Late today I swung by the University of San Diego to see something extraordinary.
The San Diego Geometry Lab, with the help of the San Diego Collaborative Arts Project (SDCAP) and the University of San Diego (USD) Applied Mathematics program, is building a complex interactive sculpture called Unfolding Humanity. For a few minutes I admired the metal sculpture which stood outside by a campus parking lot, and watched as USD students and faculty worked to carefully assemble it.
Unfolding Humanity will be on public display this year during Burning Man, and the weekend of Maker Faire San Diego in Balboa Park.
Once completed, people will be able to stand inside the hollow, 12 foot tall dodecahedron. When the mirrored sides fold close, those inside will see their myriad reflections amid thousands of programmable star-like LEDs. They will seem to stand at the center of the universe. The fantastic effect will almost certainly inspire awe and provoke thought. Awe at the beautiful symmetry and complexity of the universe, and thought about its mathematical structure and our place inside it.
This very cool sculpture is fascinating on various levels. The Matrix-like chamber provokes questions about the relationship between technology and humanity. The opening pentagonal walls relate to Albrecht Dürer’s 500-year-old mathematical problem concerning the unfolding of polyhedra. Most interesting to me, the mathematical structure of the universe, based on observations of cosmic radiation, is thought to resemble that of a dodecahedron–the shape of Unfolding Humanity. Standing inside the sculpture might in some way help us sense the mysterious structure of the cosmos itself.
This artwork reminds us all that the universe’s existence, and our existence inside it, is ultimately a profound mystery. As the Unfolding Humanity website states: We human beings do not know who we are, and that is who we are.
Today when I attended Unfolding Humanity’s announced debut, I was under the impression the project was completed. But it turns out construction is ongoing. I learned the interactive sculpture should be finished in perhaps a week or so.
Please visit the San Diego Geometry Lab website. You’ll learn more about the artwork’s conception, historical significance and symbolism. You’ll see cool external and internal renderings of Unfolding Humanity based on a computer model, plus an animation of how it will open and close once completed!