‘The Journal for Art, Sex and Mathematics’ is the catchy and partly self-explanatory name for an Internet-based art project that relies on active and continual collaboration among the participants—which includes painters, graphic artists, poets and art theorists. The results of this collaboration, as it unfolds in the form of posts by the participants, can be viewed on their website (mentioned below).
The posts consist of digital drawings, water colours, photos, poems and text in German and English, all related to—in some form or other—the themes of art, sex and mathematics (and science).
Magic Mushroom 2
The project has been conceived and is being run by Nils Röller, professor for media theory and cultural history, University for Arts, Zurich who is currently in New Delhi; Barabara Ellmerer, a Zurich-based painter who is also in New Delhi on a residency sponsored by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council; and Yves Netzhammer, a Zurich based digital artist.
Edited excerpts from a free-wheeling interview in New Delhi with Ellmerer and Röller on their project and their visit to India:
When and how did the ‘The Journal for Art, Sex and Mathematics’ begin?
Nils Röller (NR): The three of us have been working on this project since 2006. We have been digitally exchanging ideas and using the web as a ‘production device’ to test our individual artworks, books and exhibitions.
The web is often like a corporate laboratory—people don’t want others to see what they are doing. But we didn’t want that at all.
Barbara Ellmerer (BE): Images are posted—I, for instance, make a water colour—and, often, other members in the group react immediately. We are constantly playing with each other’s works.
NR: I would liken our project to a political think-tank. You could call our project an ‘image tank’. Every month we invite someone to come to our image tank. We are here in Delhi and currently have the painter Abir Karmakar and the poet Sampurna Chattarji, collaborating on the project.
Higgs-Boson in Love
The group recently held an exhibition of the works at the Visual Arts Gallery, at the India Habitat Centre. Why?
NR: We like to check the materiality of paper.
BE: Once a year we like to have physical, sensual approach to what we are doing.
Why this bringing together of art, sex and mathematics?
BE: It is the coming together of literature, painting and science.
NR: Two major things or motivations drive our project:
One reproduction or sex—It is becoming vulgar in the West with pornography. And we want to confront it with delicacy and respect.
Two science and mathematics—With computers, mathematics has entered every aspect of our lives. So we want to explore it at the sensual level.
Isn’t there an element of playfulness to the project?
NR: Art is not bound by rules.
BE: Sex is seen as and has become dirty. We want to subvert that. If you click on our site for “sex” you will be disappointed.
NR: Yes, porn sites don’t integrate and connect with us.
BE: A policeman with a walkie-talkie walked into our show in Delhi. He said, “I have come to check if the show is vulgar. But I can’t see any vulgarity, I am relieved.”
How old is this project?
NR: Since 2006. We now have 1000 posts of artworks and text.
What have you discovered in this period? What has your experience been like?
NR: Visual, theoretical and mathematical—this triangle is like an aesthetic-poetic continent. And we are building a ship to travel to this continent. The relation between gender and mathematics is strong and hidden. In society ‘male’ and ‘female’ are like positive and negative. We discover ways of ‘in-between’, like queer people.
Again science does so much (around us) but we have no knowledge of it. There is a deep lack of communication between scientists/mathematicians and artists/poets. We are pointers to this gap.
BE: Like my work Higgs-Boson in Love. I got many responses from scientists; they are pleased.
As artists do you point to the gap or do you bridge it?
NR: That would be too ambitious—to bridge it.
What brings you to India?
NR: A grant by the Swiss organisation Pro Helvetia to spend a month here. We spread the word about our journal and it is a platform to connect with Indian artists. It is also a networking project; to make beautiful contacts.
The Journal of Sex, Art and mathematics can be viewed at www.journalfuerkunstsexundmathematik.ch.