Pandemic art

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One image evokes the other:



  1. Victor Mair said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 3:01 pm

    True friends

    Jonathan Gray has made a brilliant discovery about the fundamental principles of mathematics and physics that underlie the peaking of the pandemic and the crashing of Hokusai's Great Wave off Kanagawa. Worathiti Pung takes the mathematical-geometric modeling a step further (click on Jonathan Gray's tweet to see the latter).

  2. AntC said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 8:32 pm

    Strange. I at first saw the graphic showing "fundamental principles of mathematics"/"mathematical-geometric modelling" (Golden Ratio) that Prof Mair pointed to. It's now disappeared(?)

    The 'fit' of that modelling relied on the remarkable downward slope for (mainland) China's reported cases. Then we should note that no epidemiologist believes those figures from PRC: the CCP, as part of its wish to control the narrative. Has ceased testing people without symptoms in Wuhan/Hubei.

    So in lifting the lockdown there, and allowing (possibly infected) people to return to the East Coast metropolises, we can expect a 'second wave'. Will this be a fit to the next crest out-of-frame in Hokusai's iconic print?

  3. Victor Mair said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 9:19 pm

    The tweet with the Golden Ratio is still there. You have to click on Jonathan Gray's tweet and then scroll down to the 4th item.

  4. John Rohsenow said,

    April 12, 2020 @ 10:33 pm

    Does the reversed version of the Hokusai wave seem more threatening to Westerners b/c we are (mostly) right handed, or is it just that (at least to those of us to whom the picture is familiar) reversing it gives it a
    freshness. In any case,the first thing that came into MY mind when seeing the reversed picture was a giant green glob of spinach attacking
    Calvin in the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. Maybe the cartoonist was also familiar with the curve analysis of the Hokusai wave?

  5. John Rohsenow said,

    April 12, 2020 @ 10:42 pm

    In my previous comment, I am referring to the reversed wave showh
    in Conner Maloney's posting: "Though as @doctorjamesfox observed, for Western eyes it helps to reverse the image to grasp its full terror

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 3:53 am

    John, I am left-handed — to me, both seem equally threatening. Unlike text, I don't have an inbuilt mental model of the "normal" direction of waves, although having said that I clearly do because I now realise that in my mind a wave would always be either going across my line of vision (in either direction) or would be coming towards me. It would never be going away from me.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 4:26 am

    The Conor Moloney version (right to left) has a menacing ghost-like cloud with outspread, potentially enveloping arms soaring slightly above and out in front of the breaking wave, and he references Dr. James Fox's program on Japanese culture at BBC, where the learned doctor would presumably explain such Lafcadio Hearnish Kwaidan topics.

  8. Philip Taylor said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 4:45 am

    OT, but relevant and of linguistic interest — Hokusai's so-called Flock of chickens : the birds illustrated therein are the very antithesis of "chickens" to my mind, being clearly mature cockerels/roosters. Now I know that we British are particularly bad at using the term "chicken" when we should use "hen" (or "rooster", "or "cockerel", or whatever) but could someone more familiar with the Japanese language please tell me what Hokusai called the picture (in Japanese) and what the most felicitous translation of his original title would be ?

  9. John Swindle said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 5:39 am

    Right, it can be startling to take images and flip them back and forth horizontally. Some, like Hokusai's wave, look a lot different. Does their perceived handedness partly reflect (no pun intended) how we're used to reading?

  10. Julie Davis said,

    April 16, 2020 @ 1:51 pm

    There are some eye-tracking studies of art that suggest that how we look at art depends on how we've been trained to read. It's also a long standing cultural habit that artists have used for, gosh, I don't know how long, but more or less, since we had an image and a reading culture. If you read left to right, you look left to right, and indeed, many Euro-American images are designed to take advantage of that habit of looking/reading. If you read right to left, you tend to look right to left, and many East Asian images are designed for that habit, too. If you look at Hokusai's wave, and you start on the right, you'll find you have a different perception entirely, and do note that the cartouche is at the left, so you experience being "under the wave" before you read that's where you've been.

  11. Julie Davis said,

    April 17, 2020 @ 11:23 pm

    What makes the right to left reading more interesting for Hokusai is, of course, that the reader would be habituated to read from the top right and down along a vertical column of text, then move one row to the left, top to bottom, yes? So you’d start at the upper right corner and move down, slipping along that curve… it’s fun to try to work it out.

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