a sculpture about the enterprising mind at work


In early 2003, to honour the life and work of mathematician, computer scientist and entrepreneur Ivan Rival, the family commissioned Montreal master sculptor Michel Binette to create a memorial bronze sculpture.

Order JournalTo remember Ivan through art seemed a natural choice given his love for the arts and his lifelong goal of representing complex mathematical ideas via elegant pictures. Ivan argued for a return to a more intuitive approach to mathematical reasoning, in reaction to what he considered an excessive reliance on formalism and deductivism, and towards this end he emphasized the visual and esthetic qualities of mathematics. Ivan took this pursuit a step further in 1994 when he creatively applied the drawing of ordered sets to the design of Degree Navigator, a degree audit software with a unique data visualization interface.

Although a visual tribute seemed appropriate—if not obvious—the family faced the more difficult question: a sculpture of what? A bronze bust of Ivan was out of the question: Ivanís modesty—at times excessive—and his disdain for hero-worship would simply not permit such a thing. The family therefore turned to his work.

Robert Rival's original sketchRobert, Ivan's eldest son, sifted through Ivan's many published articles and consulted some of Ivan's former colleagues in search of a singular mathematical drawing that could be translated into bronze. Eventually, Robert drew inspiration from the cover graphic of the journal ORDER that Ivan founded in 1984.

Robert transformed the original graphic in two ways: he imagined the falling squares as falling cubes; and introduced the idea of human intervention, represented by hands, consciously creating order. The hands represent Ivan the scientist, creator and organizer, carefully designing and constructing order out of chaos.

Michel Binette's original sketchIn late 2002, Robert presented his sketch to sculptor Michel Binette who in turn refined the concept into a simpler, more elegant and esthetically pleasing design by delicately placing just one hand grasping a single cube, and resting upon a cascade of tumbling cubes caught in mid-motion.

Binette worked on the sculpture throughout the spring and summer of 2003. In fall 2003, Robert accompanied Binette to the foundry in Inverness, Quebec, to oversee the finishing touches. Binette's overwhelming success in conveying a complex idea in a simple and elegant form is evident by the powerful response the sculpture stirs in people who have had the opportunity to see it.