A fellow traveller

Today I met a fellow traveller – someone who “makes art with math”, as my friend Athomas once put it. I was visiting Microsoft with a group of fellow university folks, and met this guy Frank, who is a Microsoft developer. He started showing me the stuff he’d been working on, like writing a computer program to allow kids to explore the stars in the Universe, and I showed him some of the stuff that I’ve been working on.

I could tell almost the exact moment when eveyone else in the room realized that the two of us had drifted away from the general conversation into our own space, the point when we both started to feel free to use words, phrases and concepts with each other that we know not to use when talking to others.

What’s interesting is that neither of us – or people like us – consider ourselves to be mathematicians, but math is essential to our art. We reluctantly acknowledge that we are artists, but don’t think of ourselves as part of what most people would think of as the “Art world”. We are procedural artists, who like to make things of aesthetic beauty using techniques that arise out of concepts of intellectual beauty. In a way we are fellow travellers, who recognize each other immediately and with a sense of relief, a sense of recognition of somebody else who understands why this is exciting, and why we go about creating things the way that we do.

As we said goodbye, after taking a joyful guided tour of each others’ work, we jokingly agreed that it was nice, at last, to meet somebody else who was normal. In this case, of course, “normal” was a winking code word for something very simple and emphatic, something that everyone experiences at various points in their life: “I recognize you – you are like me.”

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