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The Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking, edited by Nina Samuel


A BGC Focus Gallery Publication

Nina Samuel, editor

Over the past few decades, the "pictorial turn" in the natural sciences, prompted by the computer's capacity to produce visual representations, has generated considerable theoretical interest. Poised between their materiality and the abstract level they are meant to convey, scientific images are always intersections of form and meaning. Benoît Mandelbrot (1924–2010), one of the best-known producers of digital images in scientific and industrial research, was particularly curious about the ways in which the materiality of scientific representation was able to influence the development of the ideas and abstractions the images embodied.

Using images and objects found in Mandelbrot's office, this book questions the relationship between the visual and scientific reasoning in fractal geometry and chaos theory, among the most popular fields to use digital scientific imagery in the past century. These unpublished materials offer new connections between the material world and that of mathematical ideas. Work by Adrien Douady and Otto Rössler provides historical depth to the analysis.

Table of Contents

Susan Weber

Nina Samuel

The Visibility of Islands: On Imagination, Seduction, and Materiality
Nina Samuel

Found Images I: Islands of Discovery: Sequentiality, Scribbles, and the Waste of Thought Process
Nina Samuel

Pictures of a Higher Order
Matthias Bruhn

Found Images II: Order, Disorder, Beauty
Alan Norton with Nina Samuel

Seeing Order in Disorder
Margarete Pratschke

Found Images III: Images of Reality
Nina Samuel

The Fractal View: Nature in Mandelbrot's Geometry
Jan von Brevern

Found Images IV: Pictures of Chance
Nina Samuel

Chains of Chance: A Convolluted History of Pattern Recognition
Wladimir Velminski

Found Images V: Scaling as Pictorial Strategy: Scale Ambivalence and Openness to Interpretation
Nina Samuel

Scalebound Bauhaus
Juliet Koss

The Eye is Not Specialized!
Benoit Mandelbrot Talks with Nina Samuel



Photographic Credits


Jan von Brevern
Postdoctoral Researcher in the art history department at the Free University in Berlin

Matthias Bruhn
Coordinator of the master's program in World Heritage Studies at Cottbus Technical University

Juliet Koss
Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art History at Scripps College

Nina Samuel
Curator at the Berlin contemporary art gallery Kurt im Hirsch

Wladimir Velminski
Historian of Art and Science

1.00 LBS

Other Details


8.8 x 6.4 x 0.7 in.

Page count
176 pages, 160 illustrations

Publication date
September 2012

Paperback cover with flaps