Sandblasted Zimbabwe Black Granite

Noli Turbare Circulos Meos

  • I have a classy little fridge magnet with the Latin words "Noli turbare circulos meos". It translates: 'Do not disturb my circles'. The name Archimedes appears in small print with the translation. My one and only Anél had brought it from London in 2004 to stick it on the large green metal door of the safe in my study, the pale yellow of the magnet meant to offset the antique green of the door. We enjoyed the little plate because the words on it seem to comment on my large installation 'Circle of Knowledge' put in place at the University of Johannesburg in 2001.


    'Circle of Knowledge' consists of eleven granite rocks, gently carved to resemble large, black pebbles. The Greeks used pebbles to register their vote and till this day the subject of voting is known as 'psephology' from the Greek psephos 'pebble' and logos 'study' or 'word'. The Romans used pebbles to do maths and arithmetic - in Latin a calculus is a pebble - words like 'calculate' and 'calculator' are named after it. Because I write dictionaries, ancient Greek and Latin are my unspoken languages, but they were real languages for the bilingual Archimedes whose name features on the little magnet - and so too were the practices of voting and calculating with pebbles.


    My sculpted circle subverted the idea that pebbles can easily be moved about or dropped into a vase because its eleven stones weigh more than forty tons. Anél and I thought Archimedes's words were rather ironic in the face of such odds, but neither of us knew the exact context in which they came about. Another irony is that my little magnet is of a fixed square format, yet it carries information about circles. I quite like the idea of viewing a square as a disturbed circle.


    In 2007 I spent a few months as artist in residence on the NIROX estate in hills to the west of Johannesburg. There I regularly stared at the little magnet on the metal drawer of one of my filing cabinets till one quiet night I Googled its meaning. The legendary story is rather variable.


    Archimedes (c. 287-212 BC), Greek inventor and mathematician from Syracuse was passionate about his work. He spoke his mind fervently when defending and proposing mathematical principles. His thoughts were not merely ideas, they were all-consuming ideals. He lived at a time when his beloved