These chairs and this location are the setting for a conversation between Albert Einstein and M. C. Escher on the subject of relativity and frames of reference. I have always loved Escher’s work, and been fascinated by special relativity, but I have only recently realized their connection. This piece reflects my own views on the many possible correct ways of looking at the world. Albert Einstein is famous for his equation e = mc^2, a description of the relation between mass and energy based on the constant speed of light in a vacuum, which is a prediction of his theory of special relativity. (It is important to note that the idea of general relativity, the fact that all inertial reference frames are equally valid, was introduces by Galileo, not Einstein.) M. C. Escher is well known for his drawings which play with relativity and multiple frames of reference, such as “Relativity” (the one with the staircases) and his tessellations, in which perspective can determine what forms are seen. To acknowledge both men’s creative accomplishments relating to relativity, my chairs are designed using the characters of Einstein’s equation in tessellating form, in which the E turned on its side is an M, there are two smaller Cs, two multiplication signs, and an equal sign. The colors are drawn from Escher’s typical tessellation color scheme of black, white, and red. The red is reserved for the two Es, as they coincide with the conversationalists’ last initials. E, M, and C also happen to be Escher’s full initials. The site is chosen for its directional ambiguity and for the fact that it is in Gates, a building infamous for its dearth of right angles, which are our culture’s favored source of referential frames.
My research included the book M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by Doris Schattschneider, M. C. Escher by TASCHEN, and Einstein’s Dreams by Alex Lightman (and a thank you to Kaitlin for the referral).