This Friday and Saturday, the University’s Geometry Lab will be holding MoSAIC (Mathematics of Science, Art, Industry and Culture) Festival. Through speakers, interactive workshops, video screenings and an art exhibition, attendees will be able to explore mathematics and art through a different perspective. The festival is free to attend and open to the public.
“This is an event to showcase the connections between math and art, which is a very interesting topic,” said Jayadev Athreya, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University and lead organizer of its MoSAIC Festival.
Speakers and workshops will inform students from sixth grade and older on topics that vary from logo designs to the mathematics of snowflakes.
“The hands-on workshops are going to be phenomenal,” Athreya said. Here, participants will be able to have an interactive experience and produce their own mathematical art. “This shows the creativity that goes into mathematics,” Athreya said. “It’s not something figured out thousands of years ago, but it is alive, living and breathing.”
An art exhibition is taking place in the Illini Union this Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Art featured here are by nationally recognized artists as well as local art created on campus. The speakers will include a group of dynamic professors and researchers.
“I can guarantee that you’re going to have some dynamite speakers,” Athreya said. “These will be at the level of TED Talks or even better.”
Judy Holdener, Associate Professor of Mathematics at Kenyon College and Illinois alumna, will be speaking at MoSAIC on the divergence of sinusoidal vector fields. “I used the divergence of a vector field to produce black and white symmetric patterns that are reminiscent of some of the African patterns you might see on weavings and textiles,” Holdener said. “I encountered them sort of by accident when I was playing with this notion of the divergence of the vector field.” A product of procrastination, Holdener joked, is now a discovery that creates an interesting kind of art.
Holdener will also be leading a workshop entitled “Fun with Iterative Balloon-Twisting,” in which the kind of balloon art usually reserved for clowns will be a way for participants to bring math into the picture. Holdener said participants will learn more about the iteration process as well as get to be a part of a group effort to create a unique piece of mathematical art.
“I think it will be nice in that they will be able to experience the process themselves and they will create it,” Holdener said. “When you look at the intersection of math and art, some of the beauty of math becomes apparent to people who maybe don’t understand the language of math. Looking at projects related to math and art, you get an opportunity to reveal it to those who can’t see it when they look at a sequence of symbols.”
Bob Bosch, Professor of Natural Science at Oberlin College, will be speaking on the topic of “self-imposed constraints in visual art: mathematical optimization approaches.”
“I am both a mathematician and an artist. The mathematician in me is fascinated with the roles that constraints play in mathematical optimization problems. Sometimes they make problems much harder to solve; other times, much easier,” Bosch said. “The artist in me is fascinated by the roles that constraints play in art. All artists must deal with constraints, but many artists choose to impose constraints upon themselves.”
Bosch hopes that students will be surprised to see the relationship between mathematics and art and how well they work together. “I hope that after attending talks and workshops, these students will consider this to be an entirely natural, interesting and tremendously fun thing to do,” he said.
The MoSAIC Festival is made possible by the group efforts of the Illinois Geometry Lab, the Department of Mathematics and the University Office of Public Engagement.
The Illinois Geometry Lab is a branch of the Department of Mathematics at the University that promotes research and outreach programs in geometry. It was founded in 2011 by Anton Lukyanenko and Athreya, who currently serves as its director.
They first applied to host the festival last January, and emphasized on their application the University’s rich history of developing connections between math and art. Athreya said this is evident just walking through Altgeld Hall, where you see art in the form of sculptures and images.
“It’s been quite a bit of work,” Athreya said. “I am really confident that it will be worth it.” He said that the past few months have been intense in preparation for the event, but they feel very lucky to be able to host the festival.
MoSAIC is a national organization funded by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute that works to administer festivals and conferences to places around the country and world. It is put together by the Bridges Organization, which holds conferences around the world that are larger versions of MoSAIC festivals and emphasize the connection between math and art through a variety of ways.
“Math is not a bunch of equations on a page; it’s a systematic way of recognizing patterns,” Athreya said. In the same way, Athreya says, art and music are largely focused on recognizing patterns. “My words can only do so much, but when you see it, you really get a sense, even if it’s not completely clear on a page,” he said.
Events will be taking place in Altgeld Hall with the exception of the art exhibition in the Illini Union. For more information and a full schedule of speakers and events, visit http://math.illinois.edu/MOSAIC.