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Art and Science in Italy: Recent Events by Michele Emmer I. INTRODUCTION In the past few years two major events directly connected to the relationships between art and science took place in Italy. In 1985an interdisciplinary congress and an exhibition, both dedicated to the work of the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, took place in Rome. In 1986 the 42nd Biennale was held in Venice; it was without doubt one of the most important events in art and science of recent years. 11. THE ESCHER CONGRESS AND EXHIBITION The Escher exhibition opened at the Dutch Institute in Rome in March 1985 and continued through May. The exhibition consisted of 78 prints and I I drawings and was curated by Kees Broos. The exhibition catalogue included papers written for the occasion by both scientists and art historians [I]. Contributing authors were C.M. MacGillavry, a crystallographer well known for her book written with Escher,Fantasy & Symmetry [2]; art historian and director of the Dutch Institute, J. Offerhaus; two mathematicians, H.S.M. Coxeter and myself; and the artist’s son, George Escher, who was born in Rome. The papers by Offerhaus and George Escher examined the artist’s Roman period in detail. In particular Offerhaus wrote on the relations between Escher and G.J. Hoogewerff, who had been at the time director of the Dutch Institute. (Offerhaus treated the same subject more extensively in his contribution to the proceedings of the congress [3].) He summarized the importance of Escher’s stay in Italy, “As for many artists coming from the North, the years in Italy were fundamental and even necessary for Escher; they were the basis for his work that later became so famous.” Michele Emmer, Dipartimento di Matematica, Universita di Roma I, Piazzale A. Moro. 00185 Rornc, Italy. The Escher congress was held at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ from 24 March through 26 March 1985. Participants included mathematicians, physicists, crystallographers, biologists. psychologists, psychiatrists, art historians and experts in computer graphics and visual communications. On one hand, they investigated the relationshipbetween Escher’s work and certain critical moments in the history of twentiethcentury art. See, for example, M. Teuber’s “Perceptual Theory and Ambiguity in the Work of M.C. Escher against the Background of 20th Century Art” [4]. On the other hand, they made clear that Escher’s work continues to arouse the interest of people involved in scientific activity. One of these was D. Schattschneider, who examined from a mathematical point of view the system Escher used to classify his periodic drawings [5]. The lively discussion that followed the presentation of each papel; confirmed that Escher’s works are not only a good and perhaps unique example of the visualization of scientific problems but also an important stimulus for scientific research. Sections of the congress were Escher and symmetry; Escher, mathematics and visual perception; Escher and geometry; Escher, cinema and computer graphics; Escher and the physical world; Escher and art; and Escher and the humanities. The proceedings, which were published at the end of 1986, were organized in a similar format [6]. 111. THE 1986 VENICE BIENNALE This very large exhibition, under the general direction of the University of Rome art historian Maurizio Calvesi, was divided into several sections: Space, Colour, Art and Biology, Wunderkammer , Art and Alchemy, Technology and Informatics, and Science for the Arts. Each section had its own curators and its own catalogue. Calvesi, in his introduction to the general theme of the exhibition, described the section dedicated to Space as “the fundamental basis for the relationships between Art and Science” [7]. Unfortunately , as first the exhibition and then the catalogue have shown, it was impossible to focus on all of the most important moments in the history of these relationships in modern art. For example, in the room dedicated to “Beyond the third dimension”, it would have been informative to see the connections between the visual and plastic arts of the early twentieth century and the geometry of the fourth dimension, non-Euclidean geometry and topology. These issues were discussed in Linda D. Henderson’s The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, published in 1983 [8]. The section on...


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