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Geomancy is an ancient form of divining. It involves taking random input and making sense of it using a system based around the number 16. I like geometry for the same reason: You can grind sense out of senseless things through a system of spatial organisation. This project uses takes random parameters (duration, colour) and combines them with geometric space based on the number 16 in order to create order out of chaos.

produced by: Astrid Bin

Geomancy and geometry

In Singapore I passed by a booth in a crowded market. A man in a white coat sat inside, reading a paper and waiting for business, looking like all the other medical practitioners around. However, I caught sight of his job title on a sign behind him: Geomancer.

Geomancy is a method of looking at random things in the world (usually features of the landscape) in order to divine the future, and has been practiced all over the world, and is still prevalent in Asia today. Kang [1] asserts that a geomancer "is both a doctor of the environment, diagnosing the nature of natural calamities and finding the remedies, and an assessor who determines the geomantic health and value of the land." Geomancy relies heavily on the number 16 in order to make sense of the art's "input", which is usually a feature of the land in question, though I have been told that in ancient China geomancers would determine a random number through means such as picking a potato out of a bag and counting its eyes. It seems that randomness - or at least randomness that is random enough - can be found everywhere. Entropy is easy; order requires specialised skill.

Though viewed in the west as pseudo-science hogwash, geomancy interests me as a concept because I am fascinated by geometry. This comes from my obsession with proportion, of understanding the distances between things, and the optimal way for things to fit together. Pythagoras led a cult whose mantra was "All is number" [2] and associated their knowledge with divinity, holiness. A geometric system to describe the world that previously seemed to be a senseless collection of distances and proportions wasn't just maths, but a mystical tool.

There are plenty of other examples of geometry intersecting (as it were) with the divine. Islamic geometry is a system of lines and proportions that divides space into reliable sections, and creates intricate patterns by selecting some of these intersecting sections ([3] is a particularly good explanation). This system was employed to be decorative, as images of the human figure were discouraged. What resulted is a system of creating intricate pattern through proportion, used often in holy places. 

This piece is a mediation on these ideas. All proportions are multiples of 16 as a nod to geomancy, this piece cycles through elements of the Islamic geometric structure. Colours were randomly generated, and four movements (exploring the square, kite, circle, and all of the above) make use of 30 "incantations" in which these shapes are called forward and explored, with pseduo-randomness applied to the selection of their behaviour, combination and duration. Without shape and precise proportion, this data would be senseless. Instead, there is order in this chaos.


[1] Kang, Min Soo. "Kyongbok Palace: History, Controvery, Geomancy." Manoa 11.2 (1999): 23-39.

[2] Mastin, Luke. Greek Mathematics: Pythagoras. 2010. Accessed Dec 14 2016. URL:

[3] Bellos, Alex. Muslim rule and compass: The magic of islamic geometric design. The Guardian, 10 Feb 2015. Accessed Dec 14 2016. URL: