One of the things that I’m really enjoying


One of the things that I’m really enjoying about my education work is not the making but the talking and one of the richest places to do this recently has been at the National. 

I genuinely like talking about these paintings and I’ll include the slightly nervous energy before an adult talk to the performative discussions with school groups and young people but of particular interest to me is the challenge of trying to construct from a collection of 2,300 paintings a tour of at the most four. 

The number of different tours that you could make from this collection comes to something like 2,639,253 tours and that doesn’t take into consideration the order that you see the works in which makes a huge difference, but relies on a far complicated equation than I’ve been able so far to work out.

In fact, this blog should have been posted on friday but was delayed so that I could work out the sum that I just gave you and was achieved through two train rides before being finally finished on the 106 on saturday evening.  As we rocked about I wrote out the number of tours of two from 4, 6, 8 and 12 and then tours of four from 8, 12 and 16.

Bear with me if this sounds familiar.

A tour of two from four would yield 3 tours from the first, 2 tours from the second and 1 from the third, the fourth by that time would be already counted.  A tour of two from six would yield 5 from the first, 4 from the second, 3 from the third, 2 from the fourth, 1 from the fifth and the sixth would be already counted.  A tour from 8 would yield 7 from the first, 6 from the second and on.

I got excited.  I saw a pattern which was only slightly disturbed by the introductions of fours.  Here in a tour of four from eight, there would be 5 from the first, 4 from the second, 3 from the third, 2 from the fourth, 1 from the fifth and the 6, 7th and 8th would have been already counted.  In a tour of four from twelve, there would be 9 from the first, 8 from the second, 7 from the third and on.

From that point all I needed was to find an equation that allowed me to add sequentially in descending order all numbers from any given number and I could happily say that if

x= number in tour

y= total number of paintings

then x-(y-1) = a

then a x (a/2 + 0.5) = the total number of tours possible.

Scintillating, ground breaking stuff you may be thinking but mildly off topic but recently I’ve been playing back with a project that has been ongoing for the past year to develop a language using perspective to describe looking. 

It started with the art object.  Probably because of how often I look and direct others to look again and again at works and how that process of looking becomes implicitly part of its meaning but it becomes about our engagement with everything.

If you’re still wondering what the whole equation bit had to do with this or any other part of my practice, it probably says as much about the way that I go about figuring out conclusions about these things as anything else I could tell you.