Space, Place and Elements: Ordered Universe Symposium

Tomorrow sees the fifth Ordered Universe symposium in the current series, as funded by the AHRC (and the twentieth in the all-time rankings) get underway. We’ll be focusing on three texts, all from the mid-years of Grosseteste’s scientific writing career: On the Six DifferencesOn Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements. All are beautiful, intricate and more complex than they look at first reading, and reveal Grosseteste marshalling more sources, working with greater familiarity with Aristotelian natural philosophy and his Arabic-language commentators. Dating from the second decade of the thirteenth century to the first half of the third, Grosseteste’s location at the time of composition is as uncertain, as the political and social turbulence of these years is assured. For what purpose and for whom the treatises were composed remains unclear, whether for teaching or for private reflection. The texts themselves however, are as precise and dauntingly specific as ever.

We are very happy indeed to be back in the elegant surroundings of Pembroke College, Oxford University, and huge thanks to Rebekah White, Clive Siviour, Josh Harvey and Nuala Darnell for organisation. Sarah Gilbert, the Ordered Universe administrator has been the lynchpin in this capacity as well. The programme is available here as PDF and in on Issuu below. Future symposia will be taking place in Montreal (McGill University), Dublin (Trinity College), Lincoln (Bishop Grosseteste University) and Durham, with workshops in between at the University of York. The collaborative reading remains the centre-piece of Ordered Universe activities: a nice reminder of how complex Grosseteste’s ideas were, how hard the process of elucidation is, and the meeting of minds, present and past. We’ll let you know the results and what we’re up to this year!

Illuminating Colour – Now Open

Last night saw the launch of Illuminating Colour, a new exhibition from Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. The exhibition, as readers of this site will know, grew from a collaborative initiative with the Ordered Universe project, Through a Glass Darkly. The exhibition emerged from a series of meetings, collaborative readings, knowledge exchange sessions (learning about glass, living medieval manuscripts), glass-making, planning and exhibits within the Being Human Festival, all of which took place over the last 18 months. Students and staff from Durham, Sunderland and Oxford, as well as the international collaborators from Ordered Universe, have all taken part and contributed, Artists Alexandra Carr, Ross Ashton, Alan Fentiman and Rosie Reed Gold have also been involved from their different media expertise.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Cate and Colin’s work. Taking Grosseteste’s treatises On Colour and On the Rainbow as the principal inspiration, alongside his thinking on light and other meteorological phenomena, the works have come together over the last year. It has been an enormous privilege to watch this happen, and, at some level, to have been involved. The imagination, craft, skill depth of experience and curiosity to experiment are both mind-blowing and inspiring. The exhibition dwells profoundly on Grosseteste’s statement that ‘Light is colour embodied in a transparent medium’. The end of that treatise, On Colour, invokes the fact that those who are especially skilled can manipulate the medium to make whatever colour they like. This description is applied justly to Cate and Colin, and the pieces they have created.

Illuminating Colour finishes on 11th March 2018, so there is plenty of time to come and visit, and what a reason (if any were needed), to come to the North-East. This is also only the beginning of the collaboration, so stay tuned for further cross-disciplinary exploration of the universe in which we live and how we explain and perceive it. The exhibition is supported by the University of Sunderland, the National Glass Centre, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Durham University and the Ordered Universe project. For those that couldn’t be there last night – some images and a periscope tour of the exhibits – but do come and see the real things!

 

 

Illuminating Colour: New Work by Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie

It is not often that you get to see your research used in the production of stunning artwork, but that is exactly the case for the Ordered Universe team and the collaboration with Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Opening this Friday, Illuminating Colour runs from October 21st 2017 until March 11th 2018 in the Main Gallery at The National Glass Centre. The fruit of collaboration across the project and the NGC as readers of previous blogposts will know, it is tremendous to see Cate and Colin’s imagination, hard work, skill, craft and learning come to the point of exhibition.

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Cate Watkinson – VideoLog2: Embodying Light

Cate Watkinson talks through her ideas for the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland’s, upcoming exhibition on Grosseteste, light and colour, in the autumn. This is the second film made by Claire Todd, exploring aspects of how the pieces and the exhibition come together. Colour, Light and the magic of glass….

We are very grateful for the support of the Durham University Institute of Advanced Study in making these films possible.

Exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland

Absolutely thrilled to announce an upcoming exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Artists Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie, with contributions from MA and PhD students from the Centre will be creating a fantastic array of installations, all based on Grosseteste’s treatises on light, colour and the rainbow. The exhibition will run from October 2017 to February 2018 at the Glass Centre.

Amongst the pieces to be created are pillars of colour casting shadow and reflection, and an exploded rainbow, with sequences of colour moving and blending into each other:

Other pieces will work with medieval imagery and text; all will be exploring Grosseteste’s idea that Colour is Light ‘Color est lux’. Or, as he put in his Commentary on the Genesis Creation story, a constant mediation and mingling of the elements:

Nor should anyone think that the earth could not have been coloured at the beginning, given that colour is light in a diaphanous medium and light was not yet created. In fact, if the creation of things was successive the fire was mixed with this solid earth since the beginning, as it is now; and the incorporation of its light (that is: the fire-light) in the moisture of the earth made the earth coloured. In fact, these elements that we perceive around us are not pure, but mixed with each other, and are named from the element that predominates.
[Hexaemeron 4.7.2: ed. Richard C. Dales and Servus Gieben (Oxford, 1982); translated by C.F.J. Martin as On the Six Days of Creation (Oxford, 1996)]

Flowing from the Through A Glass Darkly collaboration the exhibition also forms part of the City of Sunderland’s bid for UK City of Culture. It really is amazing to see the continued inspiration that Grosseteste’s thinking moves and shapes, and to see different levels of analysis, interpretation and explanation of these texts through glass.

We’ll be creating a Vlog to track the progress of the making – many thanks to Claire Todd – and to whet your appetites for the exhibition, in its various modes: meditative and explosive by turns.

BBC Look East on Spiritus: Light and Dark and the Cambridge e-Luminate Festival

 Karen Monid interviewed on BBC Look East, as part of the Cambridge e-Luminate Festival, and Spiritus: Light and Dark created with Ross Ashton, taking inspiration from Robert Grosseteste.

Spiritus – Light and Dark

A shortchanged film montage of most of Spiritus – we’ll have an official copy for the website in due course: this is to give the impression of how beautiful the piece was. Ross and Karen attended the latest Ordered Universe workshop together, in Durham in September last yea. This took the treatises On the SphereOn the Six Differences and looked over those On the Liberal ArtsOn the Generation of Sounds and the Seven Liberal Arts. The fruits of this collaboration are wonderful: a show meditative than World Machine, contemplating the different notions of creation between the Middle Ages and modern cosmology. Music is used, wholly consonantly with the place ancient and medieval authors gave to it in discussions of the harmony of the universe, and its rational, ratio-laden structure, to move the show forward, human voices entering only at the end. Different spurs for creation are considered too, natural explanation and spiritual, with the whole experience an immersive treat for the senses.

Ordered Universe at Cambridge e-luminate – Spiritus: Light and Dark

An absolutely fantastic day in Cambridge on February 10th, with the launch of the e-luminate festival. Ordered Universe team members, Giles Gasper, Tom McLeish, Richard Bower, Hannah Smithson and Sebastian Falk presented the project, and interactive activities on medieval and modern science to the public at Great St Mary’s Church. With over 250 visitors to the displays we were very glad to support Ross Ashton and Karen Monid’s simply breathtaking projection show Spiritus: Light and Dark. This was a dazzling juxtaposition of medieval astronomical thought, modern cosmology, and a wonderful tribute to the scientific imaginations, of Grosseteste and his later successors, the contemplative beauty of music inspired by Hildgard of Bingen, and the artistry to bring all of these together in a bewitching sequence. If you are in Cambridge the show, and all of the others across the city (as well as other events around e-luminate) are on until the 15th Feb: it will be well worth the trip. Ordered Universe members were very grateful for the assistance too of Jinni Tang (Durham University) and Eleanor Puttock (Faraday Institute) in marshalling the exhibits and audiences, and to Rev. John Binns and the staff at Great St Mary’s. Astrolabes, the world of Robert Grosseteste, visualising the medieval cosmos, a modern oculus rift journey into dark matter, contemporary glasswork from the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, and optical experiments from the 13th century. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

Images from Giles Gasper, Ross Ashton and Karen Monid

Spiritus: Ordered Universe at the Bouygues UK Cambridge e-Luminate Festival: ‘Let There be Light!’

Friday 10th: Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge, 15.00-19.30: Ordered Universe will be presenting Let There be Light! Medieval and Modern Science on Light, which starts with a series of short talks from 15.00 – 17.00 on the project, its research and the new projection by Ross Ashton and Karen Monid which forms part of the e-Luminate Festival. Come and hear Ross Ashton on the making of the show, Richard Bower from Durham’s Institute of Computational Cosmology on modelling Grosseteste’s treatise On Light, Hannah Smithson, Experimental Pscychology – University of Oxford, on Emobodied Light and Grosseteste’s theories of colour and the rainbow, Giles Gasper, Durham University, History Department, on Grosseteste and his scientific writings, and Tom McLeish, Physics, Durham University on lessons for modern debate between science and religion from the Middle Ages.

After the talks, the research team will be showing some interactive aspects of our research, and a poster exhibition, with more on the project, medieval science, modern vision science and galaxy modelling. Dr Sebastian Falk from Girton College will be joining us with a display on astroblabes. The talks and activities are free, the timetable and programme are listed below. Please do come along if you are in Cambridge, or to let others know!spiritus-poster