According to Kenneth Clark, in his book The Nude: A study in Ideal Form, the arts meant something deeper to the Greeks than mere decoration (although they had plenty of clearly commercialized vase paintings and sculptures available for their mass market). Sculpture was a philosophy; the classical proportional canon was based on geometry. A certain kind of mathematics infused the best of Greek art and gave it a cool, otherworldly beauty. A kind of beauty that is not found today in the ugliness that gets often gets passed off as art.
Somewhere along the line, mathematics and art got separated into opposing camps. And the saddest thing is that art and math (and science too) are so separated in school. A friend of mine has a kid that goes to a high-rent day care and nursery school. At that school they have an “art” room. Of course, I realize it’s practical; kids can be messy as they like in there, and it keeps the rest of the school clean.
But I think it’s sad to segregate the arts like that. Making art becomes something precious rather than part of the everyday warp and weft of life. And I also think it’s sad that there’s no “math” room. And even sadder that math, art, and science are considered separate studies and would have to be in different rooms.
Kids say, “I hate math, I hate science. I’m going to be an artist.” (I said it too. Shame on me.) As if there is a natural chasm between those disciplines. Now that I’m grown up and my brain has finally grown in, I don’t think there has to be such a rift between disciplines. Lately my brain has been hungering for, of all things, math. Go figure.
Cristóbal Vila, at Etérea Studios in Spain has bridged that gulf with this fabulous short film. It’s beautiful even if you don’t have a mathematics background. My mathematician loves this piece, and has explained the math behind it, which makes it even more extraordinarily beautiful. Enjoy.