Charles and Ray Eames's
goal in creating Mathematica was one shared by many others before
and since: making math fun. Bryan Connell, the Exploratorium's manager
of public programs, thinks the Eames's rare success at this goal
derives from their love of the quirky, magical qualities of math.
"They understood that the façade of rational order and
dry abstraction conceals an exotic, freewheeling, imaginative dynamic
. . . I think that's why [the exhibition] has stood the test of
time." Created in an era before the invention of the personal
computer and the widespread use of digital design tools, Mathematica
anticipated the increasing activity and visual density of information
Mathematica, the Eames's
first museum exhibition, signaled a shift in emphasis that characterized
the last two decades of their careers: a movement away from material
architecture and furniture design to information architecture and
the design of learning environments. They would go on to create
thirteen more exhibitions, the majority of them dealing with science.
They also created dozens of films; Powers of Ten, their best-known,
will be shown at the Exploratorium's McBean theater November 23-25.
Look for more films and lectures focusing on design and the Eames's
work in the spring of 2002.
Oakland artist Bruce
Cannon will be one of several artists contributing works that expand
on the themes of Mathematica. In his sculpture, Ten Things I Can
Count On, Cannon employs computerized counters to mark the passage
of time relative to significant events. One counter tallies the
number of breaths the artist has taken, while another estimates
the breaths he has left. Yet another calculates the average time
viewers spend considering the piece. With this work, Cannon's self-described
goal is "to model the self-destructive futility of our compulsion
Legendary card stacker
Bryan Berg will pay homage to the Eames's modular architectural
tradition by building what promises to be a mighty house of cards
inside the Exploratorium. Berg holds the Guinness World Record for
crafting the tallest house of cards, a towering 24-foot structure
built, like all of his constructions, without tape, glue, bending,
or folding. At the Exploratorium, Berg will construct a weight-bearing
house of cards, squat in stature but designed to support roughly
four tons. For sheer goofiness, it's a stunt the Eames's would surely
To quote Charles Eames,
"One of the best-kept secrets in science is how unpompous scientists
are at their science, and the amount of honest fun that for them
is part of it. In doing an exhibition, as in Mathematica, one deliberately
tries to let the fun out of the bag."
Mathematica: A World
of Numbers and Beyond opens October 6. The exhibition is free with
museum admission. (previous
World of Numbers and Beyond provided by the California Science Center.