The Opening of Višnja Petrović’s Exhibition “Notes on Catastrophes”

There is no doubt that exhibition “Notes on Catastrophes”, whose author is artist Višnja Petrović, has many interleaved hidden facets that are not always susceptible for immediate reading. Some of these facets of the exhibition reveals a special layer, intimately connected with the theory of smooth singularities, the theoretical framework where some of the deepest mathematical results of 20th century where devel­oped. A popular name of this mathematical theory is “Catastrophe Theory” and it explains, at least partialy, the name of the exhibition.

In common parlance/colloquial jargon, the word “catastrophe” has many interconnected meanings, usually pointing to an event or a series of events causing great and sudden changes with a potential to cause damages on social environment or social architecture. However, this social lamentation, in relation to the concept of catastrophe, is not what the author wanted to evoke/achieve with this exhibition. She rather insists on a more profound liaison with the concept of catastrophe, one which is related to the singularities of three-dimensional smooth objects.

Informally speaking, smooth three-dimensional objects are those object which are defined via surfaces with no sharp edges or sharp points or discontinuities. Mathematical models of such objects normally contains a number of parameters which continuous change could make smooth deformations on the defining surfaces.

In principle, continuous changes of parameters of a model of smooth object may preserve/maintain its character or quality of being reconisable, even when these changes may cause massive deformation of surfaces leading sometime to the absurdity or to the grotesque effects. Creative artistic process­es as a rule include such choices (there are continuously many of them) and largely, they very much characterise the artist herself/himself.

On the other hand, in some cases, small continuous, isolated changes of parameters, could disrupt or drastically alter or 3 destroy the very character or quality of recognition of the object. Points or isolated parts of surfaces where small changes in parameters around some critical values may cause large sudden catastrophic topological changes of the object, are said to be singularities of the smooth object. Interestingly enough, singularities, even isolated and located to the very restricted areas only, provide a most profound and inherent characteri sation of the smooth object itself.

An unexpected outcome of the theory of smooth singularities indicates that the best way to detect singularities of a smooth three-dimensional object is to look at its two-dimensional projections. Thus, an interplay between dimensions of the objects is another important layer of this exhibition. All nontrivial research contributions, past, present and future, either scientific or artistic, lave together in a timeless spaces and talk to each other, providing for an unexperienced observ­er an elusive impression of a cacophony. The publication / appearance of such results, create our conscience and aware ness of time passing.

In this space, which acts as a research limbo, there is an intimate relationship between abstract art and mathematics, mostly because both disciplines have as an inherent property a profound asceticism/non-indulgence/self-discipline in forms and expressions. These properties are also recognisable characteristics of the whole artistic opus of Visnja Petrovic, from her early quests for transcendental passages from one nuance of gray/white to another, to the metal drawings represented in this exhibition.

The main goal of this exhibition, as the author sees it, is to make an account of an interplay/mutual conversation between abstract art and the author’s perception of mathematical catastrophe theory. This statement is beautify sublimes in the title exhibition: “Notes on Catastrophes” and this exhibition is her personal testimony / confession on this interdisciplinary and interlanguage communication.

Every visitor of this exhibition will eventually find her/his own layer of interest, apart those offered here, and such an active approach would be more than recommendable.

Ladislav Novak Novi Sad, March 2018

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