SCIENCE+ART PROJECT: Institute For Figuring



The Institute For Figuring is a Los Angeles based practice created by Margaret Wertheim and her twin-sister Christine Wertheim, whose mission is to engage audiences with "the aesthetic and poetic dimensions of science and mathematics." The organization's acronym "IFF" is the logical symbol for "if and only if". At the core of its mission is the concept of material play: through the IFF the Wertheims propose that ideas presented in abstract terms can often be embodied in physical activities engaging audiences intellectually via kindergarten-like practices. Thus, they suggest, textbooks and equations are only one pathway into subjects such as physics,  computation and geometry. As a parallel to "think tanks" the Wertheim conceived of the IFF as a "play tank" – a space where people might play with ideas. Through activities such as cutting and folding paper, crocheting, and assembling bamboo sticks, the IFF affirms that the hands and eyes can be serve as guides to developing the human mind. Inviting audiences to play with ideas, the IFF offers a radical approach to public science pedagogy at once intellectually rigorous and aesthetically aware.

IFF activities include innovative programming through which audiences get to make, do, and construct with hands-on activities. We create exhibitions, host workshops and lectures, and generate large-scale community projects such as our acclaimed Crochet Coral ReefOur subjects range from  geometry, topology and tiling patterns, to computational play, biological form and ecological crisis. Through the IFF, Margaret and Christine have developed exhibits for museums and galleries around the world including the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), Science Gallery (Dublin), Hayward Gallery (London) and the Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles.) Exhibition topics include outsider physics, the logical play-structures of Dr. Shea Zellweger, the invention of kindergarten (with its roots in crystallography), and Dr. Jeannine Mosely's fractal origami.

For more information see the IFF's extensive website.