Giovanna Cerise: “Arithmos” and “…Give the Numbers!” at LEA17

There have been numerous things, of varying relevance to Second Life, that I wanted to blog about, but they’ve all been thrown into the backburner and languished there for quite some time; For this, I have the recent ToS-related drama and an extremely busy RL workload to thank.

It’s no secret that, when it comes to the coverage of in-world destinations, there are four bloggers that I respect and watch as closely as I can. In alphabetical order, they are Honour McMillan, Inara Pey, Quan Lavender and Ziki Questi. I’ve always admired the quality and beauty of their in-world photographic work, and their articles are my travel guide for the section of the Metaverse where I reside. Of course, the fact that these four ladies form my quartet of favourite bloggers when it comes to coverage of SL destinations does not preclude the addition of others at some point in time.

I have to admit, though, that coverage of artistic events and exhibits is not really my forte. While I do try to visit such exhibits, there have always been factors that have hindered whatever ambitions I may have had in this department. For starters, before SL’s back-end and viewer code was improved in the past few years, my rather mediocre hardware was simply incapable of producing snapshots worth looking at; comparisons of the results I got with other bloggers who had much better computers and also benefitted from serious post-processing skills really discouraged me not only from showing my snapshots to others, but even from blogging about SL and keeping said snapshots in the long run. Another factor that always led me to shy away from blogging about artistic exhibits is that, although I do enjoy visiting them and experiencing them, I’ve never really been the artistic type and my knowledge of the Arts has always been lacking – and always will be. One motto I’ve always tried to live by is “if you’re going to talk about something, make sure you know what you’re talking about, otherwise shut up.”

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

“Arithmos” by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

That said, I’ve intended to cover Giovanna Cerise’s latest exhibit – or, I should say, exhibits for quite some time now. After all, she had graciously invited me to the opening of “Arithmos“. But, as said, the ToS drama and a series of RL developments (which are nobody’s business) got in the way, so I had to postpone it. Also, although I visited the exhibit quite a few times, I had mixed feelings about it – not because I didn’t like it, but because I couldn’t understand it. “Why make an artistic exhibit about numbers?”, I kept wondering, not least because I’ve always viewed mathematics as a tool to solve problems with, not as something to cherish.

Arithmos

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

“Arithmos” by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

On the 6th of October, Giovanna opened her full-sim installation “Arithmos” at LEA17, an exhibit  she described as “fascination and illusion in balance between rationality and irrationality.” “Arithmos” (αριθμός) is the Greek word for “number” and, as its choice for the installation’s name implies, Giovanna’s long-lasting love of mathematics. Further inspiration came from astrophysicist Mario Livio’s book La Sezione Aurea (“The Golden Section“), which encouraged her to explore various themes. In these themes, Giovanna sought to  express impressions, feelings and doubts. As she told me, what intrigued her more (and became the primary focus of her work) was the relationship between humans and numbers, and the relationship between humans and rationality, the attempt to frame nature and irrationality in fixed laws and to guess or predict their own destiny – again through numbers (perhaps through the fields of probability and statistics).

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

“Arithmos” by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

In Giovanna’s words, Arithmos is structured as a big city, with various real and unreal elements. At its heart, there is a rectangular square with a pyramid, which can be viewed as a temple where the number is celebrated and worshipped. After all, much of our lives revolves around number; we measure success, happiness, even whether it’s “worth” providing healthcare and education to our societies’ children with cold, soulless numbers. Numbers have become an end in themselves and, as Giovanna told me, they are able to give an illusory certainty or happiness. Who we are is not important, but what we have and how much of it; how many cars, how much money, how many cars, and so on. The fact that, in a monetarist world, money is nothing but numbers on worthless papers that really represent nothing at all – yet are deified – makes her words and the symbolism of the pyramid all the more succinct. I wonder if it’s occurred to her that the pyramid also alludes to the fact that the world economy is nothing but a huge Ponzi scheme?

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

“Arithmos” by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

There is also an arrangement with black and white balls skewered on series of vertical wires. This was inspired by the graphical representation of the Fibonacci series. Giovanna notes that she often seeks to upset, visually and conceptually, highlighting the possibility that the predictions we get from mathematical models may well be illusions and wrong – and that the end result of these errors may be something beautiful. At the top, there is a structure consisting of rectangles; this is based on the golden ratio (a+b is to a as a is to b). “Arithmos” also consists of two other elements that take up its other side. The first is a city-like array of buildings, where one can find dice that symbolise fate, which derails one’s path from what their intended destination in life.

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

“Arithmos” by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

The other element is a theatre, where a game of Morra, a hand game that dates back to ancient times, is played; this game is often used to decide issues (in lieu of tossing a coin) or merely for entertainment. The symbolism is obvious: instead of living actively and making informed, educated decisions and choices, man relies upon chance – and still believes this is a manifestation of “taking things in one’s own hands.”

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

Arithmos by Giovanna Cerise at LEA17

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