Nelson Saiers, Racial Equality, and “More Is Needed”

As we step monthly into the Greater Depression and hope for greater understanding of the mathematical trickery that is leading us there (with or without Covid), we’re curious to see what former hedge fund manager and now installation artist savant Nelson Saiers is creating.

Nelson Saiers. “More Is Needed”. Washington, DC. (photo © Nelson Saiers)

Formerly working with HG Contemporary and its owner Philippe Hoerle-Guggenheim, who has artists like Retna and Kobra in his roster, Saiers is a self-directed representational artist whose circuitous route to truths frequently follow a mathematical one. Right now he’s not talking about quantitative easing or trillions of US debt, he’s talking about social inquality of a different nature: the paucity of black and brown-skin people in the fields of technology and some of the underlying structural foundations that aid and abet the systems.

He shows us his latest installation in front of the Lincoln Memorial and describes how it came together and the significance of his additions and subtractions.

“I’m doing an on and off multi-week installation in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC.  The exhibit uses math to argue for the increased inclusion and just representation of African-Americans in the world of technology (and the further advancement of their civil rights and equality).”

Nelson Saiers. “More Is Needed”. Washington, DC. (photo © Nelson Saiers)

More is Needed 

“This piece applies mathematics to argue for the fair representation of African-Americans in our tech businesses and throughout society. The math symbols on the computer printer paper hint at an important theorem from topology called Brown Representation, which has been added, but it is incomplete (topology is a modern form of geometry).

Nelson Saiers. “More Is Needed”. Washington, DC. (photo © Nelson Saiers)

In essence, this argues that African-Americans should be fully represented in technology companies and other thriving industries. The incomplete list of math conditions is symbolic of the fact that while some basic strides have been made in this regard (for example, Brown v. Board of Education), much more is needed. The Domino box, which has been X’d out, points to the sugar industry (and its role in slavery), and the arrow directed at the printer paper references the migration of African-Americans from one category to another: poorly treated slaves to successful leaders.

The fact that some of the symbols were crossed out and then replaced (e.g., the “for all” symbol – upside down capital “A”) alludes to the tragic hiccups on the road to the achievement of these basic civil rights. Finally, the work’s raw cotton canvas background points to slavery and the centrality of cotton to its vile practice, a symbolic gesture to describe where our society started (and a fact that should not be “whitewashed”). Among many other mathematical motivations nestled in this piece, there is the word ‘monochromatic’ (one color) crossed out and replaced with the word ‘spectrum’ (range of color). While there are clear interpretations of this in the context of social justice, in math, a spectrum is also intimately tied to Brown Representability, expanding this metaphor and the important range of work we must achieve as a society to move forward.”

Nelson Saiers. “More Is Needed”. Washington, DC. (photo © Nelson Saiers)