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Experiencing mathematical proves

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Year: 2014-16

The process of recontextualization is an interruption of the biography of an object in the attempt of identifying the prominent historical layers to display. This type of recontextualization is what we often see in museums. Museums historicism tends to describe the past how it really was ignoring that, in order translate the language of an object we have to dialectically study how and what made aesthetic or functioning possible or necessary: what is the frame of their formation. The frame is the apparatus of knowledge behind the object and its evolution in the context of history. Therefore, the following questions are can we read this apparatus, can we use museums for making it legible, and 3. what will be the means for doing this? 

The answer I proposed was, by recreating a Walter Benjamin called a historical experience.

the Jetztzeit as locus of the historical construction. The present (Jetzt) is the place where History stands as a synthesis and where the historian depicts «an experience with it, which stands alone». In Benjamin’s On the Concept of History8, experience is a meeting between past and present where one renounces to the appropriation of the other; the two terms live in a mutual dimension of distance and proximity where none of them prevails. According to this statement, the past does not enlighten the present, but it is  only as a picture (a fragment), a synthesis of the past which Benjamin define a dialectic image happening in an instant of time, it is what Benjamin calls the dialectic of immobility that we experience dealing with historical objects. Now the question is, if the astrolabe is the dialectic image, the picture or the object that put us in contact with the past and we have to have an experience of the past that it is synthetizing, what should we experience? We should experience the frame of formation of this instrument, the context in which has been developed: we need to experience the process or reasoning about the object, the process of developing the mathematical theorems that made its construction possible. Namely, what we have to experience is the mathematical framework. What you see here is a plan of a utopian museum designed for the astrolabe where each room was 3d-mensional representation of a mathematical theorem used for conceiving the instrument itself.

The museums was designed as a series of connected boxes/rooms. Rooms could be infinitely added as the knowledge behind the creation of this instrument was infinite. An endless hypertext that contains the scientific but also the cultural, social, political and economical framework of formation of the astrolabe. Because this historical scientific instrument is the by-product of the scientific knowledge of a specific time and place. It is a synthesis which concentrate the plurality and multiplicity of knowledge in the materiality of one object, it is the picture of Benjamin’s On the Concept of History. Or a fragment of a specific historical moment.

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