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IFF Directors Talks

IFF Directors Talks 2012
IFF Directors Talks 2011
IFF Directors Talks 2010
IFF Directors Talks 2009


Previous IFF Lectures

Exhibition Opening and Fractal Unveiling
Doheny Library, University of Southern California
Thursday, September 20, 2012 @ 57pm

A Lecture by Ryan and Trevor Oakes
Sat. September 22, 2012 @ 68pm

Theoretical and Practical Explorations of Space

@ Hayward Gallery, London
June 12–14, 2012

IFF Director Margaret Wertheim speaks at Art Center College of Design
June 22, 2011 @ 7pm
With Dr. Jerry Schubel, President and CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific

Captain Charles Moore Talks About Plastic Trash
[IFF-L22] Saturday Jan 17, 2009

IFF Director Margaret Wertheim
Neuroscience Discussions at the LA Public Library

[IFF-L21] October 2 + November 10, 2008

Seeing Anew [IFF-L20]
A lecture by Trevor and Ryan Oakes
at Machine Project Sunday, June 24 @ 7pm

The Logic Alphabet of Shea Zelleweger[IFF-L19]
A discussion with the IFF and Dr. Shea Zelleweger
at Foshay Masonic Lodge Saturday, March 3 @ 5pm

Structural Considerations of the Business Card Sponge[IFF-L17]
By Dr. Jeannine Mosely
Sunday, September 10 @ 8pm

The Insect Trilogy
@ Telic Arts Exchange
How Flies Fly [IFF-L14]
By Dr Michael Dickinson
The Ecology of a Termite's Gut [IFF-L15]
By Dr Jared Leadbetter
What is it Like to be a Spider? [IFF-L16]
By Dr Simon Pollard

Where the Wild Things Are 2:
A Talk About Knot Theory
By Ken Millett
at The Drawing Center in NY.

Where the Wild Things Are 2
by Ken Millett
at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Things That Think:
A hands-on history of physical computation devices.

by Nick Gessler [IFF-L12]

Where the Wild Things Are:
A Talk about Knot Theory

by Ken Millett [IFF-L11]
at The Foshay Masonic Lodge (Culver City)

Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane:
A conversation on non-euclidean geometry and feminine handicraft

by Dr. Daina Taimina and IFF Director Margaret Wertheim [IFF-L10]

Darwinism on a Desktop:
Sodaplay and the Evolution of a Digital World

by Ed Burton [IFF-L9]

The Logic Alphabet
by Christine Wertheim [IFF-L8]

Why Things Don't Fall Down
A Talk About Tensegrities
by Robert Connelly [IFF-L7]

The Art and Science of Child’s Play

By Norman Brosterman [IFF-L6]

Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane [IFF-L5]
A Talk by David Henderson and Daina Taimina

The Mathematics of Paper Folding [IFF-L4]
by Robert Lang

The Physics of Snowflakes [IFF-L3]
by Kenneth Libbrecht

Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane [IFF-L2]
by Daina Taimina and David Henderson

The Figure That Stands Behind Figures:
Mosaics Of The Mind
by Robert Kaplan


Previous Events

Crochet Hyperbolic Workshop
Proteus Gowanus gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Hyperbolic Crochet Workshop:
a celebration of feminine handicraft and higher geometry and a homage to the disappearing wonder of coral reefs.

at The Institute For Figuring – Special Collections

A workshop on crocheting the hyperbolic plane.
at the Velaslavasay Panorama in Los Angeles.

Theoretical and Practical Explorations of Space

@ Hayward Gallery, London 
June 12–14, 2012

Students constructing business card fractals at the Making Space class in the Hayward Gallery's Wide Open School. Photos © IFF Archive

This summer the Hayward Gallery in London is turning itself into a school. During June and July, 100 artists from around the world, representing more than 40 countries, will give classes, talks and seminars about their artistic practice and the things that inspire them. During the first week of this unusual, international pedagogical experiment, IFF Director Margaret Wertheim will teach three days of intensive classes about concepts of space in physics and mathematics. Morning classes will focus on theory, with afternoons devoted to hands-on exercises using kindergarten-like techniques such as cutting and folding paper.

Read about the classes on Margaret Wertheim's Guardian blog posting

See Event Web Page at the Hayward Gallery

Business card fractal sculpture constructed by students in the IFF's Making Space classes.

Class Schedule - Morning Theoretical Class [10am–12noon]

June 12 - Day 1: Foundational Concepts in Geometry and Topology
Over the past 200 years, mathematicians have developed entire languages for describing spatial structures. The two branches of this field are geometry and topology. In this class we will discuss different types of geometry and the difference between euclidean and non-euclidean geometries. Then we will move on to the subject of topology, ending with a revelation about holes and the topological genus of male and female bodies. 

June 13 - Day 2: What is a Dimension?
What does it mean to say that something has 2 dimensions, or 3? The concept of a dimension is one of the foundational ideas in modern physics. Here we will explore the history of this idea from Descartes to the contemporary concept of multi-dimensional phase space. We will conclude with a look at fractional dimensionality and fractals.

June 14 - Day 3: What is the spatial structure of our Universe.
Does our universe have an architecture? If so what are its geometric and topological properties? Here we will look at the history of Western thinking about the space of physical reality, beginning with the Middle Ages, then working our way though the innovations of Galileo, Newton and Einstein and concluding with ideas about hyperspace and string theory. 

Students construct a model of hyperbolic space in the "Making Space" class at the Hayward Gallery's Wide Open School. Original paper template from a design by Keith Henderson.

Class Schedule - Afternoon Practical Class [2pm–5pm]

June 12 - Day 1: Foundational Concepts in Geometry and Topology
Here we will construct various geometrical and topological forms using paper cutouts. Materials will be supplied. 

June 13 - Day 2: What is a Dimension?
Here we will learn how to make a Level One Menger Sponge fractal out of business cards. This class is based on techniques developed by engineer Dr. Jeannine Mosely, inventor of Business Card Origami. Materials will be supplied.

June 14 - Day 3: What is the spatial structure of our Universe.
We will continue our exploration of fractals using business cards. The class as a whole will be invited to build a business card fractal world. Freeform interpretation will be encouraged.

Margaret explains the medieval concept of space that preceded the modern scientific understanding.

Margaret Wertheim muses about the class and her lifelong interest in space:

"When I was a child I was obsessed with the idea of space and time. Was time an illusion? Did it really exist, or was it just an artifact of our imaginations - or perhaps our language? What about space: What did it mean to say that we existed in space? How could we be in anything that wasn't made of the same stuff as us? Could a body logically be in an empty void? As I lay on the grass under the gum trees in Brisbane I had nowhere to turn for answers to these questions and they led me to dream that when I grew up I would study physics. I didn't really know what "physics" was, but I had read about the theory of relativity in a children's encyclopedia my mother had brought for myself and my siblings. Though I barely understood the words, I knew that Einstein had invented a theory about space and time and I wanted to know what it was.

When I went to university I majored in physics but it wasn't until our final year that we learned about relativity. How on earth did human beings come to see the world this way, I wondered.

This was the 1970's and the history and philosophy of science had yet to reach Queensland as an academic discipline. Eventually I decided that I needed to understand physics in a wider cultural context so I left academe and became a science writer. In my book The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, I set out to trace the historical evolution of Western scientific thinking about space. How did we go from the cosmos of Dante's Divine Comedy, with its endless layers of Heaven and Hell, to the infinite void of Newtonian physics, then the dynamic fabric of general relativity. What I came to realize in researching this book was that our conceptualizing of space is intricately bound up with our concept of ourselves. What we think it means to be human is literally tied to how we think about the space in which we live."

Learn more about The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace.


Making Space - Hayward Gallery
Students construct a business card fractal sculpture by deviating from mathematical perfection and going wild.

Margaret with a hyperbolic model constructed by students in her "Making Space" class at the Hwyward Gallery's Wide Open Schol.

Margaret explains the symmetries inherent a Level One Menger Sponge.

Student discovers symmetries in a Level One Menger Sponge.

A Level Two Viscek fractal constructed by students in the Making Space class at the Hayward Gallery's Wide Open School.