Elemental! Hot Glass, Volcanoes and Bubbles

 

 

Just over a week ago Ordered Universe (28th June) members joined colleagues from the National Glass Centre, most of whom are part of the project, but it was brilliant to meet new colleagues as well including Joanne Mitchell. And we were joined by other colleagues from Durham University’s Department of Earth Sciences, Drs Ed Lllewellin and Fabian Wadsworth, specialists in volcanology. The meeting opened with a collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s beautiful treatise On the Impressions of the Elements, in which the question of heat and the nature of bubbles are investigated. These were all pertinent themes and phenomena for the gathering, and a lively conversation took place, showing again how stimulating these gem-like treatises from the early thirteenth century are, 900 years later.

 

 

We then enjoyed our first introduction to the hot glass studio, with a fabulous rendition of Grosseteste’s treatise in glass by Colin Rennie. Bubbles blown, and attached, and the piece came together before our eyes, in all the wonderful shimmering, changing colours of the glass as it cooled. And we had our own try and drizzling molten glass onto damped paper to create a variety of effects…abstract, pungent, a lot of fun, and a very interesting experience in learning to manipulate the medium (which you have to do fast!).

 

Lunchtime, a different location, and a different sequence of talks – catching up on the various lines of shred interest and the legacy of previous work and exhibitions, a paper by Josh Harvey on his work on material perception with material from medieval Norwegian polychrome sculpture provided by Kaja Kollandsrud, and then a demonstration by Fabian and Ed of volcanoes in action. Not with lava but with syrup and a cherry favoured carbonated drink. Glass and its properties, naturally in volcanoes and as worked in the studio, hot or cold, provoked a long discussion: the similarities and differences in the scientific and artistic approach to the medium were striking, and a lovely example of knowledge exchange.

 

 

Then came our time in the hot shop again, to make paper-weights. This time, we had the experience of holding the glass, shaping it and learning to hold the equipment in the right place (because metal conducts heat…easy to forget in, well, the heat of the moment), The feeling of the heat coming off the ball of viscous, moving, radiating material which we were attempting to mould was extraordinary. And it made Cate and Colin’s skill all the more awe-inspiring. The results were kiln-cooled, and look very passable – all credit to our teachers and guides. We then watched Colin make a first draft of a piece of glassware inspired by medieval models…more on that to come.

 

A super day, one to treasure, and full of possibilities for future collaboration. We’re very grateful indeed to Claire Todd for organising, and to Cate, Colin and all at the National Glass Centre for sharing their experience and time. And can’t wait to see Grosseteste in glass, again.

Tom McLeish: A Day to Celebrate, and an Award

It is almost 10 years (bar 5 months) since Tom McLeish, freshly minted as Durham’s second Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, came to the History department in search of anyone who knew something about Grosseteste. What he got was the Ordered Universe project, of which he has been the driving force and inspiration. Tom left for the University of York this year, but  capacities as a scholar, friend, leader and mentor were honoured at Durham University yesterday, 29th May, with a conference organised by Kislov Voitchovsky and Karis Baker, representing Tom’s varied interests and contribution to learning (and to the enormous difference he made to research culture at Durham). Brian Tanner and Giles Gasper represented the Ordered Universe project, Brian in a summary of Tom’s considerable achievements, Giles in a discussion of Grosseteste, pastoral care and the place of science and scientific metaphors in that discourse. Papers followed on rheology (the science of flow), theology and science, neuroscience, emergent structures and philosophy of science, scale, and interdisciplinarity. All in all a proper testament to Tom’s commitment to teaching, learning, research and the old-fashioned virtues of enthusiasm, support for the possible, and the staying power and resilience to bring things to fruition. We in Ordered Universe know these qualities well!

It was also a delight to learn that Tom has been awarded the 2018 Lanfranc Award for Education and Scholarship by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The award, named for Lanfranc, Archbishop 1070-89, predecessor of Anselm (very familiar to Grosseteste), marks outstanding work in education and science. We could not think of a more worthy recipient. So, congratulations to Tom, and a big thank you as well!

 

Guiding Stars, Motion and Light

 

Our next symposium is nearly upon us, this time at McGill University in Montreal, hosted by Faith Wallis. The programme is available in pdf form, or on Issuu. The three texts for scrutiny are On the Six DifferencesOn the Movement of Celestial Bodies, and On Bodily Motion and Light, which open up new territory for the collaborative reading sessions. Embodied light, the nature and cause of motion, and the notion of place – with the usual Continue reading

Montreal – McGill – and the Guidance of the Stars

Ordered Universe is off on its travels. Fresh from our project conference, Easter School and participation in other conferences and colloquia, the next  symposium takes place in Canada, at McGill University, Montreal. We are delighted to be hosted by Professor Faith Wallis, a core team member, and are very much looking forward to four days of collaborative reading in such a stimulating environment. Three texts are on the menu, a re-reading of Grosseteste’s On the Six Differences edited and translated by Sigbjørn Sønnesyn on notions of the horizon and up/down/left/right/back/front, and two new ones. The first is On the Supercelestial Motions, edited by Cecilia Panti, and newly translated by Neil Lewis, the second On Corporeal Motion and Light, edited and translated by Neil. These are the tenth and eleventh of Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula to be tackled by the team, thirteen in total.  As we work through the texts, the sense of the intricacy and intensity of Grosseteste’s thought comes to the fore time and again. In the texts to be considered roots of characteristic aspects of his later thought emerge, for example the identification of nature with the first form, namely light. More than shades of On Light

The symposium will also feature a public lecture to be delivered in the Redpath Museum, by Tom McLeish, Giles Gasper and Jack Cunningham, with details to follow. The symposium will be followed by a graduate conference at McGill, and then by members of the team making their way steadily westwards to Kalamazoo and the International Medieval Congress. We are very grateful to Faith and to Shameem Mooradun for expert organisation, and for helping to shape our twentieth collaborative reading meeting. And they get better every time!

Conference Previews: Science, Imagination and…

Preparations for the Ordered Universe conference which takes place at Pembroke College, Oxford 3-6 April, are moving on apace. In addition to our three keynote speakers, Professors Jim Al-Khalili (Surrey), Suzanne Akbari (Toronto) and Simon Oliver (Durham), we have a nice array of papers submitted, from a fantastic range of disciplines, which are forming themselves into panels. Just as a taster, we have for example:

  • Philipp Nothaft (All Souls College, Oxford) on ‘Grosseteste as Computist’
  • Brett Smith (Catholic University of America) on ‘When Aristotle Went Wrong: How Desire Shapes Intellectual Vision in the Epistemology of Robert Grosseteste’
  • Adam Richter (Toronto) on ‘Robert Grosseteste, John Wallis and the Laws of Nature’
  • Aimee Quickfall (Bishop Grosseteste University) on ‘Philosophy with Children and Robert Grosseteste’

and plenty of other papers from the team and friends old and new.

The conference will also feature an exhibition of work from staff and students at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, conceived and created in response to Grosseteste’s thought especially on colour and the rainbow. The exhibition, curated by Clara Chivers, will also include manuscript treasures from Pembroke College library, including works of Grosseteste. Multi-media sculptor Alexandra Carr will be bringing together a temporary installation in the college chapel, drawing inspiration from Grosseteste’s cosmological vision, and modern understanding of the universe.

We’re very keen to have as many people at the conference as possible, and there are places left for paper or poster submissions – the conference rates and information, including timetable, are available here. Spread the word!

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

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.

Continue reading

New Team Member

It is a great pleasure to introduce Dr Rebekah White, who will take up the second post-doctoral research position within the Ordered Universe. Rebekah will be based in Oxford, working with Hannah Smithson in the Department of Experimental Psychology, and will be drawing together scientific commentary on Grosseteste’s treatises on natural philosophy, as well as teasing out the inspiration for modern science through experiment and wider discussion. We are very glad to have Rebekah on board, and look forward very much indeed to working with her. In her own words:

Oxnet Access Scheme Summer School 2017 – What the students said…

From the Ordered Universe themed summer school for the Oxnet Access to University scheme, a short film with some of the very talented student participants. A reminder of the  quality of their questions, and keenness to contribute and engage, and of an uplifting week in Pembroke College under the inspired leadership of Dr Peter Claus. The Oxnet programme is coming to the North-East of England this year, with the launch of a hub based at Southmoor Academy. We can’t wait!

Many thanks to David Shacklette for conducting the interviews.