The mathematical sculpture Skolem, Lump Bumps & Windy Figures is the culmination of a mathematical project, “Mathématiciens en culottes courtes” (Budding Mathematicians). It was offered by Max Leguem, then director of the youth and cultural center in Bures-sur-Yvette, to the French equivalent of third and fifth graders, in 1999. For this educational initiative aimed at raising awareness of mathematics in young students, he called on Jean Brette, then Director of the mathematics section at the Palais de la Découverte, and Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, then Director of IHES, to visit these classes regularly during the school year with sessions involving mathematics in a fun format.
In the second year, children who had reached grade 5 became “tutors” of sorts for grade 3 students, who were discovering this new approach to mathematics. That year, the project took on a new dimension: in addition to mathematics, art was added to the mix.
The “Jeu des Cavaliers” (Knights’ Game) became the most studied game. The meeting with artists enabled the same game to be imagined from different angles. The game then moved from a flat representation to a 3D one. Some of the students worked on a set of specifications for an artist, who were then inspired to create their own version… which would become a sculpture. It needed to be mobile, as the public had to be able to play with it, while respecting the rules of the “Jeu des Cavaliers”.
Once the specifications had been finalized, they decided to commission a work of art. Contact was made with Mari Linnman of the 3-CA association, mediator for the Fondation de France’s “Nouveaux commanditaires” program in the Ile-de-France region, who proposed that the project be entrusted to American sculptor Jessica Stockholder.
On May 19, 2005, Jessica Stockholder’s mathematical sculpture: Skolem, Lump Bumps and Windy Figures, was thus born in the grounds of IHES and inaugurated. The launch was attended by the artist, the organizations which financed the piece (Fondation de France, Conseil Régional Ile-de-France, Conseil Général de l’Essonne, Communauté d’Agglomération du Plateau de Saclay, Fondation Électricité de France, Lafarge Bétons, Délégation Régionale à la Recherche et à la Technologie d’Ile-de-France, and Les Amis de l’IHÉS) and all those involved in the project, including children and teachers.
Since then, the sculpture has been presented every time the Institute welcomes students or opens its doors to the general public. The interest and questioning surrounding this work are as lively as ever.
For further information, please contact Valérie Touchant.