1 + 2 = Hilarious at Interactive Math Museum
Enlarge image Together with his team, Museum Director Albrecht Beutelspacher was faced with the at times funny and at times difficult task of selecting the best of the submissions. (© picture-alliance / dpa) Mathematics and fun, two seemingly irreconcilable concepts, but on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the interactive museum Mathematikum in Gießen tried, nonetheless, to bring them together. “Math makes fun," a rough translation of Mathe macht lustig, opening September 27, is a cartoon exhibition, which attempts to bring out the entertaining side of a rather prudish science.
In cooperation with the Caricatura Museum in Frankfurt, a museum for illustrated art, the Mathematikum presents a total of 101 drawings from 45 artists from Germany, Switzerland and Austria, which are to be on display until November 14. The exhibition showcases many prominent names, such as F.W. Bernstein, Gerhard Glück, Til Mette and Erich Rauschenbach. And even if these names are at first, unfamiliar, their styles surely ring a bell. The exhibiting artists’ cartoons, always striving to encourage readers to think and smile, appear regularly in German language newspapers and magazines.
For the cartoonist Detlef "BeCK" Beck, the subject of mathematics has something to offer because of its seriousness. "With humorous themes, it is hard to put a funny spin on things," says the artist from Leipzig, whose cartoon Circles and its Endless Possibilities, has been chosen for the welcoming banner to greet visitors as they enter the exhibition. "Particularly serious issues encourage me to make fun of them," said Beck.
Enlarge image The Mathematikum in Gießen has been open to the public since 2002. (© picture-alliance / dpa) He has, like many of his colleagues, a rather uneasy relationship with mathematics. "I always had bad math teachers, though I was somehow able to muddle through," says Beck. Yet this is not the only reason he finds the concept of the show so remarkable. "These days you have to make math more vivid and accessible," he said. More than 300 images were submitted, but in the end only a third could be mounted on the walls of the Mathematikum. "The house is full," said Museum Director Albrecht Beutelspacher. Together with his team, he was faced with the at times funny and at times difficult task of selecting the best of the submissions. He said it ultimately came down to one thing: “Does the joke work?"
The only unifying factor is mathematics – the works differ considerably in subject, technique and style: there are F.W. Bernstein’s delicate strokes, which show a hobby-philosopher’s head spin smoke out of his ears; sometimes it’s Steffen Butz’s thicker brush stroke that sets the number two, the only even prime number, off on a lonely ride across the prairie; then there is Erich Rauschenbach, who has a student philosophizing over right and left angles. Beutelspacher’s biggest concern, that the artists would target classroom teaching because of their own more broken relationship with mathematics, was not realized, though the drawings are “sometimes humorous, sometimes biting, sometimes vicious,” he said.
The concept for the exhibition was born back in 2010 when the Gießen museum and the Frankfurt “comical art” museum first worked together on a joint exhibition. It had been suggested by the head of the Caricatura Museum, Achim Frenz, as a way of marking the anniversary of the Mathematikum, to ask German cartoonists what they could come up with on the theme “mathematics,” according to Beutelspacher.
After a year of preparation, the idea has become reality – an exhibition that offers a “new, jovial and artistic view of mathematics.” Beutelspacher said it has been the goal of the museum for the last ten years to make science more graphic and entertaining. This is why the cartoon exhibition is so appropriate, he said, even if the exhibition in the hands-on museum is this time more about laughing than doing.