Katie McCallum

PhD candidate
University of Brighton
Brighton, UK
Mathematics is characterised by a very particular material culture. Chalk and blackboard are enormously important; mathematicians' desks are often covered with scraps of paper covered in notation that is enormously spatial and uses many visual resources. As an artist, I have been experimenting with these forms, animating and exploring them to better understand the affordances of a particular material.
I am working on a practice-based PhD whose objective is the development of an artist's communicative ethnography of research mathematics. The aim of this research is to build up a multimedia picture of mathematics as a field of study that, however abstracted, is nonetheless enacted in dialogue with material and cultural resources. I have been observing and interviewing a variety of mathematician participants, working with the material I record in a way that places emphasis on the roles of interpersonal interactions and physical materials in the communication of cutting-edge mathematics.
Jiggling the tangle
Professor Vaughan Jones
This video takes a page from one of my participants' notes, and animates it. At first the author, a knot theorist, uses drawing as a method of construction, gradually and systematically piecing together the tangle that he will be working with. Then the drawing style shifts; the tangle is redrawn and redrawn, gradually smoothed and manipulated so that its properties can better be perceived by the human eye, a far more aesthetic operation. This shows something of the different functions that drawing can serve in the course of mathematical work.