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Modulations of Man - Code, Proportions, and Harmony far from Equilibrium; A Collection of Pure Proportions
Modulations of Man is a collection which consist only of a set of proportions, a series of measures, variables whose ratio is constant, and which could fit any human body. As a minimalism of pattern making, but a maximalism of mathematical beauty. How does mathematical proportions relate to the mathematics of pattern-making, and could there be a singular common denominator, materialized into a garment - a "Vitruvian Dress"?
Would we have perfect clothes if we had perfect bodies? If we had perfect bodies and perfect measures, would we have perfect fit? Can we make harmonies of measures, just like there are Pythagorean mathematical harmonies in music, and such as the Golden Ratio's appearance in organic compositions or in the Platonic solids? Such harmonies follow simple progressions or ascending rhythms, such as the Fibonacci numbers; a sequence of numbers where each number is the sum of the previous two numbers, starting with 0 and 1 (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 etc). Such modulations create beautiful diagrams in consonance with patterns found in nature, as illustrated in Fibonacci's spiral, which is for example constituting the form found in the Nautilus shell.
According to the old Greek philosophers, all things exists because they are ordered within cosmos and set in relation to one another. For Pythagoras of Samos, the original essence of all things lay in their numbers and relations, in their interrelated codification. Musical scales and harmonies depend on mathematical formulas, such as relationships between the length of a string and the pitch of a note. By halving the length of a string or a pipe, the number of vibrations per second is doubled, creating a tone an octave higher. A ratio of 3:2 creates a fifth. Moving up fifths along the scale creates twelve tones, called the "circle of fifths" in Western music. Bells, flutes and other instruments are guided by the same proportions. To the Pythagoreans this is the revelation of the cosmos, the order of things, and the opposite of the chaos of pandemonium. The proportions of music and maths were considered to be applicable also to architecture and the arts. Franchino Gaffurio illustrated the pytagorean relations of music scales in his Theoretica Musicae in 1492.
gaffurio proportions
The proportions revealed in music are thus not produced by man, but seems to exist independent of the human sensorial organs. As with the mass of bells or the length of strings, the divine proportions can be found in overall nature. This is the harmony of nature, the inner stabilizing force which makes the world exist in repetitive balance. Relations like these were not considered a knowledge that was human, it was considered divine. It revealed the same laws that governs the balance of the planetary spheres and corresponding order could be found in the correlations of the beauty in a human body. The platonic forms in their inner perfection represented deeper meanings of divine intentions. Indeed, relations and proportions revealed the essence of being.

Gaffurio harmony

Later, and playing with a concept by american philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, we could argue that the Pytagorean relations measure how things "prehend" each other. All that is, is set in relation to another, and in this interconnection lies the revelation of being. One object prehends another, and through the system of prehensions the world is ordered. Today, theories on self-organization and emergence seem to resonate with the Pythagoreans. Emergent interactive mechanics are set from relations of exteriority, in scale and harmony, though not necessarily balance. Rather, nature arguably appears to operate in a state far from equilibrium, due to the massive energy input from the sun which reverses the laws of entropy in the ecosystems of our planet. But still numbers seem to reveal some deeper correlation between organic life and divine laws.
Harmony between the human body and its proportions could be compared to the organic relations of bodies under dynamic change. Like the fractal growth of fern leaves, repeating the same pattern over and over at several levels, thus producing a leaf structure within the leaf (within the leaf), such as the fractal diagrams of "Barnsley's fern", which repeats its pattern infinitely.
Barnsley's fern fractal
For Roman architect Vitruvius' set of proportions, which throughout antiquity came to represent the divine scales of harmony, the human palm is the width of four fingers, a foot is the width of four palms, a cubit is the width of six palms, a pace is four cubits, a man's height is four cubits etc. These Vitruvian proportions, exposed in his book De architectura, were later drawn in da Vinci's famous diagram The Vitruvian Man, which to many have come to represent an ideal or a canon of human proportions.

modulations of man - vitruvian

The Vitruvian formulas of human measurements are not unknown in fashion, but rather form the basis of pattern making. Nevertheless, the connections to the divine are seldom made, or to pattern making's correlation to the planetary spheres or the order of prehending things. The pattern maker is a applying not only mathematical formulas in the shaping and cutting of material for draping the body, but transposes divine measures onto the carnal vehicle of the soul.
The perfect pentagram was the Pythagoreans' symbol and its line segments constitute the golden ratio and the relations later explored by Vitruvius. The golden ratio, or section, has in modern time often been denoted by the Greek letter phi, (φ), and the number is approximately 1.6180339887. Tracing the Viturvian man, we could create a shape of a garment from the perfect form of the circle. Inscribed in the measurements of man, divided by the golden ratio, shapes the diameter of the circular garment. Each of the four holes in turn share the ratio with the whole. The Vitruvian modulations; the Vitruvian dress.

vitruvian designs


modulations of man

The perfection of the vitruvian formulas could also be related to the perfection of man as full being. One could almost suspect there being a higher formula for the paragon of complete man - the original creatures of man as recollected by Aristophanes in Plato's The Symposium. To Aristophanes, in man's origin people were connected two-by-two by the hips, and wheeling around in perfect harmony. According to Aristophanes, the power of their completeness was so great it threatened the Gods, and in anger Zeus tore all creature apart into two men. Since then we all seek throughout life after the memory of our long lost partner. But perhaps we seek neither flesh and bones, nor company; we might seek the perfect proportions of the double. The nonpareil proportion of compete man.

the double of Aristophanes