Interview with SciArt magazine / by Alvaro De Jesus

Alvaro De Jesus
physics, mathematics, cosmology, epistemology

Interview by Alexandra Constantinou, Communications & Web Intern

AC: Since you started in engineering, what made you interested in creating art to explore math, epistemology and physics?

ADJ: While I was studying engineering I was struck by the elegance and beauty of subjects like calculus, physics and quantum mechanics, all of which revealed deeply mysterious and poetic facts about the world. I started relying on science to make sense out of almost everything. Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s model-dependent realism had a big impact on my worldview as it gave satisfactory answers about the nature of reality and knowledge, subjects I deal with in my art.
So I started using math and physics in art as a metaphor on how we relate to, well, everything, nature, knowledge, morality; reality itself.

Intellectual Honesty (Goldbach Conjecture), 2016, Alvaro De Jesus

AC: You believe that "art and science work together to propose moral values to society." What changing views of morality are your scientific research and art pieces creating and reacting to?

ADJ: Morality is deeply tied with our knowledge of nature. As science advances we gain more knowledge and therefore our morality changes. Furthermore, as Sam Harris argues in his book The Moral Landscape, the separation between science and human values is an illusion.  Art on the other hand is systematically challenging the status quo and making us reflect on the deeper meaning that scientific discoveries entail.
For centuries our morality has been driven by philosophy and religion, but I think that scientific understanding is playing an ever-increasing roll on our moral views, and will be the most important factor in shaping our ethics in the future. Going even further, we are now in a position to design moral codes thanks to the advances in AI. 

In the era of information people are actually getting informed about issues before adopting a traditional moral view by default, I think this is a very ideal situation. What you want is people learning about the facts or evidence of any issue and then adopting a moral position.  My art is reacting to this fact.

Universe of Babel, 2016, Alvaro De Jesus

AC: "Universe of Babel" is one of your current projects. How did you do research for this project, and why did you decide to combine John Horton Conway's game of life with Jorge Luis Borges' short story?

ADJ: This happened by chance during the creative process. I wanted to create a piece that talked about Borges’ Library of Babel. This short story is a metaphor about human’s relationship with the Universe, he narrates the librarians (humans) attempt to make sense about the nature of the library and how they come up with different theories about it. What we know about the library is that is has possibly infinite hexagonal chambers filled with books that seem to contain every possible 410-page book of a certain format and character set. 
I started to create an array that represented the hexagonal chambers of the library and started to play with its possibilities. One exercise I did was to highlight the prime numbers on that array of hexagonal chambers. Once I did this I noticed that different patterns emerged that reminded me of Conway’s game of life, which also makes a point about how we relate to the laws of the Universe. 

Universe of Babel, 2016, Alvaro De Jesus

AC: You state that you see the art viewer act like a scientist when they observe your pieces. When you are creating your art, do you plan the ways people will interact with it or do you leave it up to the viewer?

ADJ: I leave it entirely up to the observer and I don’t try to control the effect. I may have an overall idea of what it might look like when I am designing the piece, but I am often surprised once its finished. When a new piece emerges I also take part in discovering all the optical illusions behind it, I like experiencing that sense of wonder just like the observer would.
I am deeply influenced by kinetic master Carlos Cruz Diez, in whose atelier I work. And I am fascinated by the "discovery effect" of his artwork, which invites you to fully explore them and reach different conclusions about its true nature and meaning. This is something I try to maintain throughout my work. 

Values of Science, 2016, Alvaro De Jesus

Find Alvaro online:
Instagram: @alvarosciart

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