It starts with a postcard.
Unannounced and unattributed, it arrived in the mailbox this fall with Robert Smithson’s earthwork, Spiral Jetty (1970), on the front and, on the back, instructions for How to Draw & Count Labyrinths. Dia Art Foundation was crossed out and replaced by Cretan Correspondence School of Topology. The card was addressed to Eden Reinfurt, a 16-year-old high school student in New York City. She later guessed the sender must be Philip Ording, a topologist, professor, and author in Brooklyn.
The postcard cued a wandering back and forth conversation conducted through the U.S. Postal Service. Eden worked through the problems posed on the first postcard, drawing her answers on a return card which went back in the mail. Four more postcards followed in sequence, each developing the ideas a bit further and posing additional problems. Some were answered correctly.

It turns out that my family had just visited Spiral Jetty that summer. The drive to the site was half of the experience, reminding me that “the journey is the destination” or “the path is made by walking” or some other tired, but true formulation. On a two-hour drive over washboard dirt roads, we read this text aloud by Robert Smithson where he describes how he landed on this “meandering zone.”
Philip, a friend and previously my co-teacher for M-u-l-t-i-p-l-i-c-i-t-y, Problems in Graphic Design & Topology knew we had visited Smithson’s work. And he had been inspired by Mathematical Research Postcards, a series initiated by Liam Watson that “publishes” results in this small format. However, Philip scarcely could have known that by the time his postcard arrived, I was thinking a lot about forms like the spiral for another project.
That project was an exhibition at the Clark Art Institute called Meander. It was a two-artist show with Tauba Auerbach and Yuji Agematsu, organized by curator Robert Wiesenberger around the form of the meander, or self-avoiding line. Here are the exhibition graphics I designed:
And with my project The Serving Library, we also edited and assembled an issue of our journal which doubled as a catalog for the exhibition. Bringing it back full circle (or rather full meander?), the set of postcards which started this eventually appeared in that publication. Here’s the issue, on a bench in the gallery in the exhibition [↓].
Continues in class . . .
January 30, 2023
It starts with a postcard.


Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson)

How to Draw & Count Labyrinths