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IFF Directors Talks

IFF Directors Talks 2012
IFF Directors Talks 2011
IFF Directors Talks 2010
IFF Directors Talks 2009


Previous IFF Lectures

Exhibition Opening and Fractal Unveiling
Doheny Library, University of Southern California
Thursday, September 20, 2012 @ 57pm

A Lecture by Ryan and Trevor Oakes
Sat. September 22, 2012 @ 68pm

Theoretical and Practical Explorations of Space

@ Hayward Gallery, London
June 12–14, 2012

IFF Director Margaret Wertheim speaks at Art Center College of Design
June 22, 2011 @ 7pm
With Dr. Jerry Schubel, President and CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific

Captain Charles Moore Talks About Plastic Trash
[IFF-L22] Saturday Jan 17, 2009

IFF Director Margaret Wertheim
Neuroscience Discussions at the LA Public Library

[IFF-L21] October 2 + November 10, 2008

Seeing Anew [IFF-L20]
A lecture by Trevor and Ryan Oakes
at Machine Project Sunday, June 24 @ 7pm

The Logic Alphabet of Shea Zelleweger[IFF-L19]
A discussion with the IFF and Dr. Shea Zelleweger
at Foshay Masonic Lodge Saturday, March 3 @ 5pm

Structural Considerations of the Business Card Sponge[IFF-L17]
By Dr. Jeannine Mosely
Sunday, September 10 @ 8pm

The Insect Trilogy
@ Telic Arts Exchange
How Flies Fly [IFF-L14]
By Dr Michael Dickinson
The Ecology of a Termite's Gut [IFF-L15]
By Dr Jared Leadbetter
What is it Like to be a Spider? [IFF-L16]
By Dr Simon Pollard

Where the Wild Things Are 2:
A Talk About Knot Theory
By Ken Millett
at The Drawing Center in NY.

Where the Wild Things Are 2
by Ken Millett
at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Things That Think:
A hands-on history of physical computation devices.

by Nick Gessler [IFF-L12]

Where the Wild Things Are:
A Talk about Knot Theory

by Ken Millett [IFF-L11]
at The Foshay Masonic Lodge (Culver City)

Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane:
A conversation on non-euclidean geometry and feminine handicraft

by Dr. Daina Taimina and IFF Director Margaret Wertheim [IFF-L10]

Darwinism on a Desktop:
Sodaplay and the Evolution of a Digital World

by Ed Burton [IFF-L9]

The Logic Alphabet
by Christine Wertheim [IFF-L8]

Why Things Don't Fall Down
A Talk About Tensegrities
by Robert Connelly [IFF-L7]

The Art and Science of Child’s Play

By Norman Brosterman [IFF-L6]

Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane [IFF-L5]
A Talk by David Henderson and Daina Taimina

The Mathematics of Paper Folding [IFF-L4]
by Robert Lang

The Physics of Snowflakes [IFF-L3]
by Kenneth Libbrecht

Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane [IFF-L2]
by Daina Taimina and David Henderson

The Figure That Stands Behind Figures:
Mosaics Of The Mind
by Robert Kaplan


Previous Events

Crochet Hyperbolic Workshop
Proteus Gowanus gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Hyperbolic Crochet Workshop:
a celebration of feminine handicraft and higher geometry and a homage to the disappearing wonder of coral reefs.

at The Institute For Figuring – Special Collections

A workshop on crocheting the hyperbolic plane.
at the Velaslavasay Panorama in Los Angeles.


The sixth in our 2005 lecture series
Figuring Minds

Wednesday, December 7
8 pm
Things That Think:
A hands-on history of physical computation devices.
by Nick Gessler

Telic Arts Exchange
975 Chung King Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

"Core memory" board from a 1960's mainframe computer.
Photo by Nicholas Gessler

As we move into the age of ubiquitous computing, we are in danger of forgetting how we first made things think and how things are thinking today. Computation is increasingly hidden on chips, sealed in plastic behind the stylish skins of our appliances, under the sexy high performance hoods of our automobiles, and behind the sizzling screens of our PCs, ATMs and cell phones. Information seems to have lost its materiality as, increasingly, we envision it freely floating in a global ether of wireless connectivity.

While it is a pleasure to be seduced by these sleek virtual realities, looking underneath their thin veneers is a good sanity check. In this talk, computer collector Nicholas Gessler will give us a close-up look at a variety of early technological devices - things that think - starting with the original complex computing mechanism, the Jacquard loom. We will look at mechanical and electromechanical computing modules, at the lacy handmade marvel of "core" memories, and the physically sculptural beauty of "cam" memories. Finally, we'll examine some 20th Century cryptographic machines. A real-life show-and-tell. Perhaps, as Gessler dreams, we can develop a Rube-Goldbergian aesthetic that foregrounds processes linking computation across all of its evolutionarily diverse media, moving towards an aesthetic of intermediation.

Close-up of core memory storage. Each "core" is a small torus of ferromagnetic iron and holds one bit of data. The cores here are 2.0 mm in diameter. Core memory, which is still used in some satellites and deep space probes, is threaded like beadwork and painstakingly made by hand, usually by women.
Photo by Nicholas Gessler.
Nicholas Gessler is a researcher at UCLA whose work focuses on the emerging field of "artificial culture" - a research enterprise that extends work which began with distributed artificial intelligence and artificial life "towards a new practice of synthetic anthrolpology". Originally trained in more traditional anthropological practices, Gessler formerly studied the indigenous culture of the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of Canada. From 1973-1988 he was director and curator of the Queen Charlotte Islands Museums. In addition to his work on social and cultural simulation, Gessler is an expert on, and avid collector of, early computational devices. His collection includes a vast eclectic array of thinking mechanisms from a mid-nineteenth century Jacquard loom to a still working module of Danny Hillis's legendary supercomputer, the Connection Machine.

For more information about his collection of "Things That Think" see his website: