Sculpting With Light: Medieval and Modern Cosmology

It is delightful to announce a successful application to the Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Scheme for Alexandra Carr. Sculpting With Light: Medieval and Modern Cosmology will confront human attempts to grasp and master the structure and meaning of the universe. Inspired by Durham’s resources, from illuminated medieval manuscripts to the DiRac2-Super-Computer, the residency will enable Alex to spend the summer in Durham, working with Giles and Richard Bower and Tom McLeish, and many others, to explore medieval and modern cosmology. The residency will allow a creative space for Alex to develop her thoughts in tandem with academic and other creative input. The project will be based at the History Department in Durham and at Ushaw College. Alex will give a number of public talks at Ushaw, at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, and at the Durham World Heritage Visitor Centre alongside academic input from medieval and modern scientific angles. Open studio days at Ushaw College will allow the public to see work progressing and discuss the project, processes and themes with Carr in an informal setting. In addition we will also organise presentation of the creative collaboration to academic audiences at the beginning and end of the project. These will beheld under the aegis of the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS), the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures (CVAC) which incorporates the Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme in Visual Culture, and the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS). We are extremely grateful to all of these bodies for supporting the application and residency.

The centrepiece for the residency will be an interactive installation, to be made of wood, glass and metal, multi-layered with nesting spheres. Arcs and circles, inspired by medieval representations of the cosmos for example in Durham Cathedral Library manuscript Hunter 100, will mix, merge and interact with each other. The installation will feature light sources and projections that, in conjunction with the movement of the sculpture, will create a dynamic environment for the viewer, inspired by Occulus Rift technology developed by the Institute of Computational Cosmology.

Exhibitions of work from the residency will be organized in Durham and at the Old Parcels Office in Scarborough, a developing Art Space in the town. Work will also be exhibited on a temporary basis during public talks, and for open studio days. Alongside the main sculpture a suite of multi-media artwork will also be produced. Drawings will include a series and a large-scale, four-month drawing which charts all the whole thematic journey of the project. This will be of mixed media: photographic collage, fabric, thread, embossing and gold/silver leaf. Astronomical photographic works involving ‘light paintings’ will be produced, using techniques of pinhole and long-exposure photography associated with Carr’s previous work ‘Aurora’. Time-lapse films of the night sky and shadows within selected sites around Durham (including Cathedral and the 1839 Observatory founded by Temple Chevallier – at which he made significant observations of Jupiter) will be overlain on each other, projected from multiple sources and reworked. Engravings will develop Carr’s ‘Black Matter’ technique, and finally,  short films will also be made, in the form of sketches and preparatory material for the central installation.

Sculpting with Light will have its own website, where all of the developments of the programme will be recorded. We couldn’t be more excited about working with Alex on this project. The Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence Scheme is designed to facilitate creative collaborations between academic departments and artists, and between History, Physics and a whole gamut of other disciplinary experts we will be able to develop new and dynamic partnerships which will challenge all of us at the heart and at the interface of our disciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogues. How we articulate meaning, understanding, comprehension, wonder, and their opposites, as they flow from our research, and how these might enrich artistic endeavour is part of the process. Knowledge transfer is a two-way flow, however, and how artistic media express conceptual frameworks, access imaginative and emotional knowledge, and deploy detailed, precise techniques and deep contemplation of learning, will enrich academic research in equal measure.

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