Horizon – from the Projection Studio

Guest blog-post about the Napa Lighted Art Festival from Karen Monid:

Ross and I are thrilled to be asked to return to the Napa Lighted Festival in the USA. Our first piece there, Line, shown in 2017, was a contemporary study in the combined effect of optical illusion, sound and motion with modern architecture. This year, the festival has generously offered us one of the most historic sites in Napa to show our new work, Horizon, a co-commission between the Ordered Universe project, the Light Up Poole Festival in the UK and the Napa Lighted Art Festival in the US.

The Ordered Universe project website has information about Horizon already here. As artists, it has been a wonderful experience to create a new work that is not only inspired by Robert Grosseteste’s works, but goes even further, using his own words as the central core of the piece. Horizon places his observations, experiences and interpretations of the earth and our place in it alongside those of the ecosystem studies of the Jet Propulsion Labaratory in NASA, whose work sits at the cutting edge of 21st century technology. Horizon reveals a surprising similarity of human aim behind scientific enquiry and searching, both then and now. It shows how interpretations have developed, as we have changed our viewing positions from that of being ‘on the earth’ to moving ‘off the earth’ and looking back at ourselves on this planet.

Something new I was keen to explore in the audio for the work, something that has never been done before with the Ordered Universe project, is to focus on the context of Grosseteste’s writings, to allow them to be presented to Horizons audience as the teaching materials we believe them to have been, spoken aloud to students, learning about their place on the earth and in the universe as a whole. It has been exciting to find creatively meaningful ways to do this in Horizon, working with Professor Giles Gasper, Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, and students at Durham University, in particular. Moreover, that Horizon also shows that modern science continues in this same work today shows a direct lineage from thinkers such as Grosseteste into the modern world.

One if the most exciting aspects of the project for us is that we are being given the opportunity to present the piece in Napa on the Goodman Library. The Goodman Library is a beautiful piece of Napa architectural history. It has survived several earthquakes and has recently reopened after an intense restoration program to preserve and protect its unique features. Libraries are the repositories of knowledge and so it is particularly resonant to have developed the premiere of ‘Horizon’ for this particular building. We will be discussing Horizon and our work, at the free ‘Meet the Artist’ event in Napa on January 13th. Tickets are available here.

Finally, we would like to extend our grateful thanks for the support of our collaborators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, Dr Joshua Willis and Dr Joshua Fisher. Dr Willis is the principal investigator on the OMG (Oceans Melting Greenland) mission and Dr Fisher is Science Lead on the ECOSTRESS mission, one of several space-based data gathering missions that are collectively looking at earth ecosystem changes, in collaboration with other space agencies internationally. We are delighted that Dr Joshua Fisher will also be giving a talk at Napa Lighted as part of the program of talks on offer at the Festival. Tickets are available here.

Boston College – Knowing and Speaking

Yesterday, Sigbjørn and Giles were hosted by the Theology and Philosophy Departments at Boston College, for a seminar on Ordered Universe, its methods, principal findings and ethos. We outlined the historical issues in encountering Grosseteste, the difficulties in tracing his steps, which affect in turn the context that can be given, or is assumed, for his earlier works. After that we ran through On the Liberal ArtsOn the Generation of SoundsOn the Sphere, On the Six DifferentiaeOn Comets, On Light and On the Rainbow, to give a full conspectus of Ordered Universe activities. At each step we evoked the conclusions of Continue reading

Grosseteste at the NACBS – North American Conference on British Studies

Towards the end of next week the North American Conference on British Studies takes place, meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Founded in 1950, the NACBS is a society focused on all aspects of the study of British culture. This includes the Middle Ages, and it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to present Ordered Universe research to the Society at the conference. We have a session dedicated to twelfth and thirteenth century history: ‘Ordering Intellectual Life in Twelfth and Thirteenth- Century England’, sponsored through Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

Moving from monastic thinking, to historical writing, and the impact of translated works of Aristotle, the session features:

Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Durham) on ‘Robert Grosseteste and the Early Reception of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy in England’;
Laura Cleaver (Trinity College, Dublin) on ‘The Circulation of History in England: The Case of King Lear’
and Lauren Mancia (CUNY Brooklyn) on ‘Monastic Spiritual Thought: Emotional or Intellectual?’

In addition Giles Gasper will be presenting on ‘Durham Cathedral MS A.II.12: Science, Pastoral Care and Robert Grosseteste’, in a session, also sponsored by Durham IMEMS, on the Durham Priory Re-created project. A.III.12 is an important manuscript for the early history of how Grosseteste’s works circulated, and includes parts of his commentary on Psalms, Dicta and sermons. How it arrived in Durham, by 1258 at the latest, is intriguing.

We’ll post updates on the NACBS conference as well as the earlier talk in Boston, and enjoy very much presenting the Ordered Universe and research on Grosseteste’s scientific works.

 

Knowing through Speaking – Boston College

Next week, Sigbjørn Sønnesyn and Giles Gasper will be talking about the Ordered Universe at Boston College, USA, Thursday 25th October, starting at 7.00 pm. They will be speaking on ‘Knowing through Speaking: Collaborative Learning through Interdisciplinary Research on Medieval Science.’

Bringing together a unique configuration of natural scientists, social scientists and arts and humanities scholars, the Ordered Universe Project integrates the conceptual tools of modern science with the textual methods of the humanities to explore the richness of Grosseteste’s thought. Each team member, from whatever discipline, contributes to editions, translations, analyses and presentations. In so doing, we are pioneering new ways of working across and between our disciplines. Trusting one another, and learning to learn from the past have presented creative demands. We have challenged academic and public preconceptions regarding the value of past science as ‘irrelevant’. To the contrary: the team has published new science (on rainbows, colour and cosmology) inspired by engaging with another thinker from eight centuries ago. The centre and heart of the project are our collaborative reading workshops: we all sit down together, and, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, grapple with and unlock the amazing world which Grosseteste opens up.

We’re delighted to be at Boston College, and very grateful indeed to Professors Eileen Sweeney and Boyd Coolman for arranging for this to happen. To speak to diverse audiences, to engage with their views and reactions is extremely important to the project. Boston, here we come!

Dublin Symposium – Light, Motion, Bodies, and Comets

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 LightContinue reading

Northern Light Spectacular

Designed by Ross Ashton and Karen Monid, Northern Lights at York Minster was an outstanding success. Playing to the public on the 16th and 17th June, 2018, and to a fundraising event on the 15th organised by the York Minster fund, the projection is a major feature in a campaign to preserve and protect the world-famous medieval glass of the Minster. Northern Lights dazzled the audience, showcasing the medieval glass-work and the medieval heritage of York, curating a journey from creation stories, nature and the cosmos, and thinking about the afterlife, hell and the apocalypse  to the beauty of contemplation. A truly immersive experience, in the magnificent setting Continue reading

OxNet & Ordered Universe: Seminars and Easter School in the North-East Hub

One of the wider activities with which the Ordered Universe is engaged is the OxNet access initiative, which seeks to place university learning directly into schools. In the case of the collaboration with Ordered Universe this involves team members bringing the world of medieval science and of the array of disciplines that make up the project to 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!

OxNet North East Launch Party at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland

The Ordered Universe Project and OxNet have teamed up for the 2017–2018 academic year to offer an academic course for sixth form students in the north-east of England. The launch will be hosted by The National Glass Centre in Sunderland on Wednesday 22nd November, and local schools, students, and teachers have been invited to join us and learn more about the scheme and what we are planning for 2018.

Continue reading

New Ordered Universe Publication

The Ordered Universe project is pleased to announce its latest publication, for the Applied Optics journal, Vol. 56 (2017), G197-G204, and fully open access. The experiments and writing of the paper were led and marshalled by expertly  Joshua Harvey (Mellon Foundation funded graduate student at Oxford University, Dept of Engineering Science and Pembroke college), with assistance from other members of the team, from the sciences and humanities. The paper focuses on the middle part of Grosseteste’s treatise On the Rainbow (De iride) and the shape that the rainbow forms in the sky. This precedes discussion of the colours of the rainbow, covered in other Ordered Universe papers. The current paper offers an historical context for the treatise before moving to the main discussion, testing Grosseteste’s optical thought with physical experiment and physics-based simulation. The results are available below, and show, again, the benefits of collaborative working to unlock problems posed by thinkers of the past.

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