Finding the Math in the Mural

Reproduced from by Nettrice on August 15, 2012

On week one we worked with eight high school students in Albuquerque who represent the local community, i.e. young, Indigenous. The goal was to scaffold a design project using ancient Mimbres pottery designs, traditional mandalas and tools that encouraged the exploration of math principles. We had the challenge of how to impart cultural and mathematical information that engaged youth participants. To do this we introduced a few techniques and resources:

Participants also used Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs) as part their design research.

The laptop on upper right (above) shows the beginning of a design inspired by ancient Mimbres symbols. Nicolas learned Graffiti Grapher software that uses Cartesian and polar coordinates to locate the start and finish of each line or arc (shape). The most important lines are the borders. Every two borders create a “shape.” A collection of shapes is called a “group.” Nicolas’s group of shapes (see above) ended up in the painted mural, as part of a turtle design.

Research during week one uncovered lots of helpful information: Participants learned that nonhumans, including turtles comprise about 26% of all figurative images on classic Mimbres vessels (Brody 179). Amphibians and reptiles are featured on about 15% of figurative Mimbres Classic Black-on-White vessels. Cristian incorporated the Mimbres bat in his design (see below).

According to Mayan legend, the Underworld is guarded by birds, jaguars and bats. Not surprisingly, birds, felines and bats appear frequently on Mimbres vessels. Mimbres bats are often depicted with crosses on their wings, resembling Mayan representations of killer bats with crossed bones on their wings (Brody 206). Although reptiles are popular Pueblo totems, mythology often associates them with death and the Underworld.

The participants came brainstormed the ISEA2012 themes: “Econotopias”; “Trans-Species Habitats”; and “Radical Cosmologies”. They came up with a Death and Life theme for the mural that incorporated some of what they learned, as well as ‘riffing’ off of other ideas that interested them such as graffiti ‘throw ups’ and trans-species/human-machine hybrids (see above). Moses reinterpreted a CSDT design he created and it became something else in the actual mural:

For weeks two and three we worked with the youth, Explora museum, 516 ARTS, and Wells Park Community Center to paint the outdoor mural and generate mobile Augmented content.