A Disappearing Number Displays Effects That Don't Add Up to Much

British theater company Complicite's newest at the Lincoln Center Festival

A famous quote from Hardy, reiterated in the show's text, says that "a mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns." But surely this statement, while handily revealing the Romantic-Victorian side of its author's temperament, contains a logical flaw: Mathematics, being a scientific system that exists, however abstractly, as an underpinning to reality, its patterns must already exist. Scientists don't create them but discover them; they are, as Hardy was able to show Ramanujan, subject to proof. This is not the same as writing Leaves of Grass or painting Guernica, works that did not exist, except as the unformed impulse to create, until the artists had produced them. Their worth cannot be proven, as theorems can, by scientific means applied objectively. In trying to transform a relationship based on mathematics into art, Complicite has slipped through the gap in Hardy's reasoning. Its pretty patterns may all mean something mathematically; artistically, they don't.

No strength in numbers.
Joris-Jan Bos Photography
No strength in numbers.


A Disappearing Number
By Complicite
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center


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