I hate the rationality of life. I love the rationality of numbers, though, because numbers are a fantastic invention... To count numbers is a way to get close to the irrationality of life (Mario Merz, cited in Arte Povera, London 1999, p. 34).
Fibonacci is an illustration of the installation that Mario Merz realised at the Guggenheim Museum of New York in 1971, where a sequence of neon Fibonacci numbers run along its famous spiral interior. This mathematical progression, in which each number is the sum of the previous two, was invented in the early Thirteenth Century by the friar Leonardo da Pisa, nicknamed Fibonacci, to calculate the rate of reproduction of a hypothetical group of rabbits. For Merz, who began to use the Fibonacci sequence in his works from 1970 onwards, it was a metaphor of the natural process of proliferation and growth of natural life, a way to explore the flow of energy inherent to the matter and the mysterious interconnectivity between the organic and the inorganic. This simple sequence, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc, develops and accelerates towards infinity, geometrically representing a spiral that, with its dynamic circular thrust, can be related to the movements in the cosmos and to the perpetual and regenerative cycle of nature and life.
Merz' fascination with architecture, well exemplified by his famous igloos, resulted in his installation within the Guggenheim's spiral structure-based on the form of a Nautilus shell, itself an example of the Fibonacci sequence appearing in Nature-becoming one of his major achievements. Nevertheless he stated: My goal was not to pay tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright. I wanted to reveal our ability to make contact with things (Mario Merz cited in Mario Merz, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum, New York 1989, p. 30). By placing the neon Fibonacci numbers along the spiral stairway, Merz punctuated Wright's structure with glowing lights, transforming the austerity of the architectural limited space into an infinite illuminated trail imbued with a magical force. Dated 1972, the present work shows an image of Merz' installation at the Guggenheim accompanied by a single number from the Fibonacci sequence that, with its powerful presence, reminds us of the mystery inherent to the laws of nature. Revealing apparent contrasts and contradictions between the natural and the artificial, Merz' artworks result from the synthesis of a rational, precise structure with an irrational fluid system open to mystical possibilities.