Medieval Gadgets, Hybrid Volvelles

Medieval Gadgets, Hybrid Volvelles

above: Volvelle, De Sphaera Mundi; detail

Medieval Gadgets, Hybrid Volvelles, 2015

Volvelles are the first paper analog computers from the medieval period, which were made by hand and installed inside the scientific manuscripts to offer different astronomical calculations and to make the manuscripts interactive. The original volvelles used circle shapes fastened to a leaf in the center which held various layers in place so that the discs could spin independently. I create variously-sized Hybrid Volvelles that are composed of geometric shapes using silkscreen, ink and watercolor on paper-disks. I assemble these paper disks on wood panels and connect them by fasteners to allow independent spinning and interactivity. In some, I mix and match Persian, Arab and European medieval and early modern scientific images and information with the aim to construct historical knowledge of various cultural points of view into one form. For example, in one of my volvelles I layered Galileo’s manuscript page on the observations of the moon with the eleventh-century Persian astronomer Biruni’s observation of the moon’s diagram.

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(36) Hybrid Volvelles, wall installation, 55″ x 24′, California State University, Stanislaus, 2016

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(36) Hybrid Volvelles, detail of the wall installation, 55″ x 24′,  California State University, Stanislaus, 2016

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After Johannes de Sacrobosco’s 16th c. Volvelle, De Sphaera Mundi, 18×17″, 17×17″, 8.5×8.5″
Wood panels, watercolor, ink and silkscreen on paper and fasteners

Volvelles-together2

A tribute to medieval Persian mathematicians: Biruni, Tusi and Khayyam, 15.5×17″, 13×13″, 10×8.5″
Wood panels, watercolor, ink and silkscreen on paper and fasteners

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After Martín Cortés’s 16th c. Volvelles, Breve Compendio de la Sphera y de la Aite de Navegar , 18”x 15.5”
Wood panels, watercolor, ink and silkscreen on paper and fasteners, 2015

Volvelle-18
After Johannes de Sacrobosco’s 16th c. Volvelle, De Sphaera Mundi, 21.5 x 34″
Wood panels, watercolor, ink and silkscreen on paper and fasteners


After a volvelle, 16th c., Southern France or Northern Italy
Left: original                   Right: my version of the original
Wood panels, watercolor, ink and silkscreen on paper and fasteners


After a volvelle by Johannes de Sacrobosco, 13th c. De Sphaera Mundi, basics of astronomy
“Based heavily on Ptolemy’s Almagest and drawing additional ideas from Islamic Astronomy
It was one of the most influential works of pre-Copernican astronomy in Europe”
Text: The Esoteric Codex: Astrological Texts By Clayton Arthur
Images courtesy of The Collation, the Folger Shakespeare Library
Left: original                   Right: my version of the original


After the cartographer Jean du Temps of Blois, 16th C. France
Left: originals                   Right: my version of the originals
Wood panels, watercolor, ink and silkscreen on paper and fasteners

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Hybrid Volvelles, details

Research and Process:

making-a-volvelle

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Making my Hybrid Volvelles, 2015

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Original volvelles that inspired some of my Hybrid Volvelles

Astronomical Vovelle, from Astronomical and Medical Miscellany, English, late fourteenth century, shortly after 1386.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. Ludwig XII 7, fol. 51
Video courtesy of The J. Paul Getty Museum

al-biruni
Original diagrams that I used to create my  images on volvelles
Galileo, 16th c., Italian, a page from his manuscript on astronomy
Biruni, 11th c., Persian, observation of the moon’s diagram

Hybrid Volvelles as part of Punctum Caecum series has been exhibited in a solo exhibition in March 3-25, 2016 at California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock, CA, in stARTup Art Fair SF in April 29-May 1, 2016 and in Anne and Mark’s Art Party in San Jose in September 23-October 1, 2016