Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Question of De Chrico

I have noticed many small mathematical poems on the internet that are in the form of A+B=C . This form is a perfectly legitimate form however, there are times when I think the author intended you to understand it in terms of A*B=C . There is some confusion as to what is the difference between addition and multiplication within the realm of mathematical poetry. I would love to hear anyone try to explain the difference between the two. In the mean time I have posted a piece above that asks that very question.

The piece is titled: “THE QUESTION OF DE CHIRICO” and it poses the question: “Is the image on the right side of the piece equal to the ideas of Baltimore times De Chirico or is the image equal to the ideas of Baltimore plus De Chirico?

I invite anyone to choose between the two statements and explain why and I will post the answers.


Todd Smith said...

I'm glad you posted this question because I'm not sure I really understand the difference between multiplication and addition in mathematical poetry.

Here's my take on it: The painting on the left seems to fit the style of the painter Giorgio de Chirico, so I assume that it is his work. If this is the case, I would vote for the equation: de Chirico (Baltimore) i.e., multiplication.

Multiplication implies a combination (almost a mixing of two elements) and it generates something more than the sum of the two entities being combined.

I would suggest that a snap shot of de Chirico with Baltimore in the background to be represented by the equation de Chirico + Baltimore.

But a work of art produced by de Chirico in which Baltimore is featured would mean multiplication to me. The painting is as much de Chirico as it is Baltimore. The two are inextricably intertwined.

I would be interested to hear your understanding.

Kaz Maslanka said...

Hi Todd,
Thanks for commenting on this piece and sharing your thoughts on this process. I feel your assessment is right on target with what I and a few others feel. I would love to hear what George Lakoff or another good cognitive scientist would say about this question. The right side of the image in question is a photo I shot of a tower that resides in the Baltimore inner harbor. I photoshopped it to look like a DeChirico. … And yes I agree a photo of De Chirico in Baltimore would equal “Baltimore + De Chirico”
I plan on making a detailed essay and post it on the blog when I can get enough energy … My health is not tip top these days. I would like to include your comments as well in the essay.
Thanks again!

Todd Smith said...

Thanks, Kaz. I'm glad to hear that my thinking makes sense to you. Multiplication definitely seems to be a more complex combination than addition to me. Two spools of thread might be added together when placed in a shopping bag, but they would be multiplied together if they were woven into a shirt.

Also, addition seems to be one-dimensional, while multiplication seems to create two dimensions. Addition happens along the number line, while multiplication can be graphed along the x and y axis.

They say you can't add apples and oranges. In addition you have to find a common denominator before you can add. This implies the number line again. As soon as two things are on the same dimension they can be added. For example, de Chirico and Baltimore are both physical things and so they can both be photographed together and said to be "added together" in the picture.

But with multiplication there is less restriction. You don't need a common denominator to multiply two things. The combination creates something new that is not merely more quantity of a common denominator. In pure mathematics 3 x 4 creates a rectangle of area 12. Before there were only lines (one dimension), after multiplication there is area (two dimensions). New space is created. In the example of de Chirico, Baltimore x de Chirico created a new vision of Baltimore colored by de Chirico's own inspiration. No one had seen Baltimore in quite the same way. It is as if a new dimension was opened when these two were combined.

Well, I didn't plan to write this much, but it's fun to think about.

I hope you're feeling better soon.


P.S. we might also consider Kaz (de Chirico + Baltimore)

Kaz Maslanka said...

Hi Todd,
It is interesting that you mention apples and oranges because I am working on a piece titled just that.


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