Sound and Light: ‘The World Machine’ at Lumiere Durham

Lighting up the whole of Durham City Centre later this week, Lumiere Durham is back in town. This festival of light, or artistic collaboration and of amazing sights and sounds has taken place every two years since 2009, and a wonderful, inventive, dynamic series of installations and shows have been included. Lumiere always includes a sound and light show on the Cathedral. This year, this show takes its title from Grosseteste’s treatise On light [De luce]. The World Machine explores the human fascination with the universe, from the Middle Ages to the modern-day. It is the product of a very exciting collaboration between the designer and projectionist Ross Ashton, composer Isobel Waller-Bridge, sound designer John del’Nero, and the Institute of Computational Cosmology at Durham, and the Ordered Universe project.

As if within Durham Cathedral, a collision at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider creates a Higgs Boson that decays in a shower of new particles (from http://www.icc.dur.ac.uk/WorldMachine)

The show was the brainchild of the ICC Director. He and Richard Bower, ICC and stalwart of the Ordered Universe have done a fantastic amount of work providing from the EAGLE project galaxy modelling, and images of the  modern universe, with a whole team of devoted cosmologists from ICC. Their films and simulations of galaxy formation, of travelling dramatically through time and space, will be wondrous to behold.

lumiere_postcard_21-1024x682Giles Gasper and Richard provided the medieval, and more specifically Grossetestian input. This involved working with the creative team through the De luce from the edition and translation by Cecilia Panti and Neil Lewis and the Ordered Universe team’s article for the Proceedings of the Royal Society on modelling Grosseteste’s universe (Bower, McLeish, Smithson, Panti, Lewis, Gasper). The medieval input also involves material from 12th century sources, the bijou gem of a manuscript from the Cathedral library Hunter 100. This scientific compilation from the early 12th century, dedicated to the science of time and the healing of the body is the subject of another investigation, involving Ordered Universe members, Durham postgraduates, staff and post-docs, spearheaded by Faith Wallis (McGill) as part of the Durham Digitisation Project. Look out for the zodiac!

There is a website which explains some of the research behind the show: Inside the World Machine. It really is a very special sort of collaboration, a kaleidoscope of images and sounds, evoking both the patterns of research and scholarly imagination, but also the human fascination with the heavens and the world around us. What Grosseteste would have thought who can tell – but he would not, perhaps, have been surprised at the marvellous things that can be done with light!

Lumiere Durham takes place from the 12th-15th November, ticketed entrance from 4.30-7.30 to the peninsula. You don’t need a ticket if you visit after 7.30pm and over half of the 29 artworks are outside the ticketed area anyway. The World Machine will show every twenty minutes on Palace Green, projected onto the Cathedral. If you tweet #worldmachine would be much appreciated. If you can be in Durham have an amazing time – and let us know what you thought.

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