If you, like me, totally ballsed up all your maths classes, Japanese composer and artist Ryoji Ikeda has a reassuring message: don’t sweat it, numbers are crazy complicated, so just sit back and appreciate their beauty.
This little show opens with six monochrome panels. At first, they look like photos of TV static, but up close, they’re densely packed patterns of black and white spaces or numbers. Each is based on or represents a mathematical constant, like pi, phi or infinity. By presenting these ideas in such a clustered, unintelligible way, Ikeda is removing the need for knowledge and letting you be awed by the supra-human numerical beauty of nature. Whoa, that’s a lot more fun than maths at school was.
In the next room, he uses strips of binary patterns to represent space and time as long columns of information. They look like spools of some ancient computer code: minimal and cryptic.
If all these ideas of time, space and mathematics sound mindbendingly complex, hold on to your calculator, because the final room here is a wild ride. Nine thigh-high screens spurt out endless reams of data: numbers, 3D grids, flickering patterns. Electronic blips fill the air, pops and hisses swirl past your ears. Ikeda is visualising unimaginable amounts of information. This is data that surrounds us, it’s in our computera, on our phones, in our minds and DNA, it’s the data that is the fabric of the universe.
Ikeda is saying that even when things are reduced down to their primal, minimal, mathematical bare bones – when everything extraneous is stripped away – the sheer volume of information in the universe is still staggering, overwhelming and frighteningly unknowable. But if we take a step back, remove ourselves from the endlessly crashing digital surf and just take it in, all that complexity can be pretty beautiful.