John V. Muntean
John V. Muntean
As a scientist and artist, I am interested in the how perception influences our theory of the universe. A Magic Angle Sculpture appears to be nothing more than an abstract wooden carving, skewered with a rod and mounted on a base. However, when lit from above and rotated at the magic angle (54.74º) it will cast three alternating shadows. Every 120º of rotation, the amorphous shadows evolve into independent forms. Our scientific interpretation of nature often depends upon our point of view. Perspective matters.
The artist encourages the viewer to imagine two scenarios and series of questions.
1. You are a two-dimensional being living in the plane below a sculpture. Would you be able to visualize the three-dimensional object by watching only the shadows change with time? From your current vantage, (in three dimensions) note that there is no slice through the object that contains the whole image that is projected below. So the shadow at any moment is both less and more complete than the whole object. The shadow’s form does not exist in the object but is rather implied from the complete integration through three-dimensions. No understanding of the object or shadow could be complete if you are limited to two-dimensions.
2. You are a three-dimensional being, locked into four-dimensional space-time. Are you observing a universe that is casting shadows from a higher dimension? If so, are you a projection that does not exist in any one “slice” through space-time? How does this effect your perception of locality? Are you like the prisoner in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, watching shadows and convinced you are observing the universe as it is? Is it possible to break free and see the truth as the prisoner does? Would you recognize the true forms or would they appear as foreign as a Magic Angle Sculpture?
3. The magic angle in three-dimensions is also know as the identity function, x=y=z for all values. The magic angle in two-dimensions also the identity function, x=y, or 45 degrees from the each axes. What is the magic angle for higher dimensions?