IMPERFECT SOLIDS (JAMNITZER VS CAMNITZER)
Some years ago I came across the engravings of Wentzel Jamnitzer in a book on Alchemy. I was very intrigued by the images, and was made even more curious by the similarity of our last names. Jamnitzer was a German jeweler in the 1500's. While he was born in Vienna and came to prominence in Nuremberg, his ancestors came from the small town of Jamnitz located in the present day Czech Republic. The etymology of my surname leads me to believe that my ancestors came from a tiny hamlet named Camnitz, which unfortunately no longer exists. While the precise location of Camnitz remains a mystery, I've been led to believe that it lay quite close to Jamnitz and was in fact a rival township which was for one reason or another eventually abandoned. In his time, Wentzel Jamnitzer made some quite extravagant works on commission for the Hapsburgs, and was even elevated to the royal court of the Hapsburgs later in his life. He was also an accomplished draftsman and engraver, even dabbling in the burgeoning study of perspective. In 1568 Jamnitzer published a book of studies in perspective of the five platonic solids entitled Perspectiva corporum regularium. Referring to alchemist methodology he explained each of the solids represented a different element, the tetrahedron, fire, the octahedron, air, hexahedron, earth, icosahedron, water and dodecahedron, heaven. Included in the book are depictions of 120 stellations, 24 of each of the 5 platonic solids. Many of the stellations Jamnitzer envisioned were unknown to contemporary mathematicians, and in some cases were not "discovered" until centuries later, preceding the work of Kepler and Poinsot. I was really taken in by the images, but was also slightly disturbed by them. They are very aesthetically pleasing, yet contain a strictness and rigidity that makes me feel uneasy. This rigorousness and severity along with the possibility of his ancestors representing a rival township to that of mine, provoked me to retaliate. I decided to construct all of the polyhedra which he imagined so precisely on paper, in such a way as to allow room for imperfection. I wanted to use an organic material which would collaborate with me in the imperfect realization of these perfect concepts. I chose wood. And to prevent repetition, I decided to use a different wood for each piece, 120 in all. The collaboration was successful and some very imperfect, perfect polyhedra were created. Upon completion of the 120 Jamnitzer polyhedra, I interpreted a sixth platonic solid, the sphere. Referencing Euclid’s statement that a circle is an infinite sided polygon, I felt that a sphere can be viewed as an infinite sided polyhedron. Therefore I made 24 stellations of spheres in wood, completing the project which now comprises 144 polyhedra.