The Value in Mathematics – Falke Pisano (2015)

This is on now – if you’re in London, go!

The exhibition is about ethnomathematics in the sense of mathematics not being universal, acultural, value-free, and losing the claim to ‘truth’ that once rendered it invincible, and as the product of various cultures and exchanges rather than a linear progression. There’s a short film with a discussion with what sounds like an anthropologist talking about the mathematics of different cultures. In the show there are some artefacts that point to measuring, balace, systems of weaving on frameworks, sets of questions to be asked that suggest systematic enquiry, and a map of the sort constructed with sticks and shells.

Pisano talks about deconstructing her idealised conception of mathematics as pure and abstracted, looking at the cognitive process of revising her perspective and understanding the cultural conditioning that had formed it. What we see, though, I’m not sure explores that that effectively – there is some evidence of thinking about systems in different cultures, but not a huge amount to work with. I suspect that in splitting the show into two parts, one in Amsterdam, something got lost.

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