Boston MIT: Medieval and Modern Visual Alchemy

Earlier this month members of the Ordered Universe team, Joshua Harvey and Alexandra Carr gave papers at the Media Lab at MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts. Joshua’s paper, ‘Medieval and modern visual alchemy: material and digital ‘transmutation’ of chromatic statistics’, in which he presented his recent work on the potential of manipulating distributions of chromatic statistics within an image, to transfer material appearances. His research has significant potential applications in the fields of image processing and computer graphics and has been informed by his investigations into the medieval imitation gold material featured in polychrome sculpture.

Alexandra’s paper, ‘The body of colour: a medieval perspective’, outlined her artistic outputs to her collaboration with the Ordered Universe project so far, with a particular focus on colour. Setting aside the current rationalistic empirical paradigm, she proposed the notion of colour as a physical body through investigating the phenomena of light and the concept of darkness. Seeing the world through the eyes of a natural philosopher allows space for the psychological, metaphysical and philosophical implications of the theory of colour, which has led to new scientific theories. The artistic investigation, thoughts and outputs of medieval treatises demonstrates that a revisiting of ideas from antiquity and an uninhibited re-questioning of phenomena is conducive to new methodologies and theories.

 The talks provided a great opportunity for further lines of investigation both practically and philosophically, with colour perception and impossible colours taking centre stage. Dr Andreas Mershin of The Centre for Bits and Atoms very kindly showed everyone around the lab, wowed everyone with a laser capable of  allowing you to see colours you have never seen before, and described the work he is carrying out on olfactory and visual perception. Joshua, Alexandra and Andreas plan to meet shortly to continue sharing ideas and keeping the dialogue going. We’ll keep you posted as to where this leads.

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