Bridges 2017 was in full swing last weekend, so now it’s time to share some of the highlights of the conference. Seems like they keep getting better each year!
The artwork was, as usual, quite spectacular. I’ll share a few favorites here, but you can go to the Bridges 2017 Gallery to see all the pieces in the exhibitions, along with descriptions by the artists.
My favorite painting was Prime numbers and cylinders by Stephen Campbell.
What is even more amazing than the piece itself is that Stephen makes his own paint! So each piece involves an incredible amount of work – and the results are worth it. Visit Stephen’s website to see more of his work and learn a bit more about his artistic process.
I also liked these open tilings of space by Frank Gould.
Although they are simple in design, the overall effect is quite appealing. I often find that the fewer elements in a piece, the more difficult it is to coax them into interacting in a meaningful way. It is challenging to be a minimalist.
This lantern, Variations on Colourwave 17 — Mod 2, designed by Eva Knoll, shows a pattern created using modular arithmetic.
The plenary talks this year were almost certainly the best I have ever experienced at any conference. Opening the conference was a talk by Damian Kulash of the band OK Go. He described his creative process and gave some insight to how he makes his unbelievable videos.
They really cannot be described in words – one example he talked about was this video filmed in zero gravity in an airplane! There are no tricks here — just unbridled creativity and cleverness.
Another favorite was the talk by John Edmark. Many of his ideas had a spiral theme, like the piece you see below.
But what is fascinating about his work is how it moves. When this structure is folded inward, it actually stretches out. This is difficult to describe in words, but you can see a video of this phenomenon on John’s website. What made his talk really interesting is that he discussed the mathematics behind the design of his work.
Stephen Orlando talked about his motion exposure photography.
Although seemingly impossible, this image is just one long-exposure photograph — the colors you see were not added later. Stephen’s technique is to put programmable LED lights on a paddle and photograph a kayaker paddling across the water.
But where is the kayaker? Notice the background — it’s almost dark. It turns out that if the kayaker moves at a fast enough rate, the darkness does not allow enough time for an image of the kayaker to be captured. Simply amazing. Visit Stephen’s website for more examples of his motion exposure photographs.
There were also many other interesting talks given by Bridges participants, but there is not enough room to talk about them all. You can always go to the Bridges 2017 website and download any of the papers you’re interested in reading.
But Bridges is also more than just art and talks. Bridges participants are truly a community of like-minded people, so social and cultural events are also an important aspect of any Bridges conference.
I shared an AirBnB with Nick and his parents a short walk from campus — the house was spacious and comfortable, and really enhanced the Bridges experience. Sandy (Nick’s mother) wanted to host a gathering, so I invited several friends and colleagues over the Friday night of the conference for an informal get-together.
It was truly an inspiring evening! There were about fifteen of us, mostly from around the Bay area. Everyone was talking about mathematics and art — we were so engrossed, it turns out that no one even remembered to take any pictures! One recurring topic of discussion was the possibility of having some informal gatherings throughout the year where we could share our current thoughts and ideas. I think it may be possible to use space at the University of San Francisco — I’ve already begun looking into it.
Lunch each day was always from 12:00–2:00, so there was never any need to rush back. This left plenty of time for conversation, and often allowed time to admire the art exhibitions. It seems that you always noticed something new every time you walked through the displays.
On Saturday evening of the conference was a choir concert featuring a cappella voices singing a wide range of pieces spanning from the 15th century to the present day. It was a very enjoyable performance; you can read more about it here.
The evening of Sunday, July 30th, was the last evening of the conference for us. Many participants were going to Niagara Falls the next day, but we were all flying out on Monday. We decided to find a group and go out for dinner — and about a dozen of us ended up at a wonderful place for pizza called Famoso.
We chatted for quite some time, and then split up — some wanted to attend an informal music night/talent show on campus, but others (including me and the Mendlers) went to shoot some pool at a local pool hall. Again, a good time was had by all.
While the first day of the conference seemed a little slow, the rest just flew by. Another successful Bridges conference! Nick and I both had artwork exhibited and gave talks, caught up with friends and colleagues from all around the globe, enjoyed many good meals, and got our fill of mathematical art.
Although the location for the next Bridges conference is usually announced at the end of the last plenary talk, these is still some uncertainty about who will be hosting the conference next year. But regardless of where it is, you can expect that Nick and I will certainly be there!
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