Grosseteste in Glass

The first of the creative collaboration seminars between the Ordered Universe project and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, was a great success. The project sparked a great deal of interest across a wide spectrum of fields and has continued to provoke and stimulate thought. The experience of watching glass architecture being created in front of us (after a lot of careful and thoughtful preparation, was amazing.

The whole day was a wonderful advert for cross-fertilising ideas, encountering different media, different perspectives and allowing them to breathe additional life into texts from the thirteenth century. After presentations on Grosseteste himself by Giles, on colour as embodied light by Hannah, and the artistic perspectives of Colin and Cate, and the glass display by Colin, we split into groups. This was for close reading of various of Grosseteste’s texts: from the De artibus liberlibus, to the De luceDe colore and De iride. Students at all stages in the National Glass Centre programmes: BA, MA and PhD, as well as post-doctoral and full-time staff grappled with Grosseteste and the strange, beautiful geometric landscape he creates. It was heart-warming from the medieval side of things to see these texts, having been made accessible, being used to inspire creative projects; and similarly from the science perspective. Gathering together ideas in the final plenary session, we could see just how much work had been done to think through the texts and how the themes, especially of light and colour, but also sound, movement, body and material, could be explored in all kinds of different directions.

The next seminar takes place at the end of August, and, at Cate and Colin’s suggestion, this will involve the Ordered Universe team getting to grips with the material side of things, and trying out some glass-cutting, and perhaps, blowing. This will be both an enormous joy, but has a very serious purpose as well. As Colin put it knowledge transfer has different currencies, and for exchange to happen fully, these currencies have to be acknowledged and experienced. So, to elucidate texts with glass artists is only half of the process; for them to elucidate their practice and thought with medievalists and scientists forms the other. We all remain experts in our own fields, but experience of other ways of thinking through the same issues is vital.

Through a Glass Darkly, will create a number of pieces of glass artwork and architecture; it involves the collaboration of Alexandra Carr and Ross Ashton as well.  It will also feature the film-work of Alan Fentiman. Part documentary of the collaboration and part meditation on the themes of colour and light within Grosseteste’s work, the film will be created over the summer and autumn, allowing a different medium to be explored, in which our collective work can be embodied.

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