For the Luke of Math

Several art collaborations are described on the Past Projects page: 

music based on my research 

whiteboard visual dance performance

movement art inspired by topology

student improvisational music ensemble performance of mathematicians' reflections on process

an art website exploring Cantor's infinite set theory

Since 2005, I have collaborated extensively with the Berlin-based artist Elizabeth McTernan on several art works, working as a mathematical consultant on some,  a participant in others, and sometimes in true collaboration.  Her website is  Here are synopses for a few works, most of which should be officially credited to Liz.


Altitude Sickness: Angels and Asteroids
art actions in Himachal Pradesh, India
August 2015
exhibited at HORSEANDPONY gallery in Berlin, Germany in October 2016
Inspired by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, Liz and I traveled to the Himalayan mountains in Himachal Pradesh, near Kalpa.  We used the process of boiling water and measuring its temperature to calculate altitudes and document the effects of altitude sickness on the artist's and mathematician's minds.  Artifacts (sketches, math scratchwork, writings) were the focus of an exhibition at the HORSEANDPONY gallery in Berlin in October 2016.

The Coastline Paradox: Measuring a Nameless Island
art actions on a nameless island off the coast of Denmark
in collaboration with Funen Art Academy
July 2013
Liz and I waded out to this small island, and with the help of students at the Funen Art Academy measured the length of the coastline using a range of lengths of measuring devices.  This allowed us to calculate the fractal dimension of the coastline.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody: An Evening of Mathematics and Art in Dialogue
Center for Symmetry and Deformation
University of Copenhagen
July 2013
Liz and I spear-headed this salon event, in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen Department of Mathematics.  From the event advertisement:
The Center for Symmetry and Deformation at the University of Copenhagen presents an evening of ideas and discussion at the interface of art and mathematics. Starting from established traditions of inquiry and practice, how might interdisciplinary collaboration proceed? How can we honor the internal richness and depth of mathematics and art while moving beyond and integrating the two into something greater than the sum of its parts?
In an informal atmosphere reminiscent of a salon, we will present three possible answers to these questions. Math professor Nathalie Wahl, from the Center for Symmetry and Deformation, and Copenhagen-based fine art photographer Ingrid Bugge will discuss collaborations that have resulted in images and videos based on mathematical ideas. Niels Bohr Institute artist in residence Mette Høst will present her work. Finally, Berlin-based artist Elizabeth McTernan, resident at Toves and Statens Værksteder for Kunst, and Luke Wolcott of the University of Western Ontario Department of Mathematics will describe works and the evolution of their six-year math-art collaboration.

Ink on paper, plexiglass, magnifying dome lens
Enschede, The Netherlands
July 2013
from the art exhibition catalog:
"Telescope consists of a framed 24"x24" printed array of four images, laid flat and deliberately printed too small for the naked eye to decipher.  A movable magnifying dome lens is placed on the surface of the print so the individual viewer can navigate and examine the page part by part.  The print is accompanied by a 12-page stapled document -- a fatally flawed preprint, written by Wolcott after hundreds of hours of solitary research, and ready for journal submission but for one incorrect line.  The work, in homological algebra, hinged on the construction of a mathematical object called a telescope, denoted Tel.
The four images are four representations of Tel.  Two of them point to its objective dimension, a referent in formalism and visual language.  The other two, texts, point to the human experience of Tel.  In this larger math-art theoretical space, Tel is reclaimed as a tool for critiquing mathematical ontology and reevaluating the terms of engagement of creative production."
Image and more information here.  We also wrote a short paper about the piece.

Imagining Negative-dimensional Space
Towson University, MD
25 Jul 2012
The goal of this 90-minute workshop was to induce the experience of contemplating negative-dimensional space.  With Berlin-based artist Elizabeth McTernan, I'm developing a performance art piece about negative-dimensional space, to be performed in Berlin in 2013.  Workshop participants previewed and tested various thought experiments, movement-based lessons, and intuition-based explorations, all aimed at an experience of negative dimensions.  The workshop, accessible to all, also served as a demonstration of the performance/lecture genre of performance art.  We wrote a paper about the workshop.

A Tree Calls
collective contemplation
Copenhagen, DK and Mount Baker National Forest, WA, USA
and everywhere along the great circle connecting these two points
April 2012
Announcement for the event in Copenhagen:
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a walk to meet a sound, 15 April 2012

A tree will fall in Mount Baker National Forest in Washington State, USA, on Sunday, 15 April 2012 at 00:00:00 United States Pacific Standard Time.

The sound of the tree hitting the ground will take 6 hours, 31 minutes, and 47 seconds to travel 7686.35km.  It will arrive in central Copenhagen on 15 April at 15:31:47 Central European Summer Time.

You are invited to join us in a walk to meet the sound.  This walk will begin at Toves Galleri on Sunday, 15 April at exactly 09:00:00 -- the moment the tree hits the ground in the faraway forest -- and will last for the time it takes the sound to travel from the forest to us.

Please be prepared to leave your phone and internet devices behind, and to enter the void.
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My role was to calculate the time the sound would take to travel, and what direction it would arrive from.  I broke the distance into 20 intervals and used meteorological data to predict the temperature at that time in that location, and used this to approximate the local speed of sound.  I also was responsible for trekking into the forest near Glacier Peak and cutting down the tree.

Making Progress: The Possibility of Walking Through a Wall
video installation
Hacking Utopia(s), Current Gallery, Baltimore, MD
Liz filmed herself walking head-on into a wall repeatedly, and looped the video.  She asked me to calculate the probability, according to quantum mechanics, of her succeeding in tunneling through the wall and making it to the other side in one piece.  Using my physics background, I set about trying to model the system and get a rough estimate.  As I struggled, and was forced to make vast simplifying assumptions, we realized our two experiences paralleled each other.  This email exchange discussing the project is a typical artistic/mathematical correspondence between Liz and me.
In the gallery show, her video was displayed at a corner, and on the facing wall several pages of my scratch work were mounted.



illustrations by Shannon Wallace
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