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Posts Tagged ‘zvonar’

I’ve been back to Linda Dalrymple Henderson’s The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (1983) to check that I wasn’t misremembering her arguments. It’s all in the intro:

‘In the long run, Einstein’s influence was to be far greater than that of Hinton, revolutionizing scientific theory and, after about 1919, the world view of laymen as well. However, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, the idea promulgated by Hinton and many others that space might possess a higher, unseen fourth dimension was the dominant intellectual influence […] the impact of “the fourth dimension” was far more comprehensive than that of Black Holes or any other more recent scientific hypothesis except Relativity Theory after 1919.’ p. ix, my emphasis.

In Appendix B she details how non-euclidean geometry and the fourth dimension weren’t integrated into earlier versions of Relativity, notes that there was no reference to Einstein in cubist literature, and uses the Scientific American essay contest to provide an accessible definition of Relativity to date the popularisation of Einstein’s theory to 1920. So Ms Zvonar has indeed misread, quite spectacularly. Next week: I police some message board comments and wag my finger at the perpetrators. Be sure to come back!

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Cubic addendum

No sooner have I posted the previous, than I’ve come across this interview with the artist Elizabeth Zvonar, who has also constructed some of Hinton’s cubes – from rainbow-coloured glass, no less. I’d realy like to see these, but there aren’t any images of them on the site of the gallery hosting her show, sadly. What images there are look worth investigating further, featuring manipulated photographs and rainbow colour-fields. They seem to recall surrealist photography, so carry through some of the art-historical promise.

It’s exciting that a practising and exhibiting artist is disinterring Hinton’s cubes at the same time as an obsessional dusty-book-head is making some rather shoddy approximations in his part-time post-graduate student’s garrett. It would be fantastic if there were a resurgence of interest in this work, as there was in the late seventies and early eighties when Rucker produced all his 4d stuff, Sinclair wrote White Chappell and Iain McEwan published ‘Solid Geometry’.

That said, I’m not sure Zvonar covers herself in glory in the interview. I think there’s some confusion about Henderson’s book, one of the most important functions of which was to re-establish the pre-Einsteinian spatiality of the fourth dimension.  Henderson’s point is precisely that Relativity wasn’t popularly known until the twenties, and that the Parisian Modernists were reading Poincare and Ouspensky and not Einstein. Priveledging time in this equation recapitualates the mid-century misreadings of the fourth dimension that Henderson’s work so usefully corrected.

But maybe I’ve misremembered. I’ll check. And besides, this is an interview, and not an essay, so ideas are communicated in a much chattier way, and these sound like they could be rather fetching baubles, ironing out some of that distasteful period ‘clunk’ (raises a quizzical eyebrow). Also, Zvonar’s previous shows demonstrate a continued engagement with Modernist art history, and I would like to see more.

For what it’s worth, if I were an artist working into this wonderfully rich field, I’d construct Hinton’s cubes at 24x scale (we’re imperial here, obviously) and from some kind of  highly tactile substance – perhaps memory-foam, a material whose function is only realised when it’s touched – and then forbid audiences from touching them. Or perhaps there’s a material that would be more period appropriate: wax? This would reference other of Hinton’s work. I think the key is to attempt to communicate the ambivalence of these objects, their position on the threshold of the empirical and the ideal, and the promise of transportation they make, not easily accessed.

I’d also like to see a pile of such blocks as high as person, just because. Maybe higher? Maybe I should be thinking 120x scale. Anyone got access to any funding?

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