Visualization: From Biology to Culture

Brent Collins
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2000)
Pages 309–314


The capacity to comprehend the world through visualization is a product of our evolution in environments where it was the critical difference for the survival of our otherwise vulnerable species, and with exponentially increasing effect as it was invested in the symbolism of language where it could be shared in speech and eventually in writing. Viewed in unbroken continuity with these origins in prehistory, it was to become the sine qua non of science and the visual arts (music also has a visual dimension in its architectonics). The author specifically discusses the affinities between an art based on geometric visualization and model making in the physical sciences, noting that both share a motive force of aesthetic economy, and a reliance on the same suite of natural abilities in a nervous system adapted to function perceptually in three dimensions, acting upon them in particular through prehensile manipulations and technology. To exemplify these suggested "bridges" four recent sculptures are described in relation to their genesis in a visualization process similar to scientific thought in its analytic approach.