Back To (Easter) School

For the 2017–18 academic year, the Ordered Universe Project has continued its partnership with OxNet, an outreach scheme superintended by Pembroke College, Oxford. So far this year, students from local schools have attended evening seminars taught by leading academics from Durham and Sunderland Universities, and now those students have been invited to spend two days at Durham University to get a taste of university life while continuing to explore some of the topics that are closest to the hearts and minds of the members of the Ordered Universe Project.

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Cambridge e-Luminate Festival: Master of Colour

Friday 9th February sees the opening of the 2018 Cambridge e-Luminate Festival, and the Ordered Universe project is delighted to be taking part once again. In tandem with Ross Ashton and Karen Monid of The Projection Studio and their installation ‘I see’ on Senate Continue reading

Swansea: Rainbows and Colour

Last week, Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th November, Ordered Universe members were made very welcome at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research, and the Department of History at Swansea University.  Continue reading

Illuminating Colour: A Guided Tour

1P5B8805For those that haven’t yet managed to get to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, we have here a guided tour to the exhibition by Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie. Rosie Reed Gold took the photographs, adding another level of interpretation to the movement from 13th century Latin manuscripts, to editions and translations, to textual analysis (by Continue reading

Inspiring Young Minds with Old Thinking

A blog from Thomas Henderson, Durham University, History undergraduate, and recipient of a Laidlaw Scholarship, attached to the project for the next two years.

Last week, the Ordered Universe enjoyed a prominent role in OxNet Access Week summer school at Pembroke College, Oxford. Run under the aegis of Dr Peter Claus, the programme is designed to introduce sixth-formers to the realities of university life, study and research (about which more can be read in the previous post). The week’s programme took its title – ‘The World Machine’ – from the project, and placed particular emphasis on the demands of interdisciplinarity. In introducing the summer school as a whole, Giles Gasper urged the 16- and 17-year-olds to ignore the boundaries they were used to, and to shed the fear of appearing stupid or wrong – skills necessary both for interdisciplinary research and the transition from further to higher education.

As such, the separate streams of Humanities, Science and Theology, though operating in parallel, were regularly combined in shared lectures given by members of the Ordered Universe project: Hannah Smithson lecturing on colour perception, Tom McLeish on the role of inspiration in scientific research, Richard Bower on Cosmology, medieval and modern, and Giles Gasper on the Grosseteste’s life, times and scientific output. Working in the college’s chapel, Alexandra Carr produced an arresting light-based multimedia sculpture; an impressive achievement considering her short time frame. This, along with her talks given with Giles Gasper encouraged the students to think about their subjects in more creative, original ways.

In addition to this broad interdisciplinary approach, the Ordered Universe had its own teaching strand. This centred on collaborative reading of Robert Grosseteste’s De luce and De colore, along with lectures, and a successful seminar on sound given by Joshua Harvey. More intensive tutorials were run by Ordered Universe contributors Joshua Harvey and Tim Farrant, with Tom Henderson and Alexandra Haigh together tutoring a third group. Though the work was undoubtedly challenging, the sixth-formers rose magnificently to meet it, making insightful contributions. It was immensely gratifying for tutors to watch as the students grew in confidence over the course of the week, taking to heart Giles Gasper’s assurance that “there are no stupid questions”.

Students’ feedback showed that, while they found the work more difficult than they were used to, their experience of the Ordered Universe project had been immensely rewarding. It was clear that they had internalised the projects principles, looking beyond narrow conceptions of individual disciplines to be more curious and adventurous in their thinking.

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.

Opening a new chapter for Ordered Universe

Next week marks a new line of activity for the Ordered Universe project, and one that has been some time in planning and design. In a nutshell, the project will form part of an award-winning scheme to encourage access to university from school pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged and non-traditional University application backgrounds. The approach of the OxNet scheme  is to use an academically intensive, subject driven programme to inspire, and to stretch and challenge those who take part: which Ordered Universe fits into very nicely. All pupils who participate in the scheme are encouraged to think about and engage with subjects they may not have considered studying, and to raise their academic attainment by taking part in sustained intellectually challenging programmes.

The OxNet scheme which began in Pembroke College, University of Oxford, under the guidance and inspiration of Dr Peter Claus, runs through hub schools – currently in, for example, Hackney, Manchester and Chester. These host a series of activities for a group of students from surrounding schools in their lower sixth year, in connection with the main organisation in Oxford and other universities (including Durham and Manchester). The normal pattern for a strand is a 6 week seminar series (2 hour seminars), a weekend Easter School and a week-long Summer School. Other activities organised by the hubs spin off around this, with subject centres, for example in Theology and Classics, and wider community engagement.

Ordered Universe will feature in the OxNet Summer School next week, with its own strand, designed around the treatises On Colour and On Light. Regular contributors to the project, Giles Gasper, Josh Harvey, Tim Farrant, Hannah Smithson, Tom McLeish and Peter Claus will be running the collaborative reading sessions, lectures and talks on aspects of the project, and smaller group assignments. We will be joined by Thomas Henderson, an undergraduate historian from Durham and recipient of a Laidlaw Research Scholarship and David Shacklette of Pembroke College. In addition to this line-up, Alexandra Carr, one the creative partners of Ordered Universe, and Artist in Residence under a Leverhulme Trust scheme (Sculpting with Light), will be resident throughout the summer school. She will be working with the students and members of the team, and creating a temporary art installation in college.

It is a great privilege to take part in the OxNet scheme. Research-led strands are a new venture, and the Ordered Universe is the principal partner for a new hub school for the North East: Southmoor Academy in Sunderland. The newly appointed co-ordinator Dr Kataryzna Kosior, an expert on Renaissance Poland, will be participating in the summer school, and we look forward, very much, to working with her, Matthew Garragan and Peter Claus, and all of the students who will be taking the Ordered Universe strands over the next three years. As we know, collaboration is both rewarding and time-consuming; the core research from the project will influence directly the content of the OxNet-Ordered Universe programme. Paradigms are there to be shifted, challenges to be met and mastered, and fresh, dynamic insight to be taken from Grosseteste’s writings and our modern analyses.

Colour is Light: Through a Glass Darkly

Another memorable day at the National Glass Centre. Giles, Brian and Alex Carr, together with David Lowther (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham, working on the history of zoology in the modern period, especially of collections and birds), went over to Sunderland to see the preparations for the Grosseteste-inspired exhibition opening in October.  We also went to complete the filming for the documentary element of Through a Glass Darkly with Alan Fentiman. We had a fantastic time – Colin Rennie made one of his rainbow strands for us. As you’ll see from the clip below, this was quite extraordinary, culminating in molten glass being stretched and spun, changing colour as it cooled.

 

The final products of rainbow sculpture, some 20 or so, will be mounted in an steel frame, each strand moving seamlessly from one colour to another.

 

Cate Watkinson took us through her installations, with models of the larger pieces of glass in sequences. We experimented with torchlight and one of the circular moulds of blue glass, creating internal and external shadows, reflection and patterns at the edge of diaphanous media (as Grosseteste might have observed). Cate is working too on embedding Grosseteste’s treatise De colore (or parts of it) into glass, as well as the larger colour pieces and the movement from black to white.

The exhibition opens on 20th October – we’ll have more updates on progress and activities around the exhibition. For now, we can safely reveal that it will be amazing.

 

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.

Medieval and Modern Science at Ely

On 11th February, Hannah and Giles were given a very warm welcome at Ely, at an open seminar organised by the Bishop of Huntingdon, Rt Revd David Thomson. David is also an Ordered Universe stalwart, taking the lead particularly on the Middle English version of some of Grosseteste’s earliest treatises. It was an especial pleasure, therefore, to be invited to Ely to present the project and its current work, some of the most recent scientific elements, and to participate in a lively and instructive question and answer session. We explored the life and times of Grosseteste, the context for his scientific works, and research into his rainbow treatise with Hannah’s ongoing work on retinal imaging.

We then ran a collaborative reading session on Grosseteste’s treatise On Colour. This was very stimulating, and, no matter how many times we read the text, new thoughts and and new interpretations arise. In this case the ideas were generated by the excellent and thoughtful participants. The event was run in the Old Palace, and our thanks go to all of the organisers, those who attended and to Bishop David. Certainly we came away with fresh insights. We then enjoyed a guided tour of the Cathedral, taken especially to see the Prior’s Door, with it’s magnificent carvings, including the zodiac. A stunning way to round off our visit to Ely. Thanks to all who made it possible!