Session Title

Enchanted Environs: Architecture, Automata, and the Art of Mechanical Performance I

Sponsoring Organization(s)

AVISTA: The Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art

Organizer Name

Amy Gillette; Zachary Stewart

Organizer Affiliation

Barnes Foundation; Texas A&M Univ.

Presider Name

Amy Gillette

Paper Title 1

Monstrous Machines: Mechanical Wheels of Fortune in Medieval Europe

Presenter 1 Name

Oliver Mitchell

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Courtauld Institute of Art

Paper Title 2

"Res Vana sive Misticus Jocus?": Mechanical Wheels of Fortune and Religious Automata

Presenter 2 Name

Vincent Deluz

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte/Univ. de Genève

Paper Title 3

Like Clockwork: Fortune, Time, and Mimetic Mechanism in Guillaume de Machaut's MS C

Presenter 3 Name

Kathleen Wilson Ruffo

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Toronto

Start Date

13-5-2018 8:30 AM

Session Location

Fetzer 2016

Description

Medieval spaces were often sites of spectacular performances animated by various kinds of mechanical installations—the most complex of which featured automata or self-operating devices. Some items survive in material form; the most notable examples are the famous mechanical clocks of Central Europe. Other items survive in textual form; examples range from the singing birds in the palace of Caliph al-Muqtadir, the dancing monkeys in the garden of Count Robert II of Artois, and the bowing angel in the coronation pavilion of King Richard II of England to the Throne of Solomon of Middle Byzantine Constantinople, the ritual statues of late medieval Spain, and the liturgical set-pieces of late medieval Italy. This session, enriched by the work of scholars such as Jean Gimpel and, more recently, Scott Lightsey and Elly Truitt, seeks to revisit the issue of mechanical installations as it relates to the history of the built environment— an area of academic research in which studies of human performance are many but studies of non-human performance are few. The working conceit of the session will be that of the Wunderkammer. Participants will deliver a series of shorter papers in order to facilitate a wide-ranging exploration of mechanical invention in the medieval world: Latin, Byzantine, and Islamic. Possible topics of inquiry may include individual case studies, modes of production and/or reception, and larger questions of historical evidence (physical, textual, and visual) and/or historical significance (political, social, and economic). Especially desirable are contributions involving technical reconstructions (analog or digital), theoretical speculations (phenomenological or ontological), and, in keeping with the mission of AVISTA, investigations of famous polymaths such as Ismail al-Jazari, Villard d’Honnecourt, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Jennifer Feltman

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May 13th, 8:30 AM

Enchanted Environs: Architecture, Automata, and the Art of Mechanical Performance I

Fetzer 2016

Medieval spaces were often sites of spectacular performances animated by various kinds of mechanical installations—the most complex of which featured automata or self-operating devices. Some items survive in material form; the most notable examples are the famous mechanical clocks of Central Europe. Other items survive in textual form; examples range from the singing birds in the palace of Caliph al-Muqtadir, the dancing monkeys in the garden of Count Robert II of Artois, and the bowing angel in the coronation pavilion of King Richard II of England to the Throne of Solomon of Middle Byzantine Constantinople, the ritual statues of late medieval Spain, and the liturgical set-pieces of late medieval Italy. This session, enriched by the work of scholars such as Jean Gimpel and, more recently, Scott Lightsey and Elly Truitt, seeks to revisit the issue of mechanical installations as it relates to the history of the built environment— an area of academic research in which studies of human performance are many but studies of non-human performance are few. The working conceit of the session will be that of the Wunderkammer. Participants will deliver a series of shorter papers in order to facilitate a wide-ranging exploration of mechanical invention in the medieval world: Latin, Byzantine, and Islamic. Possible topics of inquiry may include individual case studies, modes of production and/or reception, and larger questions of historical evidence (physical, textual, and visual) and/or historical significance (political, social, and economic). Especially desirable are contributions involving technical reconstructions (analog or digital), theoretical speculations (phenomenological or ontological), and, in keeping with the mission of AVISTA, investigations of famous polymaths such as Ismail al-Jazari, Villard d’Honnecourt, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Jennifer Feltman