Elizabeth McTernan and Luke Wolcott

Artist (McTernan); Mathematics Postdoctoral Fellow (Wolcott)
University of Western Ontario (Wolcott)
Berlin, Germany (McTernan); Lisbon, Portugal (Wolcott)

Elizabeth McTernan, an artist, and Luke Wolcott, a mathematician, have been working together on math, and art, and math-art, for over a decade. Their projects have taken them through the fjords of Norway, across the US, deep into the wilderness of Washington State, along the Trans-Siberian railway in Russia, and out into the Gobi desert in Mongolia. They have brainstormed over cups of coffee in Seattle, NYC, Lisbon, Berlin, Stockholm, Irkutsk, Beijing, and Sendai.

Sometimes the artist contributes insight into the creative and non-rational aspects of the process of the mathematician. Sometimes the mathematician provides mathematical consultation on the art pieces.

In the last few years, however, they have begun to aim for honest math-art collaborations -- works that engage both contemporary math and contemporary art, in an integration that seeks to transcend and include both.

24" x 24"
Ink on paper, plexiglass, magnifying dome lens.

Telescope consists of a framed 24"x24" printed array of four images, laid flat and deliberately printed too small for the naked eye to decipher. A movable magnifying dome lens is placed on the surface of the print so the individual viewer can navigate and examine the page part by part. The print is accompanied by a 12-page stapled document – a fatally flawed preprint, written by Wolcott after hundreds of hours of solitary research, and ready for journal submission but for one incorrect line. The work, in homological algebra, hinged on the construction of a mathematical object called a telescope, denoted Tel.

The four images are four representations of Tel. Two of them point to its objective dimension, a referent in formalism and visual language. The other two, texts, point to the human experience of Tel. In this larger math-art theoretical space, Tel is reclaimed as a tool for critiquing mathematical ontology and reevaluating the terms of engagement of creative production.