Our final day at the Napa Lighted Festival was 19th January, featuring two talks by Dr Henrike Lange (University of California Berkeley) and Joshua Harvey (Oxford), in a session entitled Beyond the Material, in the First Presbyterian Church. Joshua’s work on material perception, and the quality of lustre in particular, sat engagingly alongside Henrike’s exploration of renaissance art and the manipulative devices used by artists. Continue reading
A second set of talks, and memories from the Napa Lighted Festival last month. Friday 18th January saw a first talk from multi-media sculptor Alexandra Carr, a frequent collaborator with the Ordered Universe, and Joshua Harvey (Psychology and Engineering Science, University of Oxford). In Beyond Colour Alexandra and Josh spoke on various Continue reading
After our summer breaks, Ordered Universe members will be convening for our next symposium. This time we are hosted by Laura Claver at Trinity College Dublin. We’re very much looking forward to being in Ireland, and have a full schedule of texts to examine. Meeting between 17th and 20th September, we’ll be looking at Grosseteste’s treatises On Light (familiar to many!), a final reading of On Comets, and second readings Continue reading
A third item of news from the creative strands connected to the Ordered Universe project is that Alexandra Carr’s beautiful sculpture of the medieval cosmos, Empyrean, produced during her Leverhulme Artist in Residence at Durham University (2017) with Giles Gasper, is on display at Ushaw College. This is entirely appropriate given that it was at Ushaw that the piece was conceived and took shape. It formed part of the Dante Continue reading
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.
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.
And here it is, the wonderful show from Philip Ball’s Science Stories, on Radio 4. An evocative opening, and then a treat with Tom talking about Grosseteste, the De luce and the interdisciplinary work of the Ordered Universe, and a final consideration of multiverses with Mary Jane Rubenstein. Thought-provoking, meditative and stimulating by turns! Just shows how well the story of Grosseteste’s world, how it inspires scholarship and creativity today, and the intrinsic interest in the phenomena studies, works on radio. Do listen – it’s well worth it.
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.
One not to miss! Tom McLeish is featured at 21.00 on Wednesday this week, talking with Philip Ball, on Science Stories, Radio 4: The Medieval Bishop’s Big Bang Theory. Tom and Philip explore the scientific world of Robert Grosseteste, rainbows, colour and light streaming through Cathedral windows, and the birth of the cosmos described in his treatise ‘On Light’ with its eerie resonance of modern thinking. Listen in, or to the podcast afterwards!