Conceptual Forms


The study of mathematics is thought have begun in ancient India and China. "Zero" and

"infinity" were not so much discoveries as human inventions. The notion of length with no

width is very curious indeed, the pencil line I draw being only an approximation of an

invisible mathematical line. Endeavors in art are also mere approximations, efforts to

render visible unseen realms.

Among the notes Marcel Duchamp left in his Green Box are various mathematical

notations. The Large Glass attempted to throw projections of the unseen fourth

dimension onto our three-dimensional experience, much in the same way that three-

dimensional objects cast shadows onto two-dimensional surfaces.

While not wholly subscribing to the post-Renaissance grationalh scientific regard on the

natural world, I especially appreciate those eighteenth- and nineteenth-century optical

devices and experimental implements that gave visible form to unseen hypotheses. I

have photographed suites of "stereometric exemplars" purchased from the West during

the Meiji era (1868-1911), now preserved by the University of Tokyo. The mathematical

models are sculptural renderings of trigonometric functions; the mechanical models were

teaching aids for showing the dynamics of Industrial Revolution-age machinery. Art

resides even in things with no artistic intentions.



- Hiroshi Sugimoto