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New podcast episode: Islamic geometric patterns and Expanded Diagrams

SMRN podcast channel released a new episode on Islamic Geometric Patterns and Expanded Diagrams, created by Carol Bier, Juan Castrillón, Katya Nosyreva, and Steven Baris!

Please find it here

Islamic Geometric Patterns and Expanded Diagrams: A Conversation between Carol Bier, Juan Castrillón, Katya Nosyreva, and Steven Baris

Steven began the session by tying it back to an earlier presentation of his Expanded Diagram Project. One of his aspirations of that still ongoing study is to transcend the overly constrained, largely western-based categories of contemporary art by illuminating specific kinds of creative processes that span a wide range of historical and contemporary world cultures and practices. From there he turned to yet another multi-media project called the Exurban Archipelago Project which focuses on the rapidly expanding networks of distribution/fulfillment centers populating the exurban fringes of so many metropolitan areas around the world. The final portion of the talk focused on his recent exhibitions and current studio activities including his Never the Same Space Twice series of paintings that he plans to contribute to the upcoming SMRN conference and exhibition in Vancouver.

Carol presented aspects of several recent projects as well as what she is currently working on, related to the study and understanding of Islamic geometric patterns as intersections of art and mathematics. Her contribution to the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam on “Geometry in Art,” consists of sections on plane and solid geometry, geometric constructions and repeat patterns (periodic and quasiperiodic). She considers the use of an algorithmic aesthetic in two-dimensional space, which should be thought of as an innovation. She also addressed issues of solid geometry in three-dimensional space, and the use of projections from two- to three-dimensions. In contrast, her contribution on “Ornament” takes a more historiographic approach, arguing that the study of ornament in Islamic art requires an expanded definition of ornament than that of the Western paradigm in which ornament is ornamental. Both entries for EI3 express a narrative approach to geometry and concern cultural issues of identity and interpretation, as well as aesthetics. She lamented the recent removal of her comprehensive website on Symmetry and Pattern: The Art of Oriental Carpets (1996), which had been developed under the auspices of The Math Forum (first at Swarthmore College, then Drexel University and most recently the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). And she sought advice, guidance, and encouragement from SMRN members as to what she might next address in charting a future course for the study of Islamic ornament.


Steven Baris was born in Aberdeen Washington and grew up on various American Indian reservations in Northern California, Montana, and Washington State. He received a B.A. from The Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington and a MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. He lives and teaches art in the Philadelphia area. He has exhibited widely throughout North America and Europe; his work is represented in Philadelphia by the Pentimenti gallery, in Denver by the Space Gallery, and in New York by both ODETTA and Kathryn Markel Fine Art Galleries.


Carol Bier is a scholar actively engaged in the study of Islamic geometric patterns. Her current research focuses on the intersectionality of art and mathematics, and patterns in Islamic art and architecture as “geometry made manifest.” She is interested in understanding the deep cultural significance of historic Islamic ornament, not as decorative and non-representational, but as expressive of geometry, representing an emergent intersection in the trajectories of the history of mathematics, history of architecture, and philosophy. From 1984-2001, Bier served as curator for Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, where she first began to study patterns in relation to textile technologies, which had developed extensively in the Islamic world prior to industrialization in Europe. Her publications reflect a strong interest in crafts and technology, and my most recent book (the catalogue of an exhibition), addresses the emergence of an algorithmic aesthetic in classical Islamic art and architecture.


Juan Castrillón is a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania and board member of the Society of Anthropology of Lowland South America. He is also pursuing Arabic calligraphy and ney reed-flute training under Turkish instructors.


Katya Nosyreva is a visual artist, ceramicist and geometer. She works with porcelain clay and the visual and symbolic language of sacred geometry. Katya’s PhD research (Princes’ School of Traditional Arts, UK) was a studio-based project involving the design and making of an architectural space for a Sufi centre in Delhi, India, with a theoretical side exploring the nature of craft practice and spirituality in a contemporary context. Katya’s creative practice combines both theoretical and practical knowledge exploring the notions of proportion, perception, and imagination. Her exploration of the heritage of sacred Islamic architecture and written documents, such as manuals and scrolls on practical geometry, inform her studio work, where craftsmanship and philosophy of sacred geometry are brought together.