique to abstract information, or data into graphics. Subjective rules, and arbitrariness play an important role, which are influenced by time, space, and socio-economic context.

Various Artists developed a workshop to share this technique with other artists, or students. The workshop is lead by Marcella.B and Martaque (who are part of the Various Artists collective), and consists of a more theoretical part (explaining the technique and going deeper in Human Mathematics examples by Various Artists) and a hands-on workshop where participants are guided to make their own Human Maths piece.

The innovative aspect of Human Mathematics lies in its ability to render geometrical art human, complex, and unpredictable. This drawing technique combines the abstract, and the Devine aspects of mathematics with the variables of databased statistics as a mean to integrate research data in a multi-layered artwork.

The predictiveness of formula based Mathematical arts, and the overly informative aspects of Datagraphics are neutralised into new forms of data visualisation.

It is a method to integrate (artistic, or personal) research data in a multi-layered visual artwork.

 

From 4 until 21 November, Various Artists will work in Oaxaca Mexico presenting Human Mathematics in the Textile Museum of Oaxaca. Five students textile design from KASK Gent were selected earlier this year to join this journey and collaborate in the project. Another six artists were selected in Oaxaca to participate at the workshop that is located at the textile museum.

Where the resulting works will be shown in February 2015.

 
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First days in Oaxaca

Five students textile design, their school coordinator, and the collective Various Artists set out for the artistic project Human Mathematics by Various Artists in Oaxaca Mexico in collaboration with KASK and Museo de Textil de Oaxaca. After traveling for 26 hours we made it to Oaxaca. The students will stay at Casa Porras during this three week endeavour. Daniela Porras, and Luis Canseco, two Oaxacan artists, were hosting this production program. They opened up their studio Colorum for us to work, and showed us around in search for inspirations. First they took us to the archaeological site of Monte Alban, and El Tule, the oldest tree of South America.

 

During this first weekend of November Mexicans celebrate Day of the Dead, which is a unique experience to witness. The newcomers in Oaxaca learn all about the festivities in the city, and surroundings: the altars, people dressed up as dead or scary characters, the fully decorated cemetery, etc. Saturday evening we visited the town of San Augustin for a 24 hours feasting with theatre plays, music and dancing.

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First week in Oaxaca

It's great to be able to work outside in the back yard of Colorum. The impressions of Oaxaca have sunken in, it's time to process them into designs, ideas, and works, mixing individual work with local influences, and materials. While Various Artists are producing some pieces to demonstrate Human Mathematics.

A field trip to one of the Walmarts outward of the city centre makes us realise that this mono cultured, made in China shopping experience is the utter opposite of what the centre of Oaxaca with the markets, small shops, and cultural products has to offer.
We payed for a tour in the Ethnobotanical Garden which maintains a big collection of native plants, and is part of the cultural centre of Santo Domingo, a Dominican convent that was constructed in the 16th and 17th century. In 2012 we organised an exhibition in the garden as part of the international project EITC, of which there are still traces to be found in the garden..
Thursday we visited Doña Viviana Alavés in Teotitlan del Vale, a small town known for it’s many weavers. Various Artists commissioned from her son Don José a carpet made of cochinilla coloured red wool. The tapestry looks gigantic when Don Jose is posing in front of it. Doña Viviana, and her family are famous for the ceremonial candles they make. She gave us a demonstration of how she makes the bee wax flowers to decorate the candles with.

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Tlacolula, Quetzalli, Mezcal

On Sunday we drive to Tlacolula de Matamoros. Artisans and merchants from the neighbouring towns gather here on Sunday to sell their products to locals. Almost everything is for sale here: foods, furniture, horse saddles, animals, pottery, etc.... We collect some material we could use for our Human Maths works. 

 

The next day we meet Hector Lozano and Eric Chavez Santiago, the director and head of the education department of the textile museum. They are excited about the Human Mathematics project and we share our thoughts on the exhibition in February that will show the results of this workshop. 

Later that day we have a meeting with Emilia Sandoval, a local artist who would like to participate, but unfortunately does not have the possibility to be there during the week of the workshop. She will follow up on the workshop online. To get to know her work a bit, she invites us to visit her gallery Bodega Quetzalli in the centre of Oaxaca. The gallery already exists since 1986 and represents more then 25 artists from Oaxaca, including Luis Canseco from Colorum. 

After this visit we go to the Teatro Macedonio Alcala for a presentation of two video works by Melanie Smith, who represented Mexico at the Biennial of Venice in 2011.

 

On Tuesday we visit the Mezcaloteca, where the students get an extended introduction to mezcal, how and where it’s produced, how to drink it, and recognising the various flavours.

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In Teotitlan del Vale, Mariano Sosa, who is part of the cooperation Arttextil Zapoteco explains us in detail how and why they color their wool with natural dyes like cochinilla, indigo, etc. The cooperation has about 35 weavers from twelve families. Their goal is to have a fully independent and sustainable production of their own dyes. They have a small piece of land outside of the town where they grow their own plants for the colors they need for their wool. It will take more time to become fully independent, but the determination is there and the cooperation is convinced not to use chemicals to dye their textiles.

 

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Projects of the students - Week 1&2

What were the textile design students working on during their first two weeks in Oaxaca?

Sophie explores how textiles can be used in the public space. After a work already produced in Belgium - a newspaper blanket - she started to make a Mexican version. Given that protest and censorship are omnipresent in the public space in the city, she experimented with accentuating and coding local newspapers. Marking parts of texts and images with color or folding on the basis of the city map of Oaxaca, are some examples of the Human Mathematics she applied.

Joanna created an interactive game in Oaxaca that relates to her artistic research on connections and materials that are used to make brushes with. The players can make a "totem" or small sculpture using the rules Joanna sets out in the game: different types of brushes or combs and dice. One die determines for example which colors can be connected with each other. The codes attached to the numbers of the dice in combination with chance or coincidence are the starting points for this Human Mathematics work.

Babs uses as maps of magnetic fields around the earth as the starting point for her work. Different maps are combined and connected to each other in a new drawing. This drawing represents the pattern for a textile piece, made with a homemade back-loom. The threads and colors are decided by personal rules during the weaving process. This ensures that this textile can only be made by a human and not by a machine.

Mathilde focuses on knitting in Oaxaca, following her investigation in Ghent about comforting textiles. Her inspiration from the local context of Oaxaca is translated into patterns for knitting. She experimented with different stitches, materials, processes and applications, and the scale of the works. The patterns are the Human Mathematics aspect and determines the choice of stitch, material or application.

Janne studies in her last bachelor year the movements of humans. She explored during the first two week stay in Oaxaca a way to take the structure of a woven fabric as a starting point to move through the city. The following walks were documented and then translated into a new pattern for a woven textile. The movement of the person and the subjective documentation of the walks through the town, are the Human Mathematic aspects of this study.

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Workshop Day 1

DAY 1 INTRODUCTIONS

The first day all participants were invited to present themselves and their work, and their reason to participate at the workshop. Then Various Artists presented his work and the method Human Mathematics. The term Human Mathematics was invented by Various Artists, but the philosophy or method of working has been existing for a long time.
Human Mathematics brings mathematical art and data graphics together. 

Mathematical art is abstract and formula based, and therefor the outcome is predictive. 

Data graphics are based on statistics and data. These methods of (re)presentation already existed since mankind transfers information through images or illustrations. Data Graphics can be made with any data, but they remain explicit, and we rarely call it abstract. 

Within Human Mathematics we combine the two, mathematical art and data graphics, to make abstract art with a meaning, mostly hidden. You can use it to encode information, but also to enrich and to bring more layers of meaning into abstract art. 

 

EXERCISE #1 : Weaving on a comb

As a first exercise the participants get to weave on a comb and bring human mathematics in their work. 

Any comb and any thread could be used to weave, but the result needed to contain inserted information. This could be done randomly using a dice for example, or inserting a human error, or selecting data beforehand used for the weaving pattern.

The participants had to document their process so they could present the information they inserted to the others.

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Workshop Day 2

DAY 2 STICK TO THE RULES

The second day there were four exercises, two collective and two individual. The topic of the day was to ’stick to the rules’ and focus on abstraction.

The first exercises of the day were collective. The participants were divided in three groups with four people. The exercise was about following the rules very meticulously. When they stuck to the rules carefully, they were able to create two HM posters with the group.

 

EXCERSICE #2 : Dots

1/ First turn: Place a dot on the paper

2/ Following turns: Place a dot in the center of the largest empty space on the paper

3/ Stop drawing when you decide the paper is full.

 

EXERCISE #3 : Knots

1/ First round, first player: Draw a line (of between 5-10 cm) anywhere on the paper.

2/ First round, remaining three players: Draw a line by looping it over and under line of another color.

3/ Following turns: Elongate your line on both ends by looping it over and under a line of another color.

3.1/ You may not loop your own line.

3.2/ You may not loop a line from a previous turn.

3.3/ When no option are left on one of the ends, that end is dead.

3.4/ When both ends are dead, you may start with a new line.

4/ Stop drawing when you are fully entangled.

 

 

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Workshop Day 3

DAY 3 KILL YOUR DARLINGS

On the third day Els Huygelen gave a presentation of the textile design department of KASK in Ghent.

Various Artists introduced the various techniques they use to make Human Mathematics work. Five techniques are proposed that are all practiced by different Various Artists.

- fragmentation (e.g. cutting)

- erase (e.g. abrade)

- accentuate (e.g. marking)

- undo (e.g. go to the original structure)

- omission (e.g. take away things)

All participants were invited to bring materials that they usually work with and apply one of the techniques.

Next to that they had to keep in mind the Human Mathematics method and insert information in their work. 

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Workshop Day 4

DAY 4 APPLY HUMAN MATHEMATICS

Various Artists presented two projects that both deal with Human Mathematics: Zea Mays, a socially engaged project about the future of the corn plant in Mexico; and Tour de France, the cyclist competition in France of which Various Artist used the data to make several abstract art pieces.

 

The participants of the workshop were now invited to apply Human Mathematics in their own work. The main focus of the day was to select data and to translate this information into their own work.

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Workshop Day 5

DAY 5 WHAT’S NEXT?

The last day of the workshop all participants continued with their own works and translation processes of Human Mathematics. Various Artists looked with everybody individually how the process was going. 

Finally everybody presented the work they were working on the last days to the group explaining how Human Mathematics could be used in their work.

We also spoke about the exhibition Human Mathematics that will follow in February where the artists are able to present work that illustrates the method they learned at the workshop.