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Home > Topics > 2015 > New residence program draws artist to institute (Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe)

New residence program draws artist to institute (Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe)

November 24, 2015

Date of activity : August 17, 2015 - October 24, 2015

Yasuo Nomura, a contemporary artist fascinated with mathematics and theoretical physics, tries to create work that shows the beauty of what equations represent.

Nomura was invited to spend four weeks at the Kavli IPMU as part of its pilot Artist in Residence (AIR) program, running from 17 August to 11 September. The program was launched as a way to make theoretical research being carried out at Kavli IPMU more accessible to a general public audience.
The institute spent a long time preparing this program, even going to the US to research case examples. To avoid the exchange becoming a one-way communication event where the artist would “interview” scientists for information, the institute created a number of opportunities to encourage two-way communication between Nomura and IPMU researchers. Not only did Nomura take part in tea time every day, researchers were invited to Nomura’s presentation and welcoming party to learn more about what he is doing, and why. Researchers were also offered the opportunity to have a firsthand go at art through a workshop, and a tour of his working place.

“Every day I would get a new idea. Mathematics is a very specialized theme to take up, and usually people have a difficult time trying to come up with a response to my work. But here, I would get instant feedback to the ideas I come up with. It was an ideal environment for creating pieces. The month went by so fast,” said Nomura.

Several researchers made the following comments in regards to the positive impact Nomura had on them.
“He had a way of looking at prime numbers I never knew existed.”
“The workshop was difficult, but it was interesting to learn a different approach to something I do every day.”
“(In regards to researcher drawings made at the workshop) it was fun to see how differently individual researchers perceive things not through equations but through drawings.”
“While it might be difficult to say that art has a direct effect on research, the chance to experience doing art is rare. I agree with there are some similarities between Art and Science and it is a useful experience, somehow.”

An art exhibition showcasing Nomura’s work from the exchange was displayed at the institute during the Kashiwa Campus Open Day on 23 - 24 October. More than 3000 visitors seemed to enjoy seeing science in a different light to what they were usually used to. Comments included:
“The pieces in the exhibition were marvelous.”
“I felt a closer connection to Science. At first I thought it would be hard to depict science through art, but it actually made me understand it a little better.”
“The fusion between mathematics and art was cool.”
“Using art to express equations is such an amazing idea, it was really interesting.”

The institute’s first meeting with Nomura happened exactly a year ago, when the artist sat down inside the lecture hall at Kavli IPMU and to hear Kavli IPMU physicist Masahito Yamazaki and contemporary artist/photographer Lieko Shiga talk about the similarities between art and science during the 2014 Kashiwa Campus Open Day’s science onsen event.

The Kavli IPMU plans to continue hosting art and philosophical initiatives such as AIR, and we look forward to planning our next event.

Related URL
  • Researchers discuss Nomura’s idea of using ulam spirals in a new piece.Researchers discuss Nomura’s idea of using ulam spirals in a new piece.

  • Art workshop: Researchers from different majors - mathematicians, theoretical physicists and astronomers circle around a table to construct a “landscape” from their favorite equations.Art workshop: Researchers from different majors - mathematicians, theoretical physicists and astronomers circle around a table to construct a “landscape” from their favorite equations.

  • More than 3000 people visited the Kavli IPMU during the Kashiwa Campus Open Day in late October. Incoming guests would come by and ask Nomura about his work.More than 3000 people visited the Kavli IPMU during the Kashiwa Campus Open Day in late October. Incoming guests would come by and ask Nomura about his work.