“Layered Histories: the Wandering Bible of Marseilles” by Rubin and Gluck

  • ©Cynthia Beth Rubin and Bob Gluck



    Layered Histories: the Wandering Bible of Marseilles



    “Layered Histories” is the imaginary story of an actual 13th-century illuminated Bible. This series of cascading animations mirrors the many layers of this manuscript: as a beautiful artifact, as a work of art reflecting the convergence of cultures in medieval Spain, and as a text that tells multi-layered stories.

    The history of this Bible is only partially known. Created in Toledo, Spain in 1260, the Bible visually embodies the influences of Jewish convergence with Christian and Islamic cultures. When the 1492 Expulsion forced the Bible to flee Spain, it traveled to the Ottoman town of Safed, where it was amongst religious mystics seeking the means to repair the ills of the world. It subsequently disappeared until, mysteriously, sometime during the 19th century, two volumes of the Bible were discovered in the collection of the Bibliothèque Municipale of Marseilles, where they reside today.

    The linear video is an outgrowth of the related interactive work, in which users control the sequencing and speed of six-second animations, as well as sound sequences. For the linear version, the authors selected the sequence of the animation segments to communicate the multiple locales that have been home for the Bible, beginning with imagery from Marseilles. The recurring images of a narrow street in Toledo anchor the timeless qualities of the Bible as a cultural artifact reflecting a certain moment in history. Decorative motifs of the Bible emerge throughout the work, and, unlike the interactive version, the animation includes a photographic image of the Bible. The rhythm of the imagery glides us seamlessly from past to present, and from identifiable locations to general reflections of landscape.

    The music in the animation was crafted to evoke the sense of the Bible as a voyager, riding the waves to new homes. Human voices are manipulated so that their original language is no longer identifi- able, thus reinforcing the fact that this text resided in many places, among many speakers. The unfolding, veiled referential qualities of the sounds reflect an aesthetic parallel to that of the animations, although they each emerge and change at their own independent pacing.

Animation / Video Overview: