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Findings On Elasticity

Findings On Elasticity

by Hester Aardse and Astrid van Baalen, Editors
Lars Muller Publishers, Baden, Germany, 2010
208 pp. $55.00
ISBN: 978-3037781487.

Reviewed by Liz Nicol

This book is intrinsically an object. A ‘real’ rubber band is around the outside of the book and printed on the front cover is a photograph of a rubber band and a text of the dictionary definitions of elastic. As a consequence, to open the book, it is necessary to remove the band and experience first hand the physicality of elasticity. Inside the foreword introduces the concept of the book pointing out that ‘creative thinkers were invited to share their findings on elasticity’ and the openness and playful nature of this intention is intriguing and accounts for much of the book’s appeal. Guest advisors were invited to recommend contributors who had to agree to two stipulations: one that each person responds to the notion of elasticity, and, two, that they do so in the language of their profession. The result of this process is a collection of very different perspectives about elasticity not normally found in a single publication. At first glance it is immediately evident that the editors were keen to preserve a creative variety in the design of the book, stretching the concept and the contributions (of which there are over fifty) are stylistically very different in terms of content, forms of visualisation and page layout.

Findings On Elasticity is a book that (as if often the case with such a fascinating project) I wish I had been a part of. In the foreword Astrid van Baalen describes her personal encounters with rubber bands. The list of contributors is impressive and represent many different perspectives on the topic ranging across the arts and sciences to include designers, journalists, philosophers, mathematicians, poets, economists, artists, zoologists, physicists, performers, architects, graphic designers and many more. With researchers in more specific fields such as a ‘theoretical physicist’, a ‘traditional Korean tightrope and walker’ and an ‘economic theorist’ the book becomes a compelling encounter no matter where one starts.

The success of the publication is built on these prerequisites which yields a provocative surreal tone set by the cover which playfully references Magritte’s ‘ceci n’est pas une pipe’. The work by Mark Peletier  ‘A PAGE FROM MY ARCHIVE, CA.2002’ is a good example. The imagery used is varied including mathematical abstract formula, graphic illustration and photographic documents. It begins with a reproduced handwritten mathematical text under which he had written the word <GRIN>. Peletier goes on to talk about his feelings of “pleasure, pride and hope” at solving the problem and later he refers to the ‘intuition of the mathematician’. It reminds us that while art and math are often linked, quite possibly many artists have more in common with particular sorts of mathematicians than is often thought. It is particularly encouraging to also read about the practical dimension to his findings on elastic rods as they are applied to the elasticity of materials used to reshape teeth by orthodontists.

Another contribution that draws out some of the tempting paradoxes of elasticity is SKIN (ELASTICITY) CHANGES AS SKIN AGES. In this Sophie Seite and Catherine Gerst who are biochemists present a montage of early photographic images of people on their deathbed. The accompanying text describes the pinch test to objectively asses the elasticity of skin in relation to age which is a fascinating if not depressing reminder of the inevitable deterioration of matter – even the forlorn demise of the vibrant elastic band on the cover of the book. With such a fascinating concept and a rich range of contributors Findings on Elasticity offers a playful and provocative encounter with  a malleable reality of those objects  that are bound by the laws of classical physics while also being at odds with them. It provides both a metaphor of, and springboard for creativity across the disciplines.

Last Updated 2 November 2010

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