Last week Ordered Universe members gathered in Dublin, hosted by Laura Cleaver and Karl Kinsella at Trinity College and Marsh’s Library. With our usual range of disciplines represented (philosophy, history, psychology, engineering, physics, creative arts, history of art), and with colleagues from Europe and the USA, we set to work on the four treatises for collaborative reading. Two days in Trinity, at the Long Room Hub, saw the group read through the middle third of Grosseteste’s treatise On the Supercelestial Motions. This challenging treatise deals with the question how the planets move, whether by external force, their nature, and what the effects of their movements are. We also read through, for the second time, On Bodily Motion and Light. Another complex piece of writing, the treatise focuses again on how bodies move, with a more consistent parallel with animal bodies, and exploration of medical material. This treatise ends with a startling passage on light as prime form; highly reminiscent of the treatise On Light. Continue reading
With less than a week to go before the next Ordered Universe symposium we have been making all of our preparations, including the full programme above. The four treatises for discussion are all in good shape, and we’re looking forward, as always, to the intensive reading process. To accompany our deliberations we have some shorter talks, by Professor Brian Tanner on the physics of light (just a small area of science!), and talks by Dr Cate Watkinson, Rosie Reed-Gold and Alexandra Carr, on their artistic engagement with the project. Our public lecture takes place on Tuesday 18th. The texts all concern light and motion, in their various ways, and reveal the amazing capacity of Grosseteste’s mind. We’ll keep you updated on our progress!
January 2019 – if you’re in or around Napa California, drop into the Napa Lighted Festival which runs in the second two weeks of the month. Various members of the Ordered Universe team will be participating with a series of talks and activities in the afternoons and evenings of the 17th, 18th, 19th. We’re thrilled by the invitation to work for and with the Festival, which came about through Ross Ashton and Karen Monid of The Projection Studio. With a festival theme of Beyond, we’ll be working with Ross and Karen on a new projection show drawing on Grosseteste’s cosmological treatises: Horizon. On the Six ‘Diffeertiae’, On the Sphere, and others will feature in the new piece, under development at the moment. Taking research from the seminar-room to a different audience, in partnership with artistic collaborators is a fascinating and exhilarating experience. We’re very much looking forward to working with the Parks and Recreation Department in Napa to bring the best that we can to the city. Continue reading
It is a particular pleasure to be able to report on progress on Ordered Universe publications. The main news is that our first volume in the seven-volume series with Oxford University Press is completed and is accepted for publication. Knowing and Speaking presents the first two of Grosseteste’s treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds, alongside the Middle English re-imagining of both texts as part of the longer The Seven Liberal Arts. Continue reading
News of the next public talk from the Ordered Universe, which takes place in Dublin, at the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Neill Lecture Theatre: Tuesday 18th September 2018, 18.00-19.15. The talk, ‘Getting Hands-on with Medieval Science’ will be delivered by Professor Giles Gasper (Durham University) and Dr Seb Falk (University of Cambridge). Giles will introduce the Ordered Universe project, its blend of medieval studies and 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
In more news from the Ordered Universe creative arts strands, we’re delighted that Colin Rennie’s sculpture Magnitudo, having been entered into the Toyama International Glass Prize, a Triennial open competition for glass art. Created for the Illuminating Colour exhibition at the National Glass Centre (2017-18), Magnitudo also featured in the Light Embodied exhibition at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, April-June 2018.
The sculpture is now in Japan, as one of 57 pieces selected for the final judging show in September. There were over a thousand entries globally. That a piece of glass sculpture should be inspired by Grosseteste’s 13th century writings on colour, light and the rainbow, and the modern science that resulted from its investigation, is a wonderful story. Let’s hope the judges think similarly. We’ll let you know how the competition proceeds.
Colin has also entered Concurrentes to the annual New Glass Review at the Corning Museum of Glass, upstate New York. Another journey across the seas awaits perhaps.We all wish Colin the very best of luck!
Some news to share on further developments in the creative arts projects connected to the Ordered Universe. This, the first news-post of three, features Cate Watkinson’s Colour Columns exhibited as part of the Illuminating Colour exhibition (2017-18) at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Smaller versions were exhibited at the Light Embodied exhibition at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Now three of the four original columns are now installed in the Cheesburn Grange sculpture garden, near Ponteland, to the north-west of Newcastle.
Cheeseburn Grange, originally a grange farm of Hexham Abbey, now owned by the Riddell family, gives support to creative projects and exhibits sculpture in the gardens. These are open to public on selected weekends, and by appointment. Colour Columns will be in place for the year, and Cate will be measuring the effect of the light embodied by the columns over the course of the year. If you’re in the North-East, check out the website for the best times to visit: it will be worth it.
What Robert Grosseteste states in his treatise On Colour, at its conclusion recalls the skill of the artist in knowing the material, knowing the effect of light, and knowing how to manipulate both. Colour Columns at Cheeseburn will repay a visit, most certainly
What is understood in this way about the essence of colours and their multiplication, becomes apparent not only by reason but also by experience to those who thoroughly understand the depth of the principles of natural science and optics. And this is because they know how to make the diaphanous medium either pure or impure, so that in it they can receive bright light, or dim if they prefer, and through the shape formed in the diaphanous medium itself they can make scarce light, or increase that same light at will; and so through skilful manipulation they can show visibly, as they wish, all kinds of colour.
Grosseteste, De colore, ed. and trans, Dinkova-Bruun et al. (2013)
Experimenting with hot glass is probably best to be tried in the company, and with the guidance, of experts. That being the case, it would be difficult to find more expert guides for this particular activity than those at the National Glass Centre. So it is the best of all possible worlds in which the NGC and Hot Glass Studio, University of Sunderland, have organised a research and experience day, in which Ordered Universe members will be taking part. We’ll be reading one of more recent editions and translations, that of the treatise On the Impressions of the Elements, which is all about bubble formation in water and the action of heat. Quite appropriate, then, for a day devoted to hot glass experiments.
That done we’ll move to experimenting with and experiencing what it is to work with hot glass (a step-up from our last knowledge exchange session which involved sand-casting). Learning not only how glass works, but how those experienced at manipulating it explain their craft and process, is essential to the effort of reconstructing how things were done, or conceived in the past. And, there are also scientific dimensions – we’re going to be joined by vulcanologists from Durham University’s Earth Sciences Department, and thinking about the ways in which glass-blowing and natural glass production in lava might mutually inform.
We’ll be having a catch-up as well on the various projects going forward with our colleagues at the NGC; publications, new collaborative working, and potentially, a range of wine-glasses. You never quite know what to expect at these meetings, and that’s all part of the fun! We’re enormously grateful to Cate Watkinson, Colin Rennie, and Claire Todd for organising, hosting and supervising (!) the day, and will report on what emerges (conceptually and in glass).
Note: Image of the 1954 Kilauea eruption from the U.S. Geological Survey.