Can You Decode This Mysterious Visual Journey?

Visual artist Artem Tarkhanov fuses the history of mathematics and art in a new video known as 'beweistheorie I.'

by DJ Pangburn
25 March 2016, 3:35pm

Images courtesy the artist

Visual artist Artem Tarkhanov is someone who, like M. C. Escher, or experimental filmmaker Peter Greenaway, is interested in how mathematics can infiltrate art. In the first entry of a cycle of videos titled beweistheorie I, Tarkhanov explores the symmetries between the language of art and the structure which is defined by a prime number sequence he discovered. The video is a puzzle, which Tarkhanov challenges the viewer to decode.

“The work represents some unexplored aesthetic ideas in context of contemporary art and math (number theory),” Tarkhanov tells The Creators Project. The prime number sequences Tarkhanov works with in beweistheorie I are: 562613, 562621, 562631, 562633, 562651, and 562663. These six prime numbers are all six-digits in length and can be presented with 1 to 6 digits.

“This is the longest and single sequence of that type in math,” Tarkhanov says. “It was discovered by me as a pure aesthetic search without any spiritual subtext. It provides the logic of the video.”

“In addition to math context (which is actually wider than I described above) in the work I mostly used language of art and references to art history—Malevich, Duchamp, Serra, and others,” he adds.

Some of the scenes refer to the Russian geometric art known as a suprematism, while other works are nods to the video art of Richard Serra and Marcel Duchamp’s non-art interests. Other scenes reference chess, Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell’s math book, Principia Mathematica, and other complex math operations which are buried in the video’s symbolic tableaus.

“The relationship between visual arts and mathematics has a long history with a lot of examples of mutual influence,” Tarkhanov explains. “But independently both of these areas have experienced a huge paradigm shift in the early 20th century—modernism in art and foundational crisis in math.”

“A key result of that change could be described as inconsistency of old basis—art became able to go far away from realistic depiction and math had lost certainty of its axioms,” he adds. “Consequently, three different approaches emerged to provide their own vision on foundations of mathematics (formalism, logicism, intuitionism) and many more new directions appeared to push forward the changes in art (cubism, dada, Russian avant-garde, surrealism, etc.). These milestones in both areas constitute the main theme of the artwork beweistheorie I.”

Beyond these historical inspirations, Tarkhanov simply wanted to show a “mysterious visual journey” that had some mathematical structure behind it.  The video’s paintings and objects all point to the way to that mathematical structure. It’s the viewer’s task to make those discoveries—if they can.

Try your hand at beweistheorie I below: 

beweistheorie I features music from techno producers Plaster (Stroboscopic Artefacts) and Akkord (Houndstooth).

Click here to see more work by Artem Tarkhanov.


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video art
Marcel Duchamp
Richard Serra
geometric art
Artem Tarkhanov
beweistheorie I
symbolic logic