Partners in Imaging Spatial Dexterity: Math and Scenography

By Valérie C. Kaelin and Soheil Homayouni.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

When grappling with the task of organizing scenic elements whether in the soundstage, on location, paper space or the computer screen, students of scenography, and even their professors, tend to refer to their difficulties as “dyslexia.” The tyranny of linguistics over spatial faculties forces our language to accept a general term like “dyslexia” to substitute for the complex phenomenon of spatial dexterity, thus obscuring our understanding of it.
By turning to the canon of cognitive science, we learn that spatial dexterity consists of many components, including proprioception, pattern recognition, right-left discrimination, mental rotation, way-finding, scaling, and cognitive mapping. Indeed, reducing this list to the single word “dyslexia” impedes our ability to communicate particular shortcomings in scenographic performance. This decomposition has roots and parallels in the mathematical models developed over millennia. We maintain that these mathematical models and problem-solving techniques are extensions of the way our brain functions. Since teaching is a process taking place within a language, a mathematical study of this decomposition provides the necessary language for teaching scenography or any spatial discipline, serving both as a diagnostic and a training tool. The inherent choreography of spatial dexterity reflected in the scenographic image is revealed through mathematical thinking.

Keywords: Spatial Dexterity, Human-centred Mathematics in Art Education, Mathematical Reflections of Spatial Cognition, Scenography, Film Set Design and Set Geography, Modelling and Drafting, Animation as a Teaching Tool

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.187-208. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.787MB).

Valérie C. Kaelin

Lecturer (School of Image Arts) and Coordinator (Certificate Program), The Certificate in Design for Arts and Entertainment, The School of Image Arts, Ryerson University and York University, Toronto, Canada

Valérie C. Kaelin, MFA (Theatre, Florida State University, 1978) fosters comparative scenography in her practice, lectures, and writing. She coordinates The Chang School’s Certificate in Design for Arts and Entertainment at Ryerson University and lectures for The Department of Multi-Disciplinary Studies at York University’s Glendon College. Valérie’s design practice spans motion media, live theatre and installations. Credits include a Gold Medal for Art Direction at the 1994 New York Festivals for Groundling Marsh (TV), costumes for Jamsil Station Lotte World (Seoul, 2007) and for Théâtre la Tangente (2005). The Digital Media Projects Office of Ryerson University launched the first of her six-part, animated tutorial in manual drafting (2007) in collaboration with Dr. Soheil Homayouni, PhD. (Mathematics). Valérie explores mathematics and proprioception as vehicles of insight with her film and scenography students. Her poems make extensive use of kinetic imagery.

Dr. Soheil Homayouni

Course Director (Toronto) and Lecturer (Ryerson), Department of Mathematics (U of Toronto), Department of Mathematics in the The School of Engineering (Ryerson), University of Toronto and Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Dr. Soheil Homayouni, PhD (Partition Calculus for Topological Spaces, University of Toronto, 1997) incorporates the relationship of art and philosophy in his history of mathematics course at Ryerson University. His areas of interest include human-mathematics dichotomy, theory and phenomenology of measurement, semiotics of mathematics, and model theory and its applications in mathematics. Soheil is dedicated to making mathematics accessible to artists through a study of its semiotics, especially as regards the human-mathematics dichotomy of its language. In addition to articles such as “Reintegrating Mathematics Education into University Curriculum, with Emphasis on the Cultural Aspects of Mathematics Creation” (U of T Teaching Stream Conference, April 2006) and “Partitioning the Sigma-Products,” (Journal of Topology and Its Applications, June 2000), he was the script-writer for motionring multimedia’s College Algebra CD ROM (1997). Some of his workbooks include Notes on Interdisciplinary Mathematics─Towards Reintegration of Mathematics in the Mind of Practioners (2004). An artist himself, Soheil has created “Music for the Eyes: a Model for Motivic-Based Illustration of Musical Compositions” and is developing “A Cartesian-based Analysis of Body Movement Towards Defining a Choreology for Flamenco.” He was the Persian calligraphy consultant to scenographer Gerard Gauci for Opera Atelier’s production of Lully’s Armide. (2005).