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On Geometry and Speculation

An exhibition belonging to The Official Parallel Program of the fourth edition of the Marrakech Biennale 29 February - 28 March 2012 curated by Hicham Khalidi

table Of cOntentS

Introduction by Jos van Aggelen - Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Rabat Curators statement Artists Amalia Pica Marjolijn Dijkman

Dear guests,

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Martijn van Boven - Tom Tlalim Esther Polak - Ivar van Bekkum Navid Nuur Lisa Oppenheim Julia Dault Berit Greinke - Alessandro Altavilla Germaine Dulac Mike Rijnierse Bram Vreven Aurlien Froment Extra pictures of work
Lecturers Gosse de Kort Xandra van der Eijk Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm from Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art by Laura U. Marks

Im honored to be able to introduce the catalogue for the exhibition On Geometry and Speculation which is being organized as part of the 4th edition of the Biennale of Marrakech. On learning about this project, I was struck by its international and cross cultural character, through both its theme and by the artists brought together in the exhibition. As Ambassador of The Netherlands in Morocco, Im really proud that the curator of the exhibition, Hicham Khalidi, a Dutch citizen of Moroccan origin, has brought such a distinguished and diverse group of artists from France, the UK, the US, Argentina and the Netherlands to Marrakech. It is wonderful, that somebody with the background of Hicham Khalidi, is able to playfully explore parallels between modern Western art and Islamic art from the Islamic Golden Age. And that we will be able to appreciate this against the background of Marrakech, will add real life to this project. With this exhibition Hicham Khalidi is proving once more that The Netherlands is not only one of the worlds important marketplaces for goods and services, but also one for ideas, concepts and images. Through Khalidis creativity and the contributions of the artists he has brought together The Netherlands and Morocco, the Islamic world and the Western world, in this ever more famous city. I hope you will enjoy the exhibition.

Jos van Aggelen Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Rabat 27 Marrakech, 22nd of February, 2012

Curator / Editor Hicham Khalidi, Copy Editor Amanda Sarroff, Design Rowan McCuskey, Production Natasha Hoare, Laura Marks Proof reading and Chapter 6, Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, Printed by El Watanya
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Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind. But to what purpose Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know. Other echoes Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? Quick, said the bird, find them, find them, Round the corner. Through the first gate, Into our first world, shall we follow The deception of the thrush? Into our first world. There they were, dignified, invisible, Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves, In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air, And the bird called, in response to The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses Had the look of flowers that are looked at. There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting. So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern, Along the empty alley, into the box circle, To look down into the drained pool. Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged, And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight, And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool. Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty. Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children, Hidden excitedly, containing laughter. Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. Burnt Norton from Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

On Geometry and Speculation

By Hicham Khalidi

hough often overlooked, much of Western science is rooted in medieval Islamic philosophy. Greek and Indian scientific manuscripts were translated into Arabic under the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid and his son al-Mamun long before finding their way into medieval European society. Individuals like the Banu Musa brothers, Al Farabi, Avicenna, Averros, Ibn al-Haytam, and Mohammed ibn Moesa al-Chwarizmi used these texts to pioneer studies in mathematics, optics, astrology, and alchemy. Underlining Islamic thought in this period was the premise that God is a single and complete entity. This search for the infinitude of God in combination with aniconism inspired mathematical models for representing the world. According to Laura Marks, professor of art and culture studies at Dena Wosk University and author of the book Enfoldment and Infinity, An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, these acts of abstraction corresponded directly to contemporary Islamic architecture and design. As her research shows, within contemporary art, and within new media art in particular, lies a latent, deeply enfolded, historical inheritance from Islamic art and thought. The exhibition On Geometry and Speculation brings together Dutch and International artists in an effort to render explicit this lineage from the Islamic Golden Age to contemporary art.

The Islamic Golden Age The founding of the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) library inaugurated the Golden Age of Islam. This library, which was created by decree under Caliph Harun al-Rashid (763 - 809) in the Abbasid-era and instituted by his son and successor Abu Jafar al-Mamun (786 - 833), became a renowned center of learning. During his reign al-Mamun sponsored the translation of copious Persian, Indian, Syrian, and Greek philosophical and scientific texts and brought together the days brightest minds for intellectual debate.1 Undisputed by its Muslim scholars, however, was the axiom of Gods absolute unity. Many scholars of the Golden Age sought to reveal the hidden link between the unity of God and the infinity of the universe. From Aniconism to Abstraction Aniconism, or the practice of shunning images of divine beings, is a central Islamic tenet. Under Islamic law, the injunction against image-making is founded on the precept that life and image are equal and that only God can produce life. Man can not and must not attempt to (re)produce that which was created by God, nor can he or she represent the world in any form shaped by mankind. The search for the unity of God coupled with an adherence to aniconism created

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an impetus for finding mathematical models to represent the world. To put it a little differently, aniconism, grounded in Gods immanence, led to the abstraction of images. Infinity According to Marks, both Islamic and new media art share fundamental aniconic principles. Images, she argues, are produced through conscious acts of abstraction, not imitations of nature. For Marks information is merely the frontispiece of the infinite, the virtual, or the potential. As she writes, the virtual is a state of preconditions.2 Like Islamic art, new media art emanates from a single point of enfolding and unfolding infinitude and information.3 Marks proposes an aesthetics of unfolding and enfolding whereby an image acts as an interface with information, and information (such as computer code) as an interface with the infinite. Rules and Rulers of Architecture Mathematical findings on how the world is shaped were translated into contemporary Islamic architecture and design. At the Ensemble Artisanal in Marrakech, an assembly of workshops, craftsmen apply traditional construction methods to artifacts and building facades. The architectural department continues to employ girih tiles, geometrically-formed ceramic tiles onto which shapes are embossed by means of a pick. This means of pattern making made possible highly intricate and sophisticated tilings, such as those of the Darb al-Imam (1453) shrine in Isfahan, Iran.4 Although traditionally sets of five tiles are used to create infinitely complex patterns, nowadays much wider assortments can be found. This increases variety but adds little to the complexity of the patterns.

In the Ensemble Artisanal artist Mike Rijnierse has created a site-specific work consisting of colored tube lights placed in the corridor of the Ensembles entrance. The tube lights change from red to green to blue, which in turn alters the color of the classic ornaments they illuminate. This time-based work is both an ode to the Ensembles craftsmanship and a reflection on the specific use of color in Islamic art. Algorithms and Amnesia Mohammed ibn Moesa al-Chwarizmi (780 840) almost single-handedly freed mathematics from geometry. By using the Indian number system he devised a new form of mathematics called algebra. Considered the father of informatics, he later coined the concept of algorithm. Artists Martijn van Boven and Tom Tlalim use algorithmic principles to generate images. Their new film Field Notes From a Mine, uses data-mining to document a field trip from eastern Sudan to Marrakech. The film is entirely computer-generated and absent of concrete material, save for its data set organized into a map. The map is comprised of cities, villages, oases, and unnamed places in North Africa, as well as the paths between them, that once served as pilgrimage routes between 1300 and 1900.5 The data includes national borders, records of geographic and weather conditions, pictures, color schemes, and ethnomusicological analyses of regional music.

Field Notes From a Mine exposes modern technologys ability to disguise its origins. It reminds us that data alone is amnesiac, and that technology has the ability to efface its own process of creation. This industrial-age amnesia finds a counterpoint in works by Julia Dault. In her paintings, she affixes brushes to a piece of wood or a stick. The artist privileges concept over craftsmanship, yet she does so using a workmans tools. Daults work strikes a fragile balance between conceptual art and conventional skill. Visual Perception and the Optics of Judgement By the eleventh century a foundation had been laid for understanding the physiological and psychological processes related to visual perception. In Al Kitab Al Menazar (The Book of Optics) Persian mathematician Ibn al-Haytam (965 - 1040) laid the groundwork for modern day optics. His treatise describes the psychological apparatus involved in seeing and comprehending a visual object. According to Olga Bush, PhD in Islamic art and architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, al-Haytams two-step process comprised of, first, the perception of an object by the optical system and, second, the comprehension of the object through the agency of psychological operations of cognition that engage the faculty of judgement or of discernment. Al-Haytams research proposed an inextricable link between visual perception and cognitive judgement. The Book on Optics remained a valuable resource to many Western scholars for hundreds of years. It is interesting to note that al-Haytams publication preceded Immanuel Kants Critique of Judgement by seven hundred years. Although Kant postulated the use of imagination in the judgement of aesthetics in 1781, the political

side of experience was not explored until much later by phenomenologists and existentialists like Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and Sartre. Many of these concerns, however, were anticipated in al-Haytams writing. As he wrote, the completion and perfection of beauty with respect to color will not be achieved through pure sensation in itself but rather will engage a secondary process of discernment [...]6 Al-Haytams articulation of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics proved extremely prescient. Such anomalies of optics and perception are explored by artist Navid Nuur. According to Nuur the eye is unable to focus on a single hue. Rather, it requires contrast to distinguish between colors within an image. This idea forms the basis of The Eye Codex of the Monochrome, a series of paintings in which the artist applies pre-potential (noncolor) paint like primer or chroma key (in chroma key screens) in a grid on linen or wood. When viewed from a distance the small horizontal and vertical strokes (squares) give the impression of a uniform color. Closer inspection, however, reveals a clearly painted pattern. Nuurs series of works hint at the physical impossibility of focusing on a monochrome color. He explains: I try to create a complete surface by using pre-potential paint as a way of painting the in-between spaces of the surface. I direct the dynamic force of the surface towards a pixel-like composition; a pixel has the tendency to clutter into a solid hue when viewed from a distance. Although from remote the surface seems firm, it is not. From near one can see the personal touch (full of mistakes). What I incorporate within the work is the optimal span the viewer can take in order to view the surface as a complete whole. By incorporating this idea a dialogue is being setup between viewer and painting.

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Time/lines Visual perception is integral to how we experience time. In her work Heliograms, Lisa Oppenheim uses a negative of the sun taken on July 8, 1876 and exposes it to sunlight at different intervals of the day. The intensity and quality of the light depending on the hour and day, impacts the intensity of and contrasts within each of the new images. Together, the work forms a sundial with several invisible timelines presented simultaneously. The sun has been a source of intrigue for centuries. One of the most important treatises in Islamic and Western science on the subject is Algamest, written by Ptolemy in the second century. An astronomical treatise on the apparent motions of the stars and planets, its name was derived from the Arabic al-majisti. The first translations were sponsored by Caliph al-Mamun in the ninth century. When the original Algamest was lost, Western Europe rediscovered Ptolemys work through its Arabic translations. Although Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum also harness sunlight in their installations, they use it to create timelines of another nature. Their 2010 work Spiral Drawing Sunrise uses sand to graph the rising sun. Emerging sunlight awakens a solar-powered robot, which, at set time intervals, moves a certain distance depending on its accumulated solar energy. Step by step it releases sand, eventually creating a spiral pattern on the ground. With increasing light, the steps become bigger. These patterns form a kind of solar drawing, a transposition of the strength of energy in time.

Bram Vrevens installation time off, on the other hand, performs a more geometrical approach to time. The work consists of pendulums grouped together into a tight grid on a wall. These pendulums, which were originally fabricated as fake replacements for mechanisms in old wall clocks, are dislocated from the manufacturers original purpose. Each one is endowed with the freedom to wander, resulting in phase-shifting, crisscrossing, and endless variation. From this visual noise arises recognizable patterns that appear and disappear. Geometric dynamics alternate with apparent chaos, and the pendulums once cyclic movement no longer defines time. Instead, its motion is primarily ornamental. The pendulumas a symbol of temporalityswings aimlessly back and forth, nudged on by a battery. Measuring Experience In Composition of the Universe Marjolijn Dijkman uses a numerical breakdown of the universes composition to visualize alternative paradigms for representing the cosmos. These models, depending on the use of different shapes, bring to light new, yet equally complete universes. In so doing, Composition of the Universe becomes a catalyst for investigating the human compulsion to explain, quantify, and record our environment. During the exhibition visitors, especially children, are invited to play with the wooden forms. The installation An Arbitrary System For Tuning Fabrics by London-based duo Berit Greinke and Alessandro Altavilla creates a soundscape in which viewers also become active participants. Visitors prompt changes in sonification as they navigate around a set of layered, conductive, embroidered fabric sheets. The installation creates a spatial geometry of sound triggered by the two dimensional pattern.

On Education The exhibition On Geometry and Speculation is primarily situated in the Ecole Suprieure des Arts Visuels (ESAV). This is the only art academy in Marrakech. Its site offers a wonderful opportunity to host a show that deals with the Islamic legacy in art and science. ESAV, as a semi-private institution offering degrees in film, television, and visual communication, is the perfect location to begin a dialogue about this rich heritage and its roots in the legendary Bayt al-Hikma library. If we look at the current status of education in Morocco today, a long road lies ahead. Yet it is the choice of brave individuals to take the first steps into unknown realms that makes an artistic and scientific revolution possible. Morocco is an example of this potential. It is home to many young people who are educated and eager to work. The same is true for the youth in many countries throughout the Arab world. What we can learn from the Islamic Golden Age, or of any golden age for that matter, is that knowledge is the societys most important investment in the future. Yet only once obstacles within the structure of a society are overcome can learning and progress be realized. For this reason the work of Amalia Pica stands tall. The video On Education documents a performance in which the artist painted the horse of a Montevideo monument white. As Pica points out, revolutionaries often become dictators who maintain their power by withholding knowledge from society. In painting the horse white Pica intervenes in these narratives by metaphorically stripping the hero from his ability to move forward. The film is accompanied by subtitles that show excerpts from mile, ou de lducation by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778). mile, ou de lducation is a systematic exposition of

ideas instructing us that every stage of human growthfrom birth to adulthoodis not valid of future development but is valid in itself. 7 Many of Rousseaus ideas evolved around the corruption of man by society. He questioned how and whether man can keep his or her inner world intact while being part of society. This tension between the collective and the individual is explored in Pulmo Marina by Aurlien Froment, a single, five-minute-long shot of a jellyfish seen through the window of an aquarium. Shifting from a banal wildlife TV program about a sea creature to a description of the physical and architectural conditions of its display in the aquarium, the film looks at how the image precedes its recording. The aquarium window is employed as a display device in the construction of the notion of the viewer, whose social life shifts from the collective experience of the museum to the private experience of the computer screen. Lectures and verbal interventions by Gosse de Kort and Xandra van der Eijk provide further dimensions to the exhibitions epistemological pursuits. While de Kort situates his work on the border of architecture and theatre, van der Eijk embraces the contradictions between emotion/ aesthetics and (generated) data-cycles or strict systems. Both artists will lecture on their work and methods after the screening of Field Notes From a Mine by Martijn van Boven and Tom Tlalim. On Geometry and Speculation On Geometry and Speculation seeks to recuperate the shared history between classical Islamic philosophy and contemporary art. By attempting to understand God, scholars during the Islamic Golden Age attained invaluable knowledge about the universe that changed how we perceive

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the world. We are indebted to the wisdom of Caliph Harun al-Rashid and his son al-Mamun whose open society made possible a revolution of this magnitude. For this reason I am proud to show the works of Dutch and international contemporary artists in the cosmopolitan environment of lEcole suprieure des Arts Visuels de Marrakech and in a city that has been the center of trade and artisanship for more than six hunderd years. Many routes originating in Africa, The Middle East, and Europe lead here. This exhibition shifts modern Western philosophical discourse ever so slightly to point out that, in fact, not all roads lead to Rome. Quite a few pass through Marrakech as well. Included in this catalogue is chapter six, Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm, in Laura U. Marks, Enfoldment and Infinity, An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010). Many thanks to Laura Marks and MIT Press for this great opportunity to share an excerpt of this wonderful book with the readers and with the public of this exhibition. I am indebted to the Marrakech Biennale, the ESAV, and the many sponsors that made this event possible. Hicham Khalidi

The exhibition On Geometry and Speculation is supported by The Marrakech Biennale, Mondriaan Fund, Stroom Den Haag, The Royal Dutch Embassy in Morocco, European Cultural Foundation, The Canadian Council for the Arts, Stokroos Fund, Hyzkia van Kralingen Transport, and Concrete Image Stores. With many thanks to all the artists, and the galleries Juliette Jongma/Amsterdam; Diana Stigter/Amsterdam; Martin van Zomeren/Amsterdam; Plan B/Cluj/Berlin; Motive Gallery/ Amsterdam, and Light Cone/Paris. Special thanks to the ambassador of The Netherlands in Rabat, drs. A.H.F. van Aggelen, dr. M. A. Jansen, and drs. L. van den Elzen Ministery of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands; Vincent Melilli - directeur gnral ESAV; Florence Robert-Vissy director, graphic media design ESAV; N. Laasri director, Cyberpark Marrakech; Saad Hamoumi director, Ulysse Voyages Uniglobe Travel GP; Direction de Regional de LArtisanat; Vanessa Branson director The Marrakech Biennale; Nadim Samman curator, The Marrakech Biennale; Alya Sebti producer, Parallel Projects Marrakech Biennale; Jessica Bannister production manager, Marrakech Biennale; Laura U. Marks author of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art; Aziz Agouni; Amanda Sarroff; Natasha Hoare; Abdelrahman Agouni; Assya Khalidi; Abdulmounaim Khalidi; Dirk Jongen; Rowan McCuskey; Akram Haissoufi; Aat Seger; Suzanne Wallinga; Airam Chicas Productions; Virginie Le Cam; John Jednak; Peter Dankers; Bilderrahmen Werken/Berlin; Vicob Vision Communication; Khemar Kechir; Stef van Campen (Hizkia van Kralingen); and all the volunteers and students of ESAV.

1 http://en 2 Enfoldment and Infinity, An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, Laura U. Marks, p. 7, The MIT Press 2010 3 Aniconism is the practice or belief in avoiding or shunning images of divine beings, prophets or other respected religious figures, or in different manifestations, any human beings or living creatures. Aniconism Enfoldment and Infinity, An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, Laura U. Marks, p. 156, The MIT Press 2010 4 Scientists Peter Lu and Paul Steinhardt studied these Islamic tiling patterns and demonstrated in a paper published in Science in 2007 that the patterns on the shrine are in fact aperiodic tilings, such as Penrose tilings. The pattern looks regular but never repeats exactly. Lu argues in an article in Nature that [The architects] wanted to extend the pattern without it repeating. Although they were probably unaware of the mathematical properties and consequences of the construction rule they devised, they did end up with something that would lead to what we understand today to be a quasi-crystal. http:// html 5 Ciolek, T. Matthew. 2005. Georeferenced data set (Series 1 - Routes): North African pilgrimage routes 1300-1900 CE. OWTRAD Dromographic Digital Data Archives (ODDDA). Old World Trade Routes (OWTRAD) Project. Canberra: www. - Asia Pacic Research Online. http://www. 6 Olga Bush, Symposium on Islamic Art: And Diverse Are Their Hues: Color in Islamic Art, Cordoba, 2009 7 mile, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, P.D. Jimack, Barbara Foxley, 2003



Amalia Pica Argentina, 1978

Marjolijn Dijkman The Netherlands, 1978

London-based artist Amalia Picas artworks span sculpture, photography, film, performance, and installation, punctuated by temporary interventions into buildings, monuments, and objects. Her diverse body of work explores how personal and collective histories are perceived, transmitted, and represented in different cultural and historical contexts. In particular, it addresses the desire foras well as the uncertainty ofachieving communication. Devices such as megaphones, antennae, podiums, and signal flags are recurring motifs. They attest to what Pica describes as a longing for something meaningful to say and the desire to find ones voice.

Venn Diagrams Venn Diagrams is a series of four color ink drawings on paper. Aesthetically pleasing at first sight, closer inspection reveals deeply troubling undertones. The following caption accompanies all of the drawings: A Venn diagram is a mathematical illustration used to describe group dynamics and logical relations of inclusion and exclusion. During the period of dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s, citizens were not allowed to gather in groups larger than eight people, as this was considered a threat to the government. At the same time group mathematics and Venn diagrams were banned from primary school programs as they provided a model for subversive thought. On Education In her video On Education Pica paints the horse of a sculpture white. The performance, which was recorded in 2008 in Montevideo, Uruguay, films Pica whitewashing the equestrian statue. Her gesture refers to the South American joke asking the color of Napoleon Bonapartes white horse. The video quotes Jean-Jacques Rousseaus 1762 pedagogical treatise, Emile, or On Education in which Rousseau sought to explicate his views on the fractious relationship between the individual and collective society.

Marjolijn Dijkman graduated from the free media department at Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam in 2001, completed a post graduate course at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam in 2003, and served as researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht for two years before becoming tutor of fine arts at MFA AKV St. Joost in 2009. Her work has been exhibited internationally in independent art spaces, centers for contemporary art, and museums of modern art. In 2005, together with Maarten Vanden Eynde, Dijkman founded the artist-run organization Enough Room for Space.

Composition of the Universe The prevailing model of the universe states that it is comprised of 74% dark energy, 22% dark matter, and 4% ordinary matter. In Composition of the Universe Dijkman uses this breakdown of figures to visualize alternative paradigms for representing the cosmos. These models, depending on the use of different shapes, bring to light new, yet equally complete universes. Visitors, especially children, are invited to play with the wooden forms. In so doing, Composition of the Universe becomes a catalyst for investigating the human compulsion to explain, quantify, and record our environment.

On Education, 2008, film, 4 min. 3 sec., Courtesy Galerie Diana Stigter

Composition of the Universe (74% dark energy, 22% dark matter and 4% ordinary matter), Marjolijn Dijkman, IKON Gallery in Birmingham, UK (2011)



artIStS Martijn van Boven The Netherlands, 1978 Tom Tlalim Israel, 1975

artIStS Esther Polak The Netherlands, 1962 Ivar van Bekkum The Netherlands, 1965

Martijn van Bovens artistic practice lies at the crux of abstract film and computer art. His work combines modern image processing techniques with experimental film and early computer generated videos. Much of his art is indebted to, among other sources, the abstract films of Stan Brakhage. Van Boven studied image and sound at the Royal Art Academy, The Hague. He belongs to the curatorial team of Sonic Acts Festival, Amsterdam. Tom Tlalim is an interdisciplinary artist and musician. His work employs data patterns, particularly those of spontaneous behavior within rational constraints, to explore social dynamics and political conflicts. He completed two master degrees in composition and sonology at the Royal Conservatory and the Institute of Sonology, respectively. Since 2010 he has been pursuing a practice-led PhD thesis project titled Resounding Conflicts at Goldsmiths University, London. Tlalims artwork and research explore his continued interest in alternative musical structures and the expansion of the relationship between image and sound.

Field Notes From a Mine Field Notes From a Mine is a documentary about a data environment. The video was inspired by the emerging field of data-mining, which employs algorithms to excavate meaning and narratives from otherwise unintelligible lists of numbers. Its footage, which is entirely computer-generated and absent of concrete material save for the data set, organizes cities, villages, oases, unnamed places in North Africa, and the paths between them into a map. The data set was chosen for its evenly-distributed spatial quality and includes national borders, geographic and weather condition records, pictures, color schemes, and ethnomusicological analyses of regional music. The video traces a single trajectory, a route used for pilgrimages between 1300-1900 AD, that begins from an unnamed location in south Sudan and continues across the continent to end in Marrakech.

Esther Polak was one of the first artists to make large-scale art installations using Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping. In her 2009 NomadicMILK installation she tracked the distribution of condensed and powdered milk throughout Nigeria. The project resulted in GPS sand drawings made by a robot and a film that told the story of the landscape, people, economy and mobility behind the sand drawings. Ivar van Bekkum studied journalism and worked as a graphic designer before devoting himself to art full time. His primary interest lies in the possibilities of technological art to function in an autonomous, art historical context. Together Polak and van Bekkum, who have collaborated since 2004, seek new ways to visualize landscape and spacial experience by means of GPS technology.

Spiral Drawing Sunrise The energy of the morning is fluid and crystalloid. A small machine manages to catch up and translate this orbit and its daily differences. Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum Spiral Drawing Sunrise uses sand as ink to graph the rising sun. The live performance, which takes place in a public space, consists of a solarpowered robot tethered to a pole (or tree) and carrying an hourglass. Once the light of the sun has provided sufficient energy, the robot begins to move. In the process, it releases sand, thus demarcating time and energy in a spiral-shaped solar drawing. The performance starts at sunrise and continues until the winding of the rope has come to an end. For the fourth edition of the Marrakech Biennale Polak and van Bekkum invest in a new way of rendering performance into an autonomous work. The pavement used for the spiral drawing will be partially covered with a flexible brass foil. As sand lines fall on the foil, they will be etched into the metal, leaving behind both an image of the earths rotation on its axis and a profile of the sunlight on that particular day at that specific location. The performance will be executed twice (see program for further details).

Spiral Drawing Sunrise, Istanbul Version, 2011 Field Notes From A Mine, a data-driven documentary embedded&v=9mZmNSFzy44#!



artIStS Navid Nuur Iran, 1976

artIStS Lisa Oppenheim United States, 1975

Navid Nuur lives and works in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The Eye Codex of the Monohrome The Eye Codex of the Monochrome project belongs to Navid Nuurs forthcoming publication of the same name. According to Nuur, monochromes by artists such as Anish Kapoor, James Turrell, Robert Ryman, and Mark Rothko demand relatively coordinated eye movement. The artist likens these artworks to what he defines as primal monochromes, such as those inside of a cave or a thick mist. At stake in Nuurs project is less the way in which one uses his or her eyes to look at these objects than how material, texture, color, and context come to define the personal aura of each so-called monochrome. Nuurs work attempts to isolate the shared experience of coordinated eye movement from nature and art history to find a more personal understanding of perception.

Lisa Oppenheim lives and works in New York.

Heliograms The sun is commonly perceived as a source of power, the chemical element gold its symbol. Historically this connection has been both alchemical and visual, as well as metaphorical. The relationship between photography and gold is equally intertwined and can be traced to the mediums roots. In the 1840s, a technique was developed that used gold rather than silver as a photographic sensitizing agent. Oppenheim revives this technique for her project Heliograms. She uses a single imagethe first photograph of the sun made by the French physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucaultas a photographic negative, and places it over paper treated with an emulsion made from gold halides. She then exposes the image to sunlight.

Heliograms 1840/2011 Installation view Art Basel 2011, Statements section Juliette Jongma gallery, Amsterdam. Courtesy the artist Juliette Jongma gallery, Amsterdam. In private collection.

Study 4 (The Eye Codex Of The Monochrome), 1984 - 2010, acryl (chroma key paint green and bleu) on wood, 170 x 125 cm. Courtesy: The Artist, Martin van Zomeren, Amsterdam and Plan B, Cluj/Berlin. In private collection. Photo: Jhoeko

As a photo fades, it assumes the additional meaning of each moment from when it was created to when it is viewed or remembered. Like these images, changes in the position and rotation of the moon, sun, and stars have long been used to mark the passage of time. Heliograms points toward these invisible histories by exposing the first image of the sun to sunlight over and over again. Through repetition the unseen is revealed, illuminating the past with the light of the present. http://



artIStS Julia Dault Canada, 1977

artIStS Berit Greinke Germany, 1977 Alessandro Altavilla Italy, 1982

Julia Dault uses industrial materialsFormica, mirrored Plexiglas, mason line, nylon ropesto construct site-specific sculptures, building each form in situ by bending the large sheets of color and tethering them to the wall or floor. While indebted to Minimalism, Dault invokes a necessary contingency by working on-site to devise unreproducible pieces by challenging the privileging of concept over craftsmanship. Her work cannot be phoned in to a fabricator. Instead, Dault focuses on creating both two- and three-dimensional objects that are as direct as possibleno Photoshop, no smoke and mirrors. With this, the viewer is able to understand how the forms came to be. Daults techniques, thus, do not obfuscate: no glue is used, for example, nor are the industrial sheets deliberately cut or altered. The sculptures are both insecure and fixed: insecure because they are held with tension, but fixed because they cannot be moved without being destroyed. This is done in an attempt to incorporate context into the form itself. Daults paintings use various tools (whether factory-made, such as metal rulers and combs used to texturize plaster, or ad hoc, such as branches and brushes taped to two-by-fours) to compose by stripping the works surface of paint, removing the topmost layer of color to unearth what lies beneath it. Often this reveals several of the paintings earlier stages. At other times, the surfaces themselves are what is revealed: shimmering silver or gold costume pleather or colored vinyl. With this technique, Dault blends the craft of painting with the industrial aesthetic of post-studio production. Recently, an intention to forestall the finality of the artwork has become integral to Daults process: what might it mean to compose ad infinitum? The artist begins by draping vinyl, fabric, or canvas to create variable compositions. These can then be folded, twisted, and rolled; each iteration makes

the painting anew. This heightens the responsibility of the paintings owner or exhibitor, who is complicit in the act of creation.

Berit Greinke is a textile designer and visual artist whose work levels digital technology with the handmade. Combining traditional textile craft techniques with smart textiles for responsive and interface design, Greinke uses electronic tools to investigate visual, tactile, and audio perception. Her work is set in the laboratorial fields of design, installation, and performance to develop prototypes and textile-sound installations. Greinke was educated at Art School Berlin and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London. Since October 2010 she has been pursuing a PhD in media and arts technology at Queen Mary University, London, where she joined the Antenna & Electromagnetics Research Group in November 2011. Greinke was recently awarded the NOBELini Award funded by the UK Medical Research Council. CHROME (live) Greinkes installation CHROME (live) combines prints on filter paper, water, a webcam, and processing code to create an extensive sound performance. The work utilizes a simple physical process and real-time sound generation to turn an edition of seemingly similar prints into individual objects.

Alessandro Altavilla is a sound artist, electroacoustic music composer. and sound designer/ composer for cinema. He is based in the UK, where he belongs to the Culture Lab research team at Newcastle University. He obtained an MRes in digital media at Newcastle University under the supervision of Atau Tanaka and Jamie Allen. Altavillas research is focused on sound interactions, specifically on the augmentation of urban and locative experiences through sound and mobile technology, and on the creation of sound reactive e-textiles. An Arbitrary System For Tuning Fabrics Altavillas and Greinkes An Arbitrary System For Tuning Fabrics is a series of responsive, embroidered textiles for delicate digital sound control. This collaborative project investigates the common grounds of textile patterning and sound sampling with the aim to improve music quality in e-textile performances and to create visually and sonically engaging live events.

Untitled 17, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm, January 20, 2011 Plexiglas, Formica, Everlast boxing wraps, string 80 x 66 x 52 (variable) Exhibited in Making is Thinking Witte de With, Rotterdam, NL

An Arbitrary System for tuning fabrics 2012, Installation and performance,38x54cm, cotton, silver thread, sound synthesis and recordings.


artIStS Germaine Dulac France, 1882-1942

artIStS Mike Rijnierse The Netherlands, 1974

Germaine Dulac was an early feminist filmmaker and a key figure in the development of 1920s French avant-garde cinema. In the early 1900s, she worked as a photographer and writer for two feminist journals, La Fronde and Le Francaise. After World War I, as opportunities for women broadened, she founded the production company Delia Film. Although her first films were rote melodramas, in 1917 she and theoretician Louis Delluc teamed up to begin the French avant-garde movement, also known as French Impressionism. Dulac quickly became the center of the French Impressionism movement, which comprised of intellectuals and filmmakers devoted to promoting film as the seventh art. Dulacs abstract films reflect her continued fascination with movement in a style she dubbed the integral film... a visual symphony made of rhythmic images. La Coquille et le Clergyman (1927) is perhaps her strongest example of integral film, while more traditional films, such as La Souriante Madame Beudet (1923), reveal Dulacs abiding commitment to feminist issues.

Mike Rijnierses extensive series titled Light and Colour is a meticulous study of the perception of pigmented surfaces illuminated by color. Rijnierse lends concrete form to his discoveries relating to the interaction among light, color, and the retina in installations, projections, and light designs.

Rijnierse uses elements of color and pattern in Islamic culture to develop a musical approach to visual perception. The repetition of patterns at times results in an opto-acoustic experience, called echoes. The complex pattern of these echoes are mathematically tantamount to those occurring in sound harmonies. Their modulations are comparable to those in Middle Eastern classical music. Thanks to Jan Trtzschler for arduino programming. Mike Rijnierse will produce a site-specific work at the Ensemble Artisanal in Marrakech as part of the exhibition at ESAV.

Lumokinese is a kinetic light installation that mixes colored shadows in its architectural context. Materials: fluorescent light tubes (red,green,blue), aluminium plates, music stands, stepper motors, computer, Max/Msp (software). 2008 (in collaboration with Willem Marijs)



artIStS Bram Vreven

artIStS Aurlien Froment France, 1976

In 1998 Bram Vreven bid farewell to jazz adventures to devote himself to constructing installations that contrast acoustic and electronic sounds. In 2004 he completed the monumental series vloei flow in which he choreographed water movement. His recent installations Rays and SPIN focus on ever more purified motion.

time off Vrevens installation time off consists of pendulums grouped into a tight grid on a wall. These pendulums, which were originally fabricated as fake replacements for mechanisms in old wall clocks, are dislocated from the manufacturers original purpose. Each pendulum within the group is endowed with the freedom to wander, resulting in phase-shifting, crisscross movements, and endless variation. From this visual noise arises recognizable patterns that appear and disappear. Geometric dynamics alternate with apparent chaos. The pendulums once cyclic movement no longer defines time. Instead its motion is primarily ornamental. The pendulumas a symbol of temporalityswings aimlessly back and forth, nudged on by a battery. This inherent relativity of temporal experienced is expressed in the words of Ileen Montijn:

Aurlien Froments simultaneous training at the Ecole Suprieure des Beaux-Arts in Nantes and as a certified professional projectionist allowed him the opportunity to explore the components and peripheral elements of the cinematographic experience.

Pulmo Marina Pulmo Marina consist of a single, five-minute-long shot of a jellyfish seen through the window of an aquarium. The jellyfishs constantly changing forms are enhanced by a blue and yellow contrast between the animal and the aquariums artificial, dark background. A seemingly familiar voice over describes the filmed image in lines borrowed from high-definition, flat-screen advertising, zoological guides, mythologies, and interviews conducted with the aquarists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California about the tanks specificities. Shifting from a banal wildlife TV program about a sea creature to a description of the physical and architectural conditions of its display in the aquarium, the film looks at how the image precedes its recording. The aquarium window is employed as a display device in the construction of the notion of the viewer, whose social life shifts from the collective experience of the museum to the private experience of the computer screen.

time off, detail, Installation view, screens, video, photographed at CBK Den Bosch, November Music Festival

Time is not the sum of all these changes, but a common denominator, an agreement that people made to relate all these processes of change to one another.

Pulmo Marina, 2010, HD Cam transferred to 35 mm, Digibeta and DVD, 05:10 min. Sound, mono. Courtesy of the artist and Motive Gallery



artIStS Other pictures of work

artIStS Other pictures of work

Bram Vreven (page 22) time off, detail, Installation view, screens, video , photographed at CBK Den Bosch, November Music Festival

Lisa Oppenheim (page 17) Heliograms 1840/2011 Installation view Art Basel 2011, Statements section Juliette Jongma gallery, Amsterdam. In private collection. Amalia Pica (page 12) On Education, 2008, film, 4 min. 3 sec., Courtesy Galerie Diana Stigter Julia Dault (page 18) Cut and Run, 2011 Oil on upholstery lining, costume pleather 57 x 11 x 7 (variable) Showman, 2011 Oil on vinyl, vinyl, spandex 78 x 13 x 5 (variable)

Navid Nuur (page 16) Study 3 (The Eye Codex Of The Monochrome), 1984 - 2010 diptich / white gesso on uncoated canvas, 115 x 80 cm. In private collection.

Julia Dault (page 18) Wanksta, 2012 Oil on duratrans, 35 1/4 x 35 1/4 Julia Dault (page 18) Crystal Powers, 2011 Oil on canvas, 18 x 14 Berit Greinke (page 19) CHROME (live), Sound: Eric Brotto, Set: Maik Ronz 2010,130x75cm, prints 46x57cm Dye on filter paper, water, webcam, laptop, table, loudspeakers. Photo: Clon Daniel

Amalia Pica (page 12) Venn diagrams, #1, #2, #3, and #4, 2006, color ink on paper and caption, 45,5 x 61 cm. In private collection.



Gosse de Kort The Netherlands, 1978 Xandra van der Eijk The Netherlands, 1985

Gosse de Kort studied architecture at TU Delft and ArtScience at the Royal Conservatory and Royal Academy, The Hague. His works are situated on the border of architecture and theater. De Kort develops spatiotemporal scenarios by combining elements of the expressive potential of a space with the possibilities of a time-based focus. While his performance work is theatrical in nature, his installations engage the audience as a co-actor to provide them the opportunity to personally explore the given environment or situation in greater detail.

Xandra van der Eijk completed the Interfaculty ArtScience program in The Hague, where she developed a fascination for analog, tactile work. Constantly driven by the idea of structure, van der Eijks works embrace the contradiction between emotion/aesthetics and (generated) datacycles or strict systems. She is a recipient of the Paul Schuitema prize.

Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010)

Laura U. Marks


Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art

Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010)

Laura U. Marks

A first intuition of the common nature of Islamic art and new media art is often that they are visualizations of mathematicsin particular, of geometry. The geometry characteristic of so much Islamic art certainly has an evident parallel with the patterns easily generated by computer programs. More significant, these geometries are the result of algorithmic activity. If an algorithm is a statement of instructions that, when carried out, will bring about a new state or new information, then many art forms can be said to be algorithmic. What is most interesting about artworks that reveal and revel in their algorithmic construction is that they indicate a certain way the image unfolds from the imperceptible: that relationships can be known rationally. In Islam, this view arises during the early Abbasid caliphate of ninth-century Baghdad, which vigorously promoted intellectual activity. New media artworks that celebrate the way images and actions arise from code and encourage participants to trace these paths are also proponents of rational unfolding. This chapter also considers the subjective states that algorithmic artworks call up and the performative nature of algorithmic art. In the eleventh century, after the Abbasid caliphate took an ideologically conservative turn in what is called the Sunni revival, rational artwork becomes increasingly complex, even baroque.1 In a way described by literary theorist Abd al-Qhir al-Jurjn (d. 1078), as we shall see, it simultaneously stimulates and stymies desire to understand its internal relationships. New media too has a neobaroque manifestation that can be seen through the film cycle Oceans Eleven to Oceans Thirteen, works whose outcome is no surprise but whose complex, interlacing plots are satisfyingly fascinating. These films are perfectly comparable to the stratigraphic patterns of Persian carpets from the Seljuk and Safavid periods. The elective affinity between complex geometrical pattern and computer animation appears most often in computer-graphic design. Spanish digital animator Cristbal Vilas video Isfahan (2005) is a three-dimensional animated flight through an idealized mosque, based loosely on the Imam Mosque in Isfahan. The muqarnas structure of the dome is drawn in CGI wireframe, then painted with arabesque designs that look like art nouveau. Painstakingly produced, algorithmically aweinspiring, and paired with the flute music of Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Isfahan indicates the smooth transition from algorithmic aesthetics to mysticism.



Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art

Mathematics and the New Rationalism in Early Baghdad The Abbasid caliph Harn al-Rashid (reign 786809) founded the House of Wisdom, or beit al-hikma, in the new capital of Baghdad. He and his son Abu Jafar alMamn ibn Harn (reign 813833) sponsored a massive movement of translations, as well as new works in all fields. Three brothers known as the Ban Ms led a group of translators, themselves for the most part prominent scientists, who assimilated into Arabic learning most of the works deemed important by the end of the ninth century on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and engineering.2 The powerful new mathematics made it possible to calculate planetary motions, keep time in different latitudes, subdivide land, convert currency, and a host of other important acts both concrete and abstract. Geometry, so commonly associated with Islamic art, was the fruit of translations from the Greek; for example, Euclids Elements came into Arabic through the translation of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ibn Matar (786833) (whence Abelard of Bath would translate it into Latin in the twelfth century). But in fact the greatest mathematical innovations in ninth-century Baghdad involved freeing mathematics from geometry through the development of algebra. The geometrical patterns we enjoy in Islamic art are expressions of algebraic equations, such as the square root of two. The chief librarian of the House of Wisdom was the great Persian mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwrizm (780850). Al-Khwarzm introduced Indian (commonly referred to as Arabic) numerals and the decimal system, an invaluable breakthrough for calculation. He also published a new system for solving polynomial and quadratic equations, algebra, in his great work of 830. The word algebra derives from al-jabr, or integration; algorithm is a Latinization of al-Khwrizms name. Gerard of Cremonas translation, made in Toledo, the hotbed of translations from Arabic to Latin and other languages in the mid-twelfth century, begins, Dixit Algorismus (al-Khwrizm says) and from there, the word came to mean a sequence of mathematical instructions. Another important mathematical innovator was al-Karaj (c. 953c. 1029), who introduced polynomial equations that were further developed by Leonardo Fibonacci (1170-1245). (Fibonaccis father, a scribe who worked for Pisan merchants in Bejaia, Algeria, sent his son to that city to study Arabic mathematics. Fibonaccis Liber Abaci, which he dedicated to Frederick II of Sicily, introduced the Islamic number system to Europe.)3 And likely inspired by Indian sources, Islamic mathematicians were developing modern trigonometry as early as the eighth century, which replaced Ptolemys awkward chord system with the six

trigonometrical ratios (sine, cosine, tangent, and so forth) that we still use today.4 Also hard at work in ninth-century Iraq were the kalm rationalist theologians, a relatively indigenous group of thinkers who sought to use reason, and a vigorous style of rational debate, to elucidate the Quran: they include Dirar ibn Amr, who lived in Basra in the late eighth century; Abu al-Hudhayl al-Allaf (about 750840, Baghdad), and his student Abu Yaqub al-Shahham (later ninth century); and Ibrahim al-Nazzam (d. 845). The early falsifa, or philosophers building on the Greek tradition, including Yaqub ibn Ishaq al-Kind (d. 866), the Persian Platonist Abu Bakr al-Raz (d. 925), and Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farab (d. 950), who hailed from Turkestan and worked in Aleppo, sought to adapt Greek Peripatetic ideasa stimulating source of rational thought about the world, which arose from a polytheist cultureto monotheistic thought. (This achievement would be invaluable to medieval Christian theologians.) Both kalm theologians and falsifa argued that some of Gods attributes can be deduced and that the world unfolds from God in a knowable, rational way. But while the falsifa emphasized that the world is an emanation from God, the kalm theologians argued that it is possible to deduce some of Gods actions in the world from statements in the Quran.

Geometry, a New Visual Culture Many scholars have examined how Islamic patterns rely on applied geometry and other kinds of mathematical knowledge.5 Some writings on geometry in Islamic art, including popular versions published as pattern books, propose an ahistorical, panIslamic geometric aesthetics that ignores the wide variety of artistic practices in the Muslim world. But geometric art dates historically to the ninth and tenth centuries and relates to the philosophical and religious thought of the time. Geometry is the organizing principle of the abstract ornament so commonly associated with Islamic art and of muqarnas, a three-dimensional unit that can be iterated in many different schemes to articulate an architectural surface such as a dome or niche.6 Both muqarnas and geometric ornament developed during the Abbasid caliphate and Seljuk sultanate, as many art historians, including Glr Necipoglu, Yasser Tabbaa, and Alpay zdural, demonstrate. An example is the tomb of Zumurrud Khatun in Baghdad, built by the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir for his mother in 1193. Nine levels of muqarnas, perforated to let in light, spiral up the interior of the tall conical vault. In gazing up at them, you would see a perfect Fibonacci spiral. It is as wondrous and

Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art

satisfying as observing the same pattern in the seeds of a sunflower. Artisans could produce two-dimensional patterns with a ruler, a compass, and basic mathematical knowledge. Historians dispute whether they understood the complexity of the mathematics they were applying.7 Necipoglu points out that the popular mathematical-mystical writings of the Ikhwn al-Saf, or Brethren of Purity, were probably read by architects.8 In another context, Ron Eglash instructively handles the question of mathematical intentionality in African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design. He argues that fractal patternspatterns that are recursive, scalable, or self-similar and contain an infinite length within a finite boundaryare typically and culturally African and that they are produced through conscious acts of abstraction, not imitations of nature.9 He suggests that this ubiquitous aesthetic form responds to the bottom-up, nonstate organization of African societies. Eglashs example suggests that algorithms can be meaningfully and consciously carried out without the need for the practitionersbuilders, potters, braiders of hairto know the abstract form of the algorithm. Similarly, artisans in Muslim societies have carried out complex geometries with a meaningful consciousness, even if they would not recognize a polynomial equation. Geometry is experiential; it is algebra embodied. This is the case for both the artisan producing geometric forms and for the person contemplating them. Carol Bier, attending to the physical activities of artisans working in tile, stucco, textiles, and other media, points out that applying geometrical principles would be materially different in each case. She suggests that artists working with pattern would have assimilated the principles of applied geometry without a symbolic knowledge of geometry or algorithm.10 It is noteworthy that al-Khwrizms algebra expresses equations in prose, not symbolically, so they too imply an engagement that is experiential and not just abstract. Clearly, in this age when mathematics inspired so much respect, builders would have been consulting works like Abu al-Waf alBuzjns (940998) book on applied geometry, On What the Artisan Requires of Geometric Constructions. This book, written by a mathematician-astronomer, was intended to teach artisans the basic principles of geometry that were relevant to architecture.11 It may well have arisen from the meetings of artisans and geometers Abu al-Waf attended, which gave practitioners access to theoretical knowledge and geometers a chance to apply their knowledge, such as one in which they discussed the problem of composing a square from three squares, that is, calculating the square root of three.12 zdural pictures Abu al-Wafs figure proving the Pythagorean theorem. The figure looks just like certain tile patterns, and indeed it became one of the bases

of new visual forms in the tenth century. [figure 6.1] Mathematics, and the new technologies they enabled, became popular culture throughout the Muslim world in the ninth and tenth centuries. Bier argues that a textile pattern occurring all along the Silk Road, a design of coin-like roundels arranged in a grid, embodies applied mathematics. Replicating al-Khwrizms method of teaching algebra by placing coins on a cloth, this pattern demonstrates algebraic problems of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and squares and square roots.13 Wearers of this luxurious cloth might have enjoyed using it to demonstrate their grasp of the new mathematical knowledge, just as in our times some knowledge of how computers work is valuable cultural capital.

Algorithmic Aesthetics The rational appreciation of beauty is like admiring an algorithmand the more complex and ultimately resolved the mental distances traversed, the better it is. Biers focus on creative process allows her to suggest that the artistic production of repeated patterns may become deeply meaningful as meditation for the individual pattern maker, who is enmeshed in a process at once unitary and systematic, in which mindlessness and mindfulness become one. The person viewing these patterns may also enter a meditative state. Early Islamic thought supports the view that Islamic art invites a time-based, contemplative, and subjective response. The kalm theologians and falsifa argued that both perception and inference are sources of knowledge, thus placing their faith in both the perceptible world and the action of the perceiver.14 This was ultimately a rationalist, though subjective, aesthetics. Like Ibn al-Haytham, the falsifa emphasized the role of the intellect in perception and understanding.15 As Oliver Leaman puts it, the aesthetics of the falsifa value art where the representation of the world is clearly perceived as symbolic of a deeper structure which lies behind the appearance [,] but in the sense of being an aspect of the organization of the world, not something behind it.16 Among the writings of the great philosopher al-Farab, who hailed from Turkestan and worked in Aleppo, were works on poetry. His aesthetic theory helps in understanding how someone of his time might have engaged with visual art as well. Poetry relies on associations between images, al-Farab argued; the listener (or, I would add, the viewer) needs to mentally bridge the image with its object. The

Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art

success of the image or phrase is in direct proportion to the distance between their literal meaning, and aesthetic pleasure arises from the unity achieved over this distance.17 Similarly, early Islamic poetry pursued the aesthetic strategy of tibaq, or antithesis, which implies bringing together opposites in a comparison: the words etymology implies both antithetical objects and similar objects.18 You can see how this subjective process mimics the algorithmic process by which such patterns were formed. The geometric patterns made by repeating, multiplying, and rotating shapes around an axis are the plastic equivalent of tibaq. Admiring a geometric (or other complex and symmetrical) form involves mentally comparing things that are similar and things that are opposites. A sense of unity and well-being rewards the contemplation of geometric harmonies.19 This aesthetic approach is concerned not with individual creativity but with an intuition that gets one in touch with the divine. Both the artist and the viewer or listener partake in the same imaginative faculty. In fact, according to al-Farab, al-Kind, and other falsifa, so do prophets and dreamers, bees building honeycombs and spiders spinning webs.20 This nonhuman quality of thought that is imagination recurs some centuries later in the writings of Charles Sanders Peirce: Thought is not necessarily connected with a brain. It appears in the work of bees, of crystals, and throughout the purely physical world; and one can no more deny that it is really there, than that the colors, the shapes, etc. of objects are there.21 Imagination is subjective but impersonal in these theories: they suggest that we humans, like the bees who somehow know to build hexagonal structures, are using our imaginative faculties to get in touch with the divine order. Necipoglu argues that the growing taste for geometric abstraction in the late tenth and early eleventh-century Islamic world responds to a widely diffused Neoplatonist worldview. The Abbasid caliph al-Qadir (reign 9911031) forbade speculative Mutazili and Shia teachings and sought a unifying semiotics that would visually crystallize Sunni thought in algebraically definable, angular geometric shapes.22 In his commentary on Euclids Elements, translated into Arabic by the tenth century, Proclus emphasized the capacity of geometry to elevate the mind: Mathematics occupies a middle position between the intelligible and the sense worlds and exhibits within itself many likenesses of divine things and also many paradigms of physical relations.23 The intermediate position of mathematics elevates the mind of a viewer so inclined. Though he was no Neoplatonist, the great Sunni sociologist Ibn Khaldun (13321406) echoed Proclus when he wrote, Our teachers used to say that ones application to geometry does to the mind what soap does to a garment. It

washes off stains and cleanses it of grease and dirt. The reason for this is that geometry is well arranged and orderly.24 Sunni revival aesthetics pursued the elevating and mind-cleansing (as Ibn Khaldun suggested) qualities of mathematics in music, poetics, and visual art. Yet these same aesthetics can lead the mind into mystery. Another influential philosophy in this period, neo-Pythagoreanism, argued that the universe has an objective harmony, and the goal of aesthetics is to discover this harmony.25 NeoPythagorean thought arose in the tenth-century Islamic world and continued to exert its influence well into the European Renaissance. Pythagoras had conceived of the cosmos as the fundamentally arithmetical, perfectly harmonious emanation of God. In the tenth century, the Ikhwn al-Saf or Brethren of Purity, based in the southern seaport town of Basra, published an encyclopedia that synthesized Gnostic, Neoplatonist, and Pythagorean thought with the new mathematics of alFarab and al-Kind. The Brethren were Ismailis, the Shia doctrine we explore in chapter 8. Their philosophy would not have met the approval of Sunni orthodoxy, yet their ideas proved popular and influential.26 The Ikhwn al-Saf adapted the Pythagorean music of the spheres to argue that a geometric harmony structures the universe. The fundamental relationship structuring the universe is Gods unity and the universes multiplicity to which it gives rise. Listening to music, they wrote, the soul resonates with the harmony of the spheres, which it contains in microcosm.27

Algorithmic Performativity Early theories of geometry suggest that geometric forms unfold in time. The ideas of al-Farab emphasize that geometric patterns express visually the way unity rationally gives rise to infinity. While Western geometric design principles are based on the repetition of similar forms, the Islamic system, as Lisa Golombek and Donald Wilber point out, is based on a harmony of parts, whereby all parts were related to a single entity, as the parts of the square, triangle, and pentagon are related to each other.28 Geometric forms thus unfold from a central form, much as the universe unfolds from God in emanationist thought, giving rise to systems of form through multiplication, division, mirroring, inversion, and multiplication. The Brethren of Purity, like other Ismailis, believed that true knowledge remains in a state of latency until one who is qualified comes to make it manifest. Similarly, algorithmic art forms are characterized by a state of latency. When the

Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm

Chapter 6 of Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art

algorithm is carried out, what is latent becomes manifest, for example, as a proliferation of pattern or a musical sequence. In computer media, as in much Islamic art, image is a manifestation of algorithmic activity. However, that algorithm may remain inactive, and the image may remain latent. As such, computer media, like Islamic art, are characteristically performative, in that they bring out image and movement selectively. The state of latency in algorithmic Islamic art invites a high degree of participation on the part of the viewer, much as modernist art would. Latency on the part of the artwork invites activity on the part of the participant. Geometry is experiential on three levels, argues Valrie Gonzalez. Looking up at a geometrically patterned dome invokes geometry kinetically, suggesting movement in space; conceptually, as what Edmund Husserl calls an object for pure consciousness; and spiritually. The dome of the Comares Hall at the Alhambra, Gonzalez writes, is a geometry of the spiritual path from matter to the highest abstract spheres.29 Gonzalez is rather ahistorical here;30 but it is interesting that she brings together across history two universalist points of view: Husserls transcendental phenomenology and the Ikhwn al-Safs neo-Pythagoreanism. At least the first of these three experiences would be available to any person standing under this dome. Someone looking up at that pattern might take the opportunity to reflect on the paths of reason that lead to inevitable truths simply by following it with his eyes. The Ikhwn al-Saf popularized a powerful and portable way to demonstrate the harmony of the universe, namely the magic square: a square composed of numbers arranged so that the numbers in each row, each column, and the diagonals add up to the same sum. As Schuyler Cammann wrote, they were like miniature diagrams of the universe.31 Based in the seaport of Basra, the Brethren may have learned about this device from Chinese seafarers.32 Magic squares were popular in Shia-leaning Persia and North Africa from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries. Later they would decorate the talismanic shirts of Ottoman sultans; they are still popular as amulets. The knowledge of how to make magic squares, and the esoteric symbolism of letters used on them, were secrets, which doubtless added to their effectiveness. [figure 6.2] For the neo-Pythagorean Brethren, music and magic squares focused cosmic forces into crystalline forms with active powers. In our time, science, computer science, and new age religion attempt to do the same. Combinatorial systems, which work through all possible combinations of a set of fundamental units such as numbers or letters, appeal to mysticism in part because of the notion that once all the combinations are exhausted, the universe may collapse back into the fundamental

unity that begat it. The Ikhwn al-Saf belong in a profound historical lineage of computational devices that have performative, seemingly magical effects. Florian Cramers deep history of executable code points out that Pythagorean harmonies performed adjustments in the structure of the cosmos; the desktop icons invented in Xerox PARC in the 1970s are images that enact computer commands. Cramer deepens the history of mystical combinatorial systems earlier traced by Janet Zweig, from the ancient Hebrew text Sefer Yetzirah and the I Ching, through the protocomputational devices invented by the fourteenth-century Catalan monk Ramon Llull and the seventeenth-century Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher, to the Renaissance allegorical images that condensed operations into emblems. This abstract line of computational magic reaches into the nineteenth century to George Boole and Charles Babbage, the twentieth-century computational art of John Cage, the combinatorial poems of Raymond Queneau, Oulipo, and Gysin and Burroughs. Siegfried Zielinski also explores the roots of computational magic with detail and gusto, and includes discussions of Llulls and Kirchers debt to Islamic science.33 Into these histories we must insert the missing link of Islamic Neoplatonism, particularly the mathematical mysticism of the Brethren of Purity. The Brethrens practice of magical computation anticipates the modeling of culture through software.34 Thus software that works through condensed images, such as contemporary musical and image programs like MAX-MSP, has a direct lineage in the Brethrens magic squares, equations of a symbolic source code to the operations of the universe.35

Tibaq in New Media Art Algorithmic aesthetics returned to prominence in twentieth-century art. Painting; choreography; music composition, both high and popular; Situationist drive; conceptual artworks; Fluxus instruction-based art; structuralist filmmaking: many disciplines built artworks around sets of instructions, often specifically mathematical in nature. Moreover, the algorithmicity of the works is the basis of their aesthetics: we admire the way they draw attention to their algorithms in executing them. Scholars now pursue parallels between Islamic art and twentieth-century findings in mathematics, physics, and computer science.36 This topic was recently popularized in the discovery that Iranian and Uzbek tiling predates by five hundred years the Western development of the nonperiodic, quasicrystalline patterns known as Pen37

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rose tiles after the mathematical physicist Roger Penrose.37 Indeed Islamic tilework and carpets grace the covers of many math textbooksboth because mathematical concepts are difficult to illustrate visually and in homage to the heritage of these concepts in the Muslim world.38 Contemporary information-based artwork that demonstrates the clarity of its algorithms, relating images to the code that produced them in pleasingly complex ways, is a clear parallel to the mind-cleansing geometrical artwork associated with Sunni Islam. Similarly, the quality of elegance in an equation consists in the vast amount of calculation that is invisible, yet implicit, in the final formulation. Elegance is an index of logical depth; a mathematician who knows the codes can appreciate the skill with which they are concealed. Rational, performative, and rewarding slow and subjective discovery: this describes Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenbergs elegant long-term Web artwork Apartment (2001). Apartment translates words typed by the user into the floor plan of an apartment where words construct rooms, often quite amusingly. Engaging with the piece, one gradually learns its algorithm, a program that builds apartments according to categories of words. If you type ooh, aah, these words will float in dreamy spirals in the bedroom; typing wash wash wash will produce a churning spin cycle; a rash of violent words will be relegated to the closet; words not in its dictionary float outside the apartments walls. At a metalevel the program categorizes the apartments according to criteria of content (vision, glamour, and so forth). The more one engages with Apartment, the more one comes to understand its algorithm and to play with it through the interface. [figure 6.3] Apartments beauty as network art is that it creates a sense of community among apartment builders. A visitor is required to participate, that is, to write something, in order to view the apartment complexes that have aggregated. Then she can see her own work of concrete poetry in relation to the constructions of other anonymous participantsher new neighbors. Visitors original writings, poetic, sad, or silly, become ghosts that the artwork only hints at in its translation. So a visitor feels compelled to write for maximum clarity and complexity, submitting to the logic of the algorithm in order to produce the most beautiful and interesting word apartment that will delight or mystify visitors to come. Apartment is an example of a new media work whose algorithm holds up to scrutiny and is the basis of a satisfying work of art, because, as al-Farab said of poetry, it shows that seemingly disparate parts all reflect on a deep and purposeful unity. Artists in the Muslim world have drawn on traditions of algorithmic repetition,

sometimes in traditional ways, sometimes critically. Two works in the seemingly innocuous medium of wallpaper use repetition to denaturalize cultural and political patterns. Zineb Sediras Une Gnration de Femmes (1997) inserts light-colored digital portraits of the women of her family into a traditional repetitive geometric pattern. The work suggests that women have a structural, if nearly invisible, presence in Muslim society. Parastou Forouhars Thousand and One Day (2003) at first glance looks like wallpaper with a regular pattern of beige-colored motifs. But when you approach it, you see that the patterns are in fact scenes of people being tortured. These images are all the more horrific because they are rendered as schematic digital drawings. Their peaceful minimal style calls to mind Persian miniaturesan inheritance, Forouhar says, frowned on by her teachers in Iran, who encouraged an (outdated) Euro-style naturalism.39 These works critique algorithmic aesthetics by arguing that patterns of information, far from being the manifestation of a divine order, crystallize from histories of violence. A digital animation by Iraqi-American artist Usama Alshaibi, provocatively titled Allahu Akbar (2003), cheekily brings the body into algorithmic performance while remaining aniconic. The title, and the call of Allahu akbar! at the beginning, signal a religious context. The image consists of geometrical ornament such as decorates the monuments of the strictest Sunni Islam. But this high-minded image is paired with thumping Arabic-techno dance music that appeals to a very earthly and embodied state: it sings directly to the viewers hips. The geometric shapes themselves start to shimmy and dance, in synesthetic reciprocity with the music. [figure 6.4]

From Algorithmic to Baroque Historically, rational artwork came to be associated with conservative ideology. In the tenth century, the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad weakened and succumbed to an invasion by the Buyids, a Shia dynasty from Persia. Then the Great Seljuks overwhelmed Baghdad in 1036 in a wave of colonization that continued almost to Constantinople. The Seljuks, who practiced a strict Sunni Islam, restored the Abbasids to power. In the resulting Sunni revival, which lasted until the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, Sunni theology gained power and the thought of the kalm and falsafa, as well as Shiism, was suppressed. The new religious constraints in the Sunni world shaped theology and art, with a new emphasis on artifice and extreme

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complexity. As Necipoglu argues, geometric art dominated visual culture across the disparate lands that bore allegiance to the Abbasids and their orthodox Sunnism: these included the Seljuks, who ruled many regions from Anatolia to Persia until the Mongol invasion of 1258; the Almoravids, who ruled the Maghreb and Spain from 1056 to 1137; and the Mamluks, an Abbasid shadow caliphate in Cairo from 1260 to 1517.40 The artwork sponsored by these powers favors geometric interlace patterns (such as that pictured here from fourteenth-century Fez) and muqarnas, the ideological statement of Sunni Islam;41 these become increasingly complex over time. [figure 6.5] These forms rarely appear in the art of the Ismaili Shia Fatimid caliphate, which, as we will see in chapter 8, preferred less evident visual strategies. Imitating nature is not the source of beauty in Islamic art of this period; it usually is not in computer-based art either. Rather beauty arises from the pleasure of artifice. In their emphasis on artifice, both Sunni revival Islamic art and new media art share qualities of the baroque. It is traditional that Islamic artists do not consider themselves to be creators, for that would be to compete with God. Justification for this view is often based on Quran 3:43, where only God or someone enabled by him (Jesus) can make a clay bird and then breathe life into it.41 Similarly, God alone is a fashioner, musawwir (Quran 59:24), though the same word is used for painters.42 But these passages did not acquire their force until theologians argued that Gods world is already perfect and nothing can be added to it. The conservative doctrine of Abu al-Hasan al-Ashari (873935), which came to dominate Sunni Islam, held that the world is finite, created by God out of nothing, and to which nothing can be added. Art, in such a world, consists not of creating something from nothing, but in showing the relationships among existing things in elegant and delightful ways. Originality consists not in invention but in skillful new variations on a theme.43 The new Sunni revival thought diminished the importance of reason. Rationality, al-Ashari argued with great force, is useful for disciplines like science but will not lead to salvation. This view, maintained in Sunni orthodoxy, is also, as we shall see, an attitude of the European baroque and of certain new media spectacles. In all of these cases, the result for aesthetics is that the artwork favors extremely complex interrelationships that ultimately stymie a rational response. The literary theorist and theologian Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjn (d. 1078), who lived his entire life in Gurgan, Iran, wrote texts that were widely influential not only in his time but also in the revival of Arab poetics in the twentieth century.44 We hear in his writings an elaboration of al-Farabs argument that the perception of beauty arises from mental operations. Al-Jurjns treatise on poetry, Asrr al-balaghah

(The Secrets of Eloquence), proposed a structuralist poetics that, Kamal Abu Deeb argues, are well suited to modern aesthetics. Rather than value morality and truth as do Aristotelian poetics, which were also influential in the Muslim world at this time, al-Jurjn valued creativity and imagination (takhyl). His criteria point inward to a work of art rather than outward from the work of art to the world: in order to appreciate a poem, a listener must accept the universe of images that the poet establishes. Ibn al-Haytham and the falsafa also valued imagination as one of the internal faculties, but al-Jurjn was the first to raise it to a spiritual level and value individual creation and invention above all else.45 This is not creation ex nihilo. What the imagination does is discover hidden affinities between seemingly disparate things, revealing the harmony of Gods universe: a sense of unity that brings joy and ease. This is a sublimely delicate process, Al-Jurjn cautioned: the poet must not bludgeon the listener with an obvious simile. As Abu Deeb puts it, Intimacy is created in the soul if it is led from hidden or veiled knowledge to clear knowledge, and from the implicit to the explicit.46 This is as true in reception as it is in creation: the listener uses imagination in order to appreciate the relations that structure the poem.47 Al-Jurjn shows a fascination with what is obscured and suddenly revealed: Human nature is so created, and human instinctive and innate qualities are such, that when something appears whence it is not usually expected to appear, and when it emerges from a source that is not its usual one, the soul feels deeper fondness of, and greater affection for it. It is as exciting and amazing to reveal the existence of something in a place in which it is not known to belong, as it is to create something which does not exist at all, or whose very existence is not realized.48 Al-Jurjn also argued that in images produced by all crafts and artistic activities which are associated with subtlety, fineness and skill . . . it is always the case that the more widely different in shape and appearance their parts are and the more perfect the harmony achieved between these parts is, the more fascination the images will possess and the more deserving of praise for their skill their creators will be.49 Since al-Jurjn allows that some of these skills pertain to art forms other than poetry, we can apply his theory of creative reception to visual art as well: as an imaginative viewer gazes on a work of art, he gradually discovers subtle affinities among its parts. Aesthetic pleasure results from unexpected unfolding, from the revelation of

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hitherto unseen relationships. Creativity in this scheme lies not in creation anew but in a pleasingly subtle translation from information to perceptible image. Al-Jurjns criteria call to mind the voracious yet discriminating consumers of computer games. A good computer game must be satisfyingly complex and reveal relationships embedded in the software from interesting angles, and it must do so with a satisfying rhythm. As Grahame Weinbren says of new media, originality consists in finding interesting paths through a database:50 a criterion close to al-Jurjns. And interestingly, Owen Jones, the design reformer and student of the Alhambra whose 1852 pattern book was so wildly influential, made a statement about the cognitive value of complex harmony that almost exactly echoes al-Jurjn. One of his propositions for ornament is that it should be based on proportional relationships but that those proportions will be the most beautiful which it will be most difficult for the eye to detect.51 Al-Jurjns poetics lead to a sense of divine harmony only if the recipient is willing to pursue a demanding process of mental comparison. His aesthetics emphasize the in-between status of geometry and other forms that mediate between the world of the senses and the world of abstract ideas. Both strains of medieval Islamic thought have the qualities of allegory, in the influential formulation of Walter Benjamin. Indeed Benjamins ideas seem very much at home with the esoteric strains of Islamic thought, including the Neoplatonist idea that the phenomenal world emanates from the ideal or divine world, but in an obscure way that must be interpreted. (In this second sense, Benjamins thought is closer to that of Ismaili Shiism and to the synthesis between the two performed by Ibn Sn.) In The Origin of German Tragic Drama, Benjamin argued that in baroque theater, the false unity of individual phenomena must be stripped away in order for them to partake of the genuine unity of truth.52 Allegory functions for Benjamin as geometry often did in medieval Islamic art, divesting phenomena of their sensuous qualities in order to reveal their connections to a greater, abstract truth. The common baroque allegories of the skull and the ruin, for example, show the futility of vanity and worldly pursuits. Much more could be explored in this comparison between al-Jurjns poetics of algorithmic complexity and Benjamins allegory.53 For now I wish simply to emphasize that they both privilege a baroque style of artifice that would, delicately and with difficulty, bring the recipient into confrontation with a divine orderan act that will be exalting or terrifying depending on your point of view. Another result of the focus on artifice in Islamic art of this period is that the surface of an artwork is independent of its underlying structure. The typically Is42

lamic architectural feature of muqarnas becomes, in its later variations, decidedly baroque. While the early muqarnas domes are pleasing to look up at because of their rational harmonies, later muqarnas domes become very complex, shimmering with facets. A muqarnas vault at the Friday Mosque at Isfahan, Iran, presents an undulating surface of stars and fan shapes that are sometimes concave, sometimes convex. [figure 6.6] Often the muqarnas units are themselves decorated, so each element in the shimmering surface itself flickers with light and dark, demonstrating, as Tabbaa argues, that shape, color, and luminosity are accidents which by definition are subject to continuous change according to the will of God.54 (The next chapter pursues Tabbaas argument that the muqarnas dome reflects an atomistic worldview, a theory not at odds with the characterization of the muqarnas as baroque.) Later Persian muqarnas are covered with colorful floral and geometric patterned tiles, further challenging the mind as to what is structure, what is ornament. These muqarnas no longer invite a calm contemplation of the orderliness of the universe; instead they delight and baffle. [figure 6.7] In all these examples, to use the terms of enfolding-unfolding aesthetics, the artworks perceptible aspect does not evoke the source from which it unfolded. Rather, the baroque tends to invade space in every direction, to perforate it, to become as one with all its possibilities.55 A similar model of relations of unfolding appears in Deleuzes Le Pli: Leibniz et le baroque. Deleuze characterizes the baroque aesthetics of Leibniz as concerned with a level that is visible and a level that is legible, as in the facade and interior of baroque architecture.56 Like computer art and Islamic art, in baroque art the visible skin is the expression or unfoldment of a legible level of information. All being is surface, Leibniz and Deleuze propose, without duality: a fabric stretched to infinity. There is no meaning to dig for, for sense is simply the other side or the lining of that surface.57 This describes computational art, both Islamic and computer based, very well. And yet the Baroque characteristically conceals the fact that there is nothing underneath by making the surface overwhelmingly complex: folding it, for example. Baroque painting is a cloud of distracting, whirling forms, a matrix of points of light, concealing emptiness. Islamic and computer art have in common the baroque quality that the perceptible surface is not a window into depth, as in Renaissance painting and the cinema, but opaque.58


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Baroque Politics and Aesthetics In On Totalitarian Interactivity Lev Manovich recalls his Soviet upbringing to explain his suspicion of the promises of new media: For the West, interactivity is a perfect vehicle for the ideas of democracy and equality. For the East, it is another form of manipulation, in which the artist uses advanced technology to impose his/her totalitarian will on the people. . . . Western media artists usually take technology absolutely seriously and despair when it does not work. Post-communist artists, on the other hand, recognize that the nature of technology is that it does not work, will always break down, will never work as it is supposed to.59 Computer media too often obfuscate, rather than explicate, the relationship between the perceptible image and the underlying algorithm. Those computer-based works that deemphasize performativity and instead emphasize the viewers wonder and lack of agency in front of the spectacle may also be characterized as baroque. Artworks of baffling complexity, most commonly the baroque art of late sixteenthand early seventeenth-century Europe and Latin America, are associated with an absolutist state.60 Necipoglu and Tabbaa make similar assertions about the art of the Sunni revival, while Sean Cubitt argues that the digital cinema of our age is neobaroque. Hence this parallel requires a discussion of the relationship of politics and aesthetics in three place-times: the Sunni revival of the eleventh century, the Spanish and Italian baroque of the seventeenth century, and the neobaroque spectacles of our age. The baroque parallel is political as much as aesthetic, describing the dazzling and incomprehensible mass art promoted in times of strong state control. In Islamic caliphates as well as European monarchies, the ideology of divine rule imposed a state with no outside. In the political realm, the essence of all power is to tend toward the absolute, it is part of its reality never to console itself for not reaching it. Representation (of which power is the effect and which, in turn, allows it and authorizes it) will be the infinite work of a mourningthat of a missing Object, of the Absolute.61 The visual analog of this impossible representation is literally a horror vacui, a fear of the void. A visual theatricality which strikes the eye and subjugates the gaze62 characterizes not only the European baroque buildings but also the spectacles of Sunni revival palaces and mosques. A politics of mystification finds a convenient ally in mysticismin all the periods being examined here.

Sean Cubitt characterizes digital mass media images as baroque for similar reasons. In Cubitts analysis, neobaroque cinema is an entirely contemporary phenomenon, reflecting both the database and algorithmic qualities of digital media and contemporary corporate capitalisms tendency toward closure. In creating a world rather than a narrative, the neobaroque seeks . . . a circumscribed perfection removed from history and thence from dialectical process.63 Neobaroque films include elaborate conspiracy movies like The Usual Suspects, Strange Days, and that neobaroque howler Snake Eyes, as well as digitally generated blockbusters like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. Cubitt contrasts this spectacular cinema to a cinema that is open to the world, that moves forward causally into a future that is unknown. Its roots are in both the early montage aesthetic of Sergei Eisenstein and the realist aesthetic of Andr Bazin. In Bazins realism, deep space and the long take yielded a contact with materiality and an immanent spirituality. Realism permitted exploration of the world in all its mystery and freshness. The neobaroque cinema, according to Cubitt, is a perversion of Bazinian realism: neobaroque movies look full, populated with more activity than the eye can see, giving that promise of infinite variety. But this is only an appearance of worldly infinity: in fact, the neobaroques visual plenitude is algorithmically generated, in style if not technicallya Wheres Waldo aesthetic where the dazzled eye can no longer decide what is important. The neobaroque cinema he discusses, like The Usual Suspects, The Matrix, and Strange Days, creates a total world. We appreciate it for its seamlessness, its closed infinity that lacks an outside, its algorithmic elegancenot the story but the script, the abstract, linear construction underlying it. These films are what Manovich calls database narratives, whose interface allows us to explore and admire the database and the algorithms that organize it.64 Similarly, Cubitt compares the neobaroque cinema to a computer-graphic wireframe model. We have a beautiful model of the CGI wireframe from that early proponent of the abstract line, William Hogarth, who in 1753 described an object with its inward contents scoopd out so nicely, as to have nothing of it left but a thin shell . . . and let us likewise imagine this shell to be made up of very fine threads, closely connected together. . . . The imagination will naturally enter into the vacant space within this shell.65 In neobaroque cinema, the script is the algorithm giving rise to the narrative, and it is the complexity and subtlety of the script, its symmetries so satisfyingly complex that it can be admired at any angle, that we are invited to admire. A gotcha thriller like The Usual Suspects or Woody Allens Match Point

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(2005) is especially satisfying at the end, when it reveals that all of the films seemingly random occurrences were complexly interrelated. Above I discussed Walczak and Wattenbergs Apartment as a contemporary parallel to the geometric artworks that encourage rational appreciation, making their algorithmic workings fairly transparent. This is a digital artwork that invites reflection on its medium in modernist style. The aesthetics that Cubitt calls neobaroque are more typical of commercial mediamovies, games, and software. These tend to obscure their algorithmic process, either to keep knowledge private (proprietary software) or to emphasize the spectacle, while only hinting provocatively at how it is produced. Indeed, the pleasure of digital cinema and games consists of a kind of toggle effect, whereby the spectator or player alternates between being absorbed in the narrative and enjoying the attraction, in Tom Gunnings term, of the technological means by which it came about. But they are not really interested in empowering the viewer or player to imagine another kind of world, only to remain engrossed in theirs. And so I turn to a series of films that I enjoy immensely, which are characteristically neobaroque and also compare significantly to the carpets of sixteenth-century Persia.

Baroque Fascination in Persian Carpets and Casino Movies Al-Jurjns criteria splendidly describe the caper subgenre of casino films, which depict a world of baffling complexity whose internal relationships are fascinating to comprehend but impossible to master. In the development of casino movies from the original Oceans Eleven (1960) to the genres masterwork, Martin Scorseses Casino (1995), we observe a gradual shift in focus from human and moral issues to the complex network of relationships between the casinos financial system and the underworld systems interlaced with it. In Steven Soderberghs neobaroque film cycle Oceans Eleven (2001) to Oceans Thirteen (2007), moral questions and narrative openness drop out in favor of an amoral yet pleasing closed system. The increasing complexity of caper films reflects an increasing concern with information rather than image or, put another way, with the algorithmic deployment of database information rather than character-driven narrative. Algorithmic qualities have been heightened since the advent of digital editing, but digital editing does not cause the algorithmic aesthetic; rather, it facilitates a language of information that was already in place. I focus on casino movies because their subject is

already numerical, relatively unvarnished by narrative. Las Vegas is a city that wears information, in the form of money, on its surface. As Dave Hickey notes, Las Vegas requires not interpretation but calculation. Hickey sardonically adds that the city frustrates cultural critics who are used to digging for information, because in Las Vegas, status and potential are entirely about money.66 Like a good neobaroque film, a beautiful Persian carpet appeals to both intellect, in the complexity of its pattern, and senses, in its textures and colors. The carpet subgenre I look at here is the spiral-tendril carpet, whose intertwining lines suggest the narrative sequences of a film. There is a lot of similarity, after all, between enjoying a large, beautiful carpet in the company of a group seated on it and going to the movies. Both are collective yet individual pleasures, allowing both distraction and absorption. In the fourteenth century, carpet weavers for the Seljuks in Anatolia developed a method of layering up to four decorative schemes for a three-dimensional effect.67 This stratigraphic method culminated in late-sixteenth-century carpets produced for the Safavid Persian court. With a complexity that perception cannot manage, the new carpets do not soothe the mind with algorithms so much as pose it tantalizing puzzles, locking it in an elegant wireframe cage. Richard Ettinghausen analyzed this effect in an influential 1979 article, The Taming of the Horror Vacui in Islamic Art. Ettinghausens rather disparaging title requires a digression. The notion of horror vacui originates in the spatial anxiety that Wilhelm Worringer attributed to the crowded linear patterns of Oriental and Nordic art.68 A generation of Western art historians reacted with aversion to the proliferation of pattern in much Islamic art. Their reaction reflects Western preferences for a clear distinction between figure and groundsomething that is a key element of narrative cinema too, for how can you know who is the protagonist, and what is the point or the moral if there are too many interweaving narratives? Later Ernst Gombrich thoughtfully reversed the Orientalist clich by terming Islamic overall patterns not horror vacui, but amor infinitya love of infinity.69 Yet as Seyyed Hossain Nasr insists, the infinity revealed in interleaved patterns is in a constant play with the void. There is an aspect of nothingness or void which lies in the very nature of the whole created order and which is a direct consequence of the fact that, in an absolute sense, only God is real. . . . The arabesque enables the void to enter into the very heart of matter.70 In short, the fear of complex pattern reflects a fear of the voida perfectly reasonable fear, to which I will return.

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In the fifteenth century, geometric carpets in Persia gave way to a new set of designs. The new patterns abandoned the Seljuk geometric style that emphasized the physical knot matrix of the carpet. They were full of flowers and curling vines that radiated from a central medallion, because at this time, carpets were being designed by painters, who based their design on illuminated manuscripts. In and out of the interlacing vines drift peonies, clouds, birds, and other motifs that traveled from the Far East after the pax Mongolica. [figure 6.8] Soon enough bands of romping animals, hunters, and garden scenes would populate the Persian carpets. Scholars with a functionalist bent bemoan this development. Kurt Erdmann considered the painting-based innovations to violate the internal norms of carpet design as an outside intervention that interrupted the true and characteristic evolution of the carpet.71 The Seljuk, Turkish Ushak, and Mongol carpets frankly displayed their underlying matrix; we might compare them to new media works that emphasize their digital materiality. The new Persian carpets, to extend the comparison, are like the shimmering illusions that digital media such as CGI special-effects films produce when they disavow their pixel basis. (And the strange-looking Caucasian carpets are like bootleg softwarelow-resolution compressions that imitate Persian designs but become more and more geometric, revealing the machinery behind the illusion as bootlegs tend to do.) By the sixteenth century, carpets complex patterns were designed by painters of illustrated manuscripts. The stratigraphic method culminates in up to four overlapping patterns in late-sixteenth-century Persian carpets. Ettinghausen diagrammatically separates the four levels of pattern; his analysis is simultaneously an aesthetic response: It is striking to see in a reconstruction on the drafting board how two of these systems interlock with each other to fill the space more densely; it becomes astonishing to see three of them overlap each other. It is truly remarkable when we see four forming the ground pattern on which the large medallion is placed. However, the design is now so intricate that the eye can no longer follow the patterns, but perceives the whole as a lacy ground cover, like the combination of many plants and vines, forming a highly varied herbaceous border in a garden.72 Early twentieth-century German scholars and curators seem to have been especially keen to master and comprehend the mind-boggling patterns of these carpets, just

as their prominence and price were rising in the West.73 Siegfried Troll drew several diagrams of spiral-tendril carpets, published in 1926 in an important early book on carpets, Sarre-Trenkwalds Old Oriental Carpets. Trolls drawings, such as one of a carpet made in Isfahan during the reign of Shah Safi,74 valiantly reproduce the overlaid effect of spiraling tendrils of various thicknesses by reducing them to a linear black-and-white design. [figure 6.9] They emphasize the carpets symmetry around one or two axes to a much greater extent than the carpets themselves do. One can only sympathize with Trolls effort to come to terms with these visually overwhelming carpets by emphasizing their algorithmicity at the expense of their haptic qualities. Carpets made after Seljuk times, including those made under the Shia regime of the Safavids, suggest a baroque elaboration of the algorithmic aesthetics of the earlier period. In a direct historical baroque connection, floral Persian and Mughal carpets were popular imports to Italy in the sixteenth century.75 Their complex designs complemented European baroque interiors and surely facilitated their owners pleasurable contemplation of the void. Again, in baroque aesthetics, as in those of al-Jurjn, the goal is known in advance. It is how the work arrives at it, developing elaborate variations on a known theme, enriching the relationship between parts, that is worthy of admiration. As we reach the end of a film like Snake Eyes, Cubitt writes, we should survey the whole plot as if it were a knot garden, a spatial orchestration of events whose specific attraction is its elaboration of narrative premise into pattern, its reorganization of time as space.76 Knot garden, as Cubitt surely intended, perfectly describes the beauty of Persian carpets, especially the spiral-tendril or vine-scroll carpets produced during Safavid rule (15011732).77 Writing about some carpets from this period, Erdmann, former carpet curator at the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin, makes a fascinating comment on the combination of infinite patterning and a finite surface.78 He observes that while the pattern could extend in all directions beyond the carpets borders, the tendrils instead curl in on themselves and the arabesque grows internally, becoming thicker and denser. It is not an extensive infinity but an intensive infinity; as though the pattern on the carpet, already bafflingly dense at some points, might grow into another dimension, fractally. Scorseses Casino (1995) marks the beginning of the algorithmic aesthetic in casino films. It happens to be an early example of virtuosic digital editing, with editor Thelma Schoonmaker taking advantage of the new mediums capacity for paral49

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lel editing, flashbacks, and other kinds of nonlinear temporality, as well as shaving microseconds off shots. But Casino is also a great narrative film precisely because it witnesses the demise of the character-driven gangster film, and the world of individual narrative causality that produced it, to be eclipsed by a corporate economy of information and financial management. Casinos most lovingly detailed plot is about how money travels: from the gamblers to the counters to the Kansas City gangsters. The main character of this gangster film, Ace Rothstein, is an accountant. His pride in his work drives the film: managing his casino, he is like a computer executing an algorithm. Casino is, as reviewer Richard Alleva notes, the most intricate yet lucid of diagrams79: it is a film about information in a world of information. [figures 6.10, 6.11] In the Oceans films, a handsome and talented group of thieves, daredevils, and technicians gather around their leader, Danny Ocean, to carry out wondrously complex heists, which are so elegant and morally either neutral or justified that it misses the point to call them crimes. The narrative is never propelled by the question of whether the team will succeed, only how they will succeed. An algorithmic script establishes the thousand details all of which must fall into place. Our heroes temporary setbacks are like the weavers practice of incorporating mistakes into the carpet because only God is perfect. In Oceans Thirteen (2007) the group intends to ruin the fortunes of a thoroughly despicable and punningly named casino mogul, Willy BankAl Pacino in a cracking fake tanwho himself ruined the groups beloved colleague Reuben Tishkoff and caused him to have a heart attack; they must carry out the act in time to save Reubens life. Numerous separate subplots weave together with such deft timing that at points, the screen subdivides, all the better to let the audience marvel at the interweaving of simultaneous action. Here too the Safavid carpet analogy is exact, for it is the interweaving of motifs and their figure-ground reversal that delight the eye and challenge the mind. [figures 6.12, 6.13] The ensemble cast performs deftly, with grace and modesty, lending themselves to the whole like colorful strands of silk and wool woven into a carpet. The extremely mobile camera, typical of the neobaroque cinema, sweeps across the surface of the action. In the scenes on the vast casino floor simmering with activity, the mobile camera behaves exactly like ones eyes do when surveying a large, complex carpet: we follow one strand, then another, contemplating now the whole, optically, and now the detail, haptically. Oceans Thirteen does not indulge in the digitally aided mobile camera as much as do earlier neobaroque films like Strange Days and

Snake Eyes, however; beautifully timed edits also demand that we shift our attention. Editing allows what was ground to become figure, presses what was figure into the background, and emphasizes another relationship among the interleaving patterns. For example, there is a scene in Oceans Thirteen in which it seems the jig is up because Banks is about to be alerted to the thirteen criminals identities by an FBI file downloading on his computer. He must be distracted and the files neutralized at the same timethis is the premise for the pattern. Achieving this begins by having two pretty girls (on the request of Oceans colleague Saul Bloom) walk sexily past the stunt motorcyclist who is going to perform at the casinos grand opening that night and suggestively into his trailer. He follows, and in moments his red, white, and blue costume is passed out the window. In the next scene, Don Cheadles character, Basher Tarr, enters Banks office dressed as the daredevil. Fast-talking and fascinating, the American flag decals on his teeth gleaming, Basher compels Banks attention with a stream of distracting yarns. Meanwhile, the other thread in the pattern comes into play: as the FBI photos of the accomplices download on Banks computer, the film cuts to the computer geek colleagues, Virgil and Turk Malloy, altering the photographs and searching new names. Though this must be done in seconds, Virgil and Turk play with giving their colleagues weird features and ridiculous names, and Bashers image is altered last. It is a dazzling intertwining of exuberantly ornamental narrative strands. Strikingly, most of the effects of this digital-era heist film are entirely analog, depending on human ingenuity, manual dexterity, and the specific qualities of materials. The heist genre is challenged in the computer age, since so many of its stock tricks now have digital approximations. But in Oceans Thirteen computers are smart only insofar as smart humans operate them. Banks artificial intelligence surveillance system is no match for the teams collective, emotional, hands-on ingenuity. The film celebrates analog processes and lovingly rendered material objects, including special dice altered in their manufacture in Mexico, Nuff Said brand special dominos, and the many daring and dexterous acts involved in stealing necklaces and making sure the hotel reviewer has a disastrous stay. In sum, Oceans Thirteen is an algorithmic film about the superiority of human ingenuity over cold digital technology. Of course many reviewers do not agree that algorithmic aesthetics add up to a good movie. Andrew OHehir in Sight and Sound notes that seven subplots of Oceans Eleven (not Thirteen) are meshed with enviable dexterity and flashily brilliant edits, but complains that it has lost two of the caper movies essential ingredients: an asymmetrical balance of power and ingenious simplicity.80 This criticism recalls

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Kurt Erdmann criticizing the overly virtuosic weaving of Persian carpets.81 When the movie, like the carpet, is no longer true to the best properties of its medium, and instead baroquely exaggerates and distorts them, perhaps a certain inner coherence is sacrificed. But other critics welcome the exchange of narrative for baroque style, as does Manohla Dargis, who writes that Oceans Thirteen pushes at the limits of conventional narrative filmmaking, forcing your attention away from the storys logical bricks and mortar toward its fields of dancing colors and a style that is its content.82 The new casino movies, the caper genre more broadly, and the newly pervasive multiplot narratives show that the contemporary cinema is becoming ever more like Persian carpets in that its pleasures are not narrative but algorithmic and sensuous. In their baroque fascination, they point our attention, if not to God or to the void, then at least to the information-based economy that is their outer limit. Often in this book I suggest, through the concept of lame infinity, that in digital media, the universe is flattened, via algorithmic repetition, to a field of articulated sameness. The exceptions, like Oceans Thirteen, are those works that augment the algorithmic space with humanity, mystery, and what Bernard Berenson called tactile values.83 The seductive, ultimately baffling patterns of Safavid carpets show that at a certain point, the rational approach to the divine is rebuffed. Algorithmic patterns may initially appeal to reason, but ultimately they compel a mystical response. Arabesque and other kinds of pattern cajole our gaze to seek and search for what is beyond them, at the risk of perishing in the attempt, as a flame attracts a motha metaphor from the great Sufi philosopher Ibn al-Arabi to describe the souls attraction to God. As we saw above, mysticism reveals that the notion of horror vacui so commonly attributed to Islamic art is exactly the opposite: a love of the infinite. Abdelkebir Khatibi and Mohammed Sijelmassiechoing the reasoning of the Shia thinker Abu Yaqb al-Sijistn that God, being beyond comprehension, is both not a thing and not not a thing84romantically put it this way: The superabundance of the sacred is such that it contains its own void. Muslim art moves onwards in a secret, veiled anguish which harbours in itself a mystical experience. Hence the arabesque, which expresses this anguish in decorative form. It holds the balance of line and color to a point where they begin to waver and vibrate in an interlaced tracery. . . . This tracery holds the superabundance in check yet marks a secret desire to lose itself.85

This beautiful aesthetics of mystical abandon has a less beautiful counterpart in political quietism. Mysticism offers a refuge from a political world beyond the individuals knowledge and control. A domesticated strain of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, was often a useful ideological accompaniment to conservative state religion in the Muslim world, including the later Abbasid caliphate, the Safavid dynasty, and the Ottoman empire. In the baroque and the neobaroque, the theological and political implications of an unfathomable void meet and intertwine. A fragmentary world of signs concealing a fundamental emptiness: this is Benjamins influential definition of allegory, an intuition that arises from a sense of the worlds impermanence. The form such an experience of the world takes is fragmentary and enigmatic; in it the world ceases to be purely physical and becomes an aggregation of signs.86 These signs open not onto the fullness of experience, as symbols do in romantic thought, but onto the lack of fullness in the world. Benjamins conception of allegory, as an elaborate sign system covering a fundamental emptiness, aligns closely with Islamic mystical conceptions of the universe as a voidthough in the case of mysticism, the void itself conceals the blinding and inconceivable fullness that is God. As Ian Almond points out, many of Benjamins writings have a Neoplatonist flavor, in that they suggest that our disparate, fragmentary experience expresses a unity that is beyond our grasp. Hence Benjamins careful attention to allegories such as modern ruins and childrens toys; he seeks in them some connection to a larger whole, conceived as social and material, not divine.87 Benjamin seemed confident that the perceptible world unfolds from the imperceptible; but he seems to have doubted that the imperceptible source could be divined, or even existed. These thoughts bring us back to an algorithmic aesthetics by which the infinite unfolds from an unknowable One. In Benjamins efforts to describe the distance between translation and original, the distance between them is marked by folds. The translated, manifest, or accessible meaning is like loose clothing on an inaccessible source: the language of the translation envelops its content like a royal robe with ample folds.88 As so often occurs in his thought, Benjamin hesitates between a transcendental and an immanent understanding of the world. We may benefit from this hesitancy, to claim the transcendental beauty of baroque mysticism, while attempting to locate its unfathomable void in the divine and maddening complexity that is this world. Whether elegant or baffling, algorithmic aesthetics invite us to admire the universe, crystallized in human thought and the work of human hands.


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1 Necipoglu uses this term in The Topkapi Scroll: Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and Architecture in the Humanities, 1995), and Yasser Tabbaa does so in The Transformation of Islamic Art during the Sunni Revival (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001). The Sunni revival consolidated Sunni Islam as the official doctrine of the Abbasid caliphate, in reaction against the Shia caliphate in Egypt and other threats. 2 Donald R. Hill, Science and Technology in Ninth-Century Baghdad, in Science in Western and Eastern Civilization in Carolingian Times, ed. P. L. Butzer and D. Lohrmann (Basel: Birkhuser Verlag, 1993), 487. An excellent detailed guide to Islamic mathematics is J. Len Berggren, Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1986). 3 See Roshdi Rashed, Fibonacci et le prolongement latin des mathmatiques arabes, Bollettino di Storia delle Scienze Matematiche, 23:2 (December 2003): 5573; and Roshdi Rashed, Fibonacci et les mathmatiques arabes, Micrologus, 2 (1994): 145160. 4. Hill, Science and Technology in Ninth-Century Baghdad, 490. 5. These include Sergei Chmelnizkij, M. S. Bulatov, Alpay zdural, Glr Necipoglu, Carol Bier, Kevin Crichlow, Samer Akkach, Brian Wichmann, and John Rigby. 6. Yasser Tabbaa, The Muqarnas Dome: Its Origin and Meaning, Muqarnas, 3 (1985): 6174. 7 Reviewing The Topkapi Scroll, historian of science George Saliba criticized Necipoglu for assuming too much mathematical knowledge on the part of the artist, in Artisans and Mathematics in Medieval Islam, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 119:4 (1999): 637645. 8 See Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, chap. 8. 9 Ron Eglash, African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999). 10 Carol Bier, Number, Shape, and the Nature of Space: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Geometry in Islamic Art, in How to Talk about Religion, ed. James Boyd White (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006), 267268. 11 Alpay zdural, On Interlocking Similar or Corresponding Figures and Ornamental Patterns of Cubic Equations, Muqarnas, 13 (1996): 191211. 12 Alpay zdural, Omar Khayyam, Mathematicians, and Conversazioni with Artisans, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 1 (March 1995): 55. 13 Carol Bier, Pattern Power: Textiles and the Trans-

mission of Mathematical Knowledge, in Appropriation, Acculturation, Transformation: Textile Society of America 9th Annual Symposium 2004, ed. Inez Brooks-Myers, Susan Tselos, and Carol Bier (Middletown, DE: Textile Society of America, 2004), 144153 (CD-ROM). 14 Alnoor Dhanani, The Physical Theory of Kalm: Atoms, Space, and Void in Basrian Mutazili Cosmology (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), 22, 38; Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 197201. 15 Potential intellect and active intellect are Aristotelian terms for the human reception and agency of the intellect that emanates from God. 16 Oliver Leaman, Islamic Aesthetics: An Introduction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 176. 17 Ibid., 81. 18 Ibid., 82. 19 Lisa Golombek and Donald Wilber, The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 214215. 20 Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 197. 21 Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Writings (4.551), quoted in Vincent M. Colapietro, Peirces Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989), 18. 22 Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 103. 23 Proclus, A Commentary on the First Book of Euclids Elements, trans. Glenn R. Morrow (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), quoted in Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 191. 24 Ibn Khaldun, The Muqqadimah: An Introduction to History, vol. 2, trans. Franz Rosenthal (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967), quoted in Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 104. 25 Leaman, Islamic Aesthetics, 138. 26 Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 192. 27 Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Beauty in Arabic Culture (Princeton, NJ: Markus-Wiener Publishers, 1999), 27; Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 188. 28 Golombek and Wilber, The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan, 140, 211. 29 Valrie Gonzalez, The Geometries of the Alhambra, in Beauty and Islam (London: I. B. Tauris, 2001), 8692. 30 As Leaman points out in Islamic Aesthetics, 138. 31 Schuyler Cammann, Islamic and Indian Magic Squares. Part I, History of Religions, 8:3 (1969), 183. 32 Cammann in ibid. points out that different combinations of numbers were popular in Chinese, Hindu, and Islamic magic squares, reflecting cultural preferences. 33 Florian Cramer, Words Made Flesh: Code, Culture, Imagination (Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute,

2005); Janet Zweig, Ars Combinatoria: Mystical Systems, Procedural Art, and the Computer, Art Journal 56:3 (Autumn 1997): 20-29; Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, trans. Gloria Custance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006). 34 Cramer, Words Made Flesh, 22 35 Ibid., 2526. 36 See, for example, zdural, On Interlocking Similar or Corresponding Figures and Ornamental Patterns of Cubic Equations; Issam El-Said, Islamic Art and Architecture: The System of Geometric Design, ed. Tarek El-Bouri and Keith Critchlow (Reading: Garnet, 1993). 37 Peter J. Lu and Paul J. Steinhardt, Decagonal and Quasicrystalline Tilings in Medieval Islamic Architecture, Science, 315 (2007): 1106-1110. Albrecht Drer, intrigued by Islamic tile patterns, had attempted something similar in a sketch from 1524, as Martin Kemp notes in Science in Culture: A Trick of the Tiles, Nature, July 21, 2005, 332. 38 Such as Eric Gosset, Discrete Mathematics with Proofs, first edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003), as Greg Farrell kindly told me. 39 Parastou Forouhar, Veiled-Unveiled (2004), von_parastou_for.html, accessed November 12, 2008. 40 Necipoglu, The Topkapi Scroll, 97-102. 41 Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius, Islam: Art and Architecture (Hagen: Knemann, 2004), 216, 232233. 42 Michael Barry, Figurative Art in Medieval Islam and the Riddle of Bihzd of Herat (Paris: Flammarion, 2004), 229; Oleg Grabar, The Formation of Islamic Art, rev. ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 81. 43 Behrens-Abouseif, Beauty in Arabic Culture, 100, referencing S. Sperl, Mannerism in Arabic Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 44 Kamal Abu Deeb, Al-Jurjanis Theory of Poetic Imagery (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1979), 1. 45 Ibid., 260267. 46 Ibid., 277. 47 Ibid., 269, 281. 48 Al-Jurjn, Asrr al-balaghah (The Secrets of Eloquence), quoted in Abu Deeb, Al-Jurjanis Theory of Poetic Imagery, 278. 49 Ibid., quoted in Abu Deeb, Al-Jurjanis Theory of Poetic Imagery, 282. By image al-Jurjn implies not a figurative image but a poetic image, such as a metaphor. 50 Grahame Weinbren, In the Ocean of Streams of Story, Millennium Film Journal, 28 (Spring 1995).

51 Quoted in Oleg Grabar, The Mediation of Ornament: The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1989 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 121. 52 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne (London: Verso, 2003), 33. 53 For example, Coleridges mechanic form has been compared to both; see Bainard Cowan, Walter Benjamins Theory of Allegory, New German Critique, 22 (Winter 1981): 117; and Abu Deeb compares Coleridges and Al-Jurjns poetics in Al-Jurjanis Theory of Poetic Imagery , 299302. 54 Tabbaa, The Muqarnas Dome, 72. 55 Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art [1934], trans. George Kubler (New York: Zone Books, 1992), 58. 56 Deleuze, Le Pli: Leibniz et le Baroque (Paris: Minuit, 1988), 4344. 57 Deleuze, Le Pli, 38, and Cinema 2: The TimeImage, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 265267. 58 Buci-Glucksmann, in making this association, brings Le Pli in contact with to the Stoic logic of sense that Deleuze analyzed in Logique du sens, 25 years earlier. Christine Buci-Glucksmann, La folie du voir: Une esththique du virtuel (Paris: Galile, 2002), 213. 59 Lev Manovich, On Totalitarian Interactivity (1996), Accessed October 22, 2008. 60 See Jos Antonio Maravall, Culture of the Baroque: Analysis of a Historical Structure, trans. Terry Cochran (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986); Omar Calabrese, Neo-Baroque: A Sign of the Times, trans. Charles Lambert (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992); Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity, trans. Patrick Camiller (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994); and Peter Wollen, Baroque and Neo-Baroque in the Age of Spectacle, Point of Contact 3 (1993): 9-21. 61 Louis Marin and Anna Lehman, Classical, Baroque: Versailles, or the Architecture of the Prince, Yale French Studies, 80 (1991): 174175. 62 Ibid., 173. 63 Sean Cubitt, Neobaroque Film, in The Cinema Effect (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2004), 217244, and The Relevance of the Baroque, baroque.html; accessed September 14, 2006. 64 Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 225228. 65 William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (1753); quoted in Tom Huhn, Imitation and Society: The Persistence of Mimesis in the Aesthetics of Burke, Hogarth, and Kant (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University



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Press, 2004), 21. 66 Dave Hickey, A Home in the Neon, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (Los Angeles: Art Issues Press, 1997), 1824. 67 Eva Baer, Islamic Ornament (Edinburgh University Press, 1998), 84. 68 Buci-Glucksmann, La folie du voir, 207. 69 E. H. Gombrich, The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979), 80 70 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Significance of the Void in Islamic Art, in Islamic Art and Spirituality (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 186. Titus Burckhardt argues similarly in The Void in Islamic Art, in Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and Sacred Art (Albany: SUNY, 1987), 231235. Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar, like Nasr, hold that the arabesque represents the cosmic process of creation, in Ardalan and Bakhtiar, The Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973). 71 Kurt Erdmann, Oriental Carpets: An Essay on Their History, trans. Charles Grant Ellis (New York: Universe Books, 1960), 32. 72 Richard Ettinghausen, The Taming of the Horror Vacui in Islamic Art, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, February 20, 1979, 18. 73 David Sylvester, The Eastern Carpet in the Western World from the 15th to the 20th Century, in The Eastern Carpet in the Western World from the 15th to the 17th Century, ed. Donald King and David Sylvester (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1983), 14. 74 The shah presented this carpet to Peter the Great, who in turn gave it to Leopold I of Austria. 75 Leonard M. Helfgott, Ties That Bind: A Social History of the Iranian Carpet (Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1994), 58. 76 Cubitt, The Cinema Effect, 223. 77 Friedrich Spuhler, Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin, trans. Robert Pinner (London: Faber and Faber, 1988), 74. 78 Erdmann, 35. 79 Richard Alleva, The Master Misses, Commonweal (January 12, 1996): 1819. 80 Andrew OHehir, review of Oceans Eleven, Sight and Sound, 12:3 (March 2002): 53. 81 Erdmann, Oriental Carpets, 32. 82 Manohla Dargis, They Always Come Out Ahead; Bet on It, New York Times, June 8, 2007. 83 See Bernard Berenson, The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance (New York: G.P. Putmans Sons, 1896). 84 Paul E. Walker, Early Philosophical Shiism: The

Ismal Neoplatonism of Abu Yaqb al-Sijistn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 78. 85 Abdelkebir Khatibi and Mohammed Sijelmassi, The Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy, rev. ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2001), 170. 86 Bainard Cowan, Walter Benjamins Theory of Allegory, New German Critique, 22 (Winter 1981): 110. 87 Ian Almond, Different Fragments, Different Vases: A Neoplatonic Commentary on Benjamins The Task of the Translator, Heythrop Journal, 43:2 (April 2002): 185198. 88 Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator, in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1968), 75. This metaphor has a long Neoplatonist genealogy, Ian Almond points out, including Ibn Al Arabi and the thirteenth-century Dominican Meister Eckhart. For the medieval exegete, Almond points out, interpretation was translationnot simply Arabic into Persian or Greek or Latin, but the translation of the hidden, divine language (batin, inner meaning) into the comprehensible language of men (zahir, outer meaning). Almond, 191.

6.1 Abu I-Wafs figure proving the Pythagorean theorem; b) The ornamental pattern of Abu I-Wafs proof, general; c) The ornamental pattern of Abu I-Wafs proof, the ratio of 1:2. From Alpay zdural, Omar Khayyam, Mathematicians, and Conversazione with Architects, 1995.

6.4 Frame from Allahu Akbar (2003) by Usama Alshaibi.

6.2 Author portrait, the Ikhwan al-Safa or Brethren of Purity (1287). Sleymaniye Library, Istanbul.

6.5 Detail of tilework, Bou Inania Madrasa (13501355), Fez. Photo by Laura Marks.

6.3 Screen grab from Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg, Apartment (2001-).

6.6 Detail of muqarnas vault, south iwan (12th C) of Friday Mosque, Isfahan. Photo by Laura Marks.



Baghdad, 830: Birth of the Algorithm Figures

6.7 Detail of muqarnas vault, entrance of Sheikh Lutfallah Mosque (1619), Isfahan. Photo by Laura Marks.

6.10, 6.11 Algorithmic fascination in Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)

6.8 Persian carpet, sixteenth century, lent by Czartoryski Musuem, Krakau. From the catalogue Meisterwerke Muhammedanischer Kunst, Munich, 1910, vol. 1.

6.9 Siegfried Troll, diagram of spiral-tendril carpet made in Isfahan during the reign of Shah Safi. From Sarre-Trenkwald, Old Oriental Carpets, 1926 and 1929.

6.12, 6.13 Interwoven narrative strands in Oceans Thirteen (Steven Soderbergh, 2007)