“A ghost wanting what every ghost wants—a body—after the Long Time moving through odorless alleys of space where no life is, only the colorless no smell of death... Nobody can breathe and smell it through pink convolutions of gristle laced with crystal snot, time shit and black blood filters of flesh.”
-William S. Burroughs
There is in every being the two: the motive and the executor, the motive being that abstract thing which compels towards a possible end and the executor being the framework with the capability of converting potential into kinetic. In Miriam Carothers’s series, “Portraits of the Math Team”, we see the motive contained within the executor—the theoretical within the physical, “the ghost in the machine”.
The subjects of Carothers’s portraits are the “Math Team” of the physics world, the theorists, or in this case, Superstring Theorists. They stand not only as the inspiration, but also as collaborators in the work’s production. Each portrait is frenetically colored with the cryptic, codifying writings of formulae and mathematic equation, discreetly laying out the foundations of the universe. These writings were supplied by the physicists themselves, and by delegating this act to the subjects of the work rather than the artist, we see not only the existence of the universe in these equations, but the existence of the physicists. Their essences, their motives, their “ghosts” fill their frames, and their frames in turn give these theories form. Though laws and formulae don’t take up physical space, in Carothers’s portraits they do, giving dimension and life to the otherwise flat and lifeless.
Mathematics exists on the other side of the corporeal, supposing that which can only be observed once applied. This is the inherent conflict of physical theory: intangible concept upon which the tangible world is expected to operate. Like a ghost mathematics permeates the natural world, but with Carothers’s portraits it receives the solid physicality that all ghosts long for—“a body",
A testament to Carothers’s range, the “Other Works” in the show consist of past portraits and several of her manic illustrations, including an aptly named “You’re the Shit” piece featured as part of a mock Valentine’s Card series on vice.com. Carothers’s titles are as witty as her line work, as exemplified in her latest illustration, “No Cocaine Was Safe that Night”, a translation in ink of three notorious icons.
Miriam Carothers: Portraits of the Math Team and Other Works will be on view from June 6th – June 18th at gallery SENSEI located on 278 Grand Street.