Friday, August 28, 2009


Looking Down from the 5th Dimension

A post on Neatorama this morning highlights the work of Dutch sculptor Peter Jansen, whose "Human Motion" sculptures in polyamide and bronze appear to track a human figure through several splitseconds worth of motion.

It's fitting that one of the examples featured on Jensen's site is titled "Nude Descending a Staircase."

After all, it was Marcel Duchamp who first did the trick (albeit with oil on canvas) with his "Nude Descending a Staircase, no. 2" back in 1912. According to the site of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the piece is on permanent exhibit, "The Nude's destiny as a symbol also stemmed from its remarkable aggregation of avant-garde concerns: the birth of cinema; the Cubists' fracturing of form; the Futurists' depiction of movement; the chromophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey, Eadweard Muybridge, and Thomas Eakins; and the redefinitions of time and space by scientists and philosophers."

I think I was first introduced to Duchamp in a postmodernism seminar at the University of Texas taught by Jeff Meikle (who along with Rolando Hinojosa-Smith taught me everything I remember from college), who as I recall stressed the way that technological developments in film and motion picture cameras had lead Duchamp to reconceptualize how a body moving in space might be represented in two dimensions. But I couldn't help thinking that it also represented the way that a body moving through 4-Dimensional space would look if viewed from the 5th Dimension.

Then there's the various videos of "Buddha with 1000 Hands" as performed by the China Disabled Peoples Performance Art Troupe which have cropped up online the last few years. Here's one of the best ones I've found.

I'm never quite sure whether the "Buddha with 1000 Hands" is what a body moving through 4D space would look like if viewed from the 5th dimension, or whether it is the other way around, and that it more closely resembles what a 5D body would look like if it descended into 4D space.

Either way, I'm fascinated by this kind of thing. If you are, too, and haven't read Rudy Rucker's The Fourth Dimension: A Guided Tour of the Higher Universes, you should definitely hunt down a copy. Rucker's book looks to be out of print, but it is the text on the subject as far as I'm concerned, though Clifford Pickover's Surfing Through Hyperspace and Michio Kaku's Hyperspace are both worth seeking out, too.

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