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the proof
2008

A project by David Colosi

The Proof was made possible by Swing Space, a program of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, generously supported by the September 11th Fund and presented in the Project Space which was generously donated by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. 
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council
Project Space
125 Maiden Lane, 2nd Floor
(between Pearl and Water St.)
New York, NY 10038
212-219-9401

http://www.lmcc.net
Viewing hours:  Tuesday, October 7 – Saturday, October 11, 2008, from 11-7pm
Reception:  Thursday, October 9, 2008, 6-8:30/9pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 2008

Talking about Raymond Queneau’s work in the Oulipo and his own, Jacques Roubaud said, “To be a mathematician, first one must be a reader of mathematics: its games; its history; its anecdotes; its madmen.  Such readings stimulate the imagination.”  David Colosi’s latest work of three-dimensional literature, The Proof, is the product of just such a stimulated imagination.

Inspired by the story of Andrew Wiles and his imaginative intra- and interdisciplinary proof of Fermat’s last theorem, Colosi has constructed a dark labyrinthine space which doubles as the interior of a mathematical equation and the laboratory used for its generation.  Wiles described his experience of mathematics in terms of entering a dark mansion.  “One goes into the first room, and it’s dark, completely dark.  One stumbles around bumping into the furniture.  Gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is, and finally after six months or so, you find a light switch, you turn it on and suddenly it’s all illuminated.  You can see exactly where you were.”  This aptly describes the space Colosi has constructed and his process of construction.

Evidence of the physical and intellectual labor of a mathematician fills the room: chalkboards scribbled with notes line the walls and carve the space as active scientific equipment clutters this abandoned room.  The first sign the viewer encounters – replacing the “Welcome” mat or the “Yes, We’re Open” sign – reads:  “Let (the viewer) = X”.  As the viewer puzzles through this environment, several questions come to mind: who occupied this space; why was it abandoned; what, exactly, is trying to be proven; where does it begin; and is the proof complete? 

The writing on the various chalkboards offers clues to understanding.  One reads, “Set out to prove the following: Implications[Fermat’s Last Theorem + Wittgenstein’s Joke Conjecture = God is human-made].”  All of the boards are filled with names, citations, theories, and narratives of mathematicians like Galois, Euler, Kronecker, Wiles, Pascal, Hilbert, and Gödel; literary figures like Diderot, E.B. White, Primo Levi, and Roubaud; religious theorists like Aquinas, Augustine, Anselm; atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett; artists like Joseph Beuys, Gary Simmons, and Ilya Kabakov; and philosophers like Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Hobbes, Bergson, Eco, Kant, Freud, and Descartes.

The floor as the foundation from which the equation is built consists of a black geometric grid where each box is labeled in chalk with a prime number in one corner, an element from the periodic table in the other, and the name of a God in the center.  As a result of the execution of The Proof and the viewers’ traffic, these markings become erased with time.  The names of deceased gods (taken from H.L. Mencken’s memorial to dead gods, Memorial Service) are in the most accessible locations and vanish quickly, but today’s current Gods are in the hard-to-reach places.  Presumably, with more work, time, and traffic, all will eventually be erased.

The objects of mathematical calculation share this environment with the viewer.  Mathematical symbols, as if having leapt out from the chalkboards, sit in the space awaiting the viewers’ call to act.  Do they carry their meanings and establish relationships within the physical field, or are they defunct mathematical signs ripped from their signifieds?  At the exit the same sign, “Let (the Viewer) = X”, reminds viewers that The Proof, like any mathematical calculation, requires both their action and participation in order to function.

Colosi’s interdisciplinary work leaves as its artistic product not the visual detritus of a narrative space, but art as a gas that lingers.  Mathematicians say that a good mathematical problem is defined by the mathematics it generates rather than the problem itself.  The Proof, likewise, as a work of art, will be judged by the same standard.

The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
 
 
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
The Proof, First Laboratory, LMCC, David Colosi
 
WORKS CONSULTED
  • Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland. NY: Dover Publications Inc., 1952.
  • Aczel, Amir D. The Artist and the Mathematician: The Story of Nicolas Bourbaki, the Genius Mathematician Who Never Existed. NY: Thunders Mouth Press, 2006.
  • ---. Fermat’s Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem. NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996. 
  • Benjamin, Arthur T. The Joy of Mathematics. (DVD) Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2007.
  • Critchley, Simon. On Humor. London: Routledge, 2002.
  • Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. NY: First Mariner Books, 2008.
  • Dennett, Daniel. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. NY: Penguin Books, 2006.
  • Diamond, Cora.  Wittgenstein’s Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics, Cambridge 1939. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1976.
  • Dunn, Mark. Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters. NY: Anchor Books, 2001.
  • Eco, Umberto. The Limits of Interpretation. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994.
  • ---. A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1976.
  • Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1961.
  • ---. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1960.
  • Goldstein, Rebecca.  Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005.
  • Harris, Sam.  The End of Faith:  Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.
  • ---. Letter to a Christian Nation. NY: Vintage Books, 2008.
  • Hawking, Stephen.  A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes. NY: Bantam Books, 1990.
  • ---.  Stephen Hawking’s Universe. (DVD) London, NY: BBC & PBS, 1997.
  • Hitchens, Christopher.  god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. NY: Twelve, 2007.
  • ---. The Missionary Position. London & NY: Verso, 1995.
  • ---. Letters to a Young Contrarian. UK: Perseus Press, 2001.
  • ---. The Portable Atheist. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2007.
  • Hoffman, Paul. The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth. NY: Hyperion, 1998.
  • Jeffers, Oliver and Hugh Morrison. Additional Information. self-published edition, 2006.
  • Karatani, Kojin. Architecture as Metaphor. Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
  • Levi, Primo. The Periodic Table. NY: Schocken Books, 1984.
  • Morreall, John, ed. The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987.
  • ---. Taking Laughter Seriously. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983.
  • Motte, Warren.  Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature. Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 1986.
  • Nagel, Ernest and James R. Newman.  Gödel’s Proof.  NY: New York University Press, 2001.
  • Pascal, Blaise. Pensées. London: Penguin, 1966.
  • Paulos, John Allen.  Mathematics and Humor. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
  • Rotman, Brian. Mathematics as Sign: Writing, Imagining, Counting. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.
  • ---.  Ad Infinitum: The Ghost in Turin’s Machine. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.
  • ---. Signifying Nothing: The Semiotics of Zero. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987.
  • Sabbagh, Karl.  The Riemann Hypothesis: The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics. NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2002.
  • Singh, Simon.  Fermat’s Enigma. NY: Anchor Books, 1998.
  • Starbird, Michael.  Change and Motion: Calculus Made Clear, 2nd edition. (DVD) Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2006.
  • Sypher, Willie, ed.  Comedy. Baltimore, MD & London: John Hopkins University Press, 1956.
  • Wallace, David Foster.  Everything and More: A Compact History of ∞.  NY: WWW Norton & Company, 2003.
  • Wiles, Andrew. The Proof: Nova Adventures in Science. Boston & London: BBC TV/WGBH Educational Foundation, 1997.
The Proof was made possible by Swing Space, a program of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, generously supported by the September 11th Fund. Project space is donated by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.  Some materials were donated by Materials for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs/NYC Department of Sanitation/NYC Department of Education.

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