17 Aug 2018 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - Let There Be Light

Light Installations

Let There Be Light

Cathedrals and churches are providing stunning backdrops to inspirational works of site-specific light, digital and multimedia art. Alice Davis looks at a few of these heavenly projects

Alice Davis, Attractions Management

Light Masonry
York Minster
York, UK
Jason Bruges Studio


Jason Bruges

At the end of October 2016, during the Illuminating York festival, Jason Bruges Studio staged a choreographed light work for the city’s famous cathedral – York Minster.

During the 30-minute immersive experience, visitors witnessed beams of light which moved to create new shapes and spaces within the Minster. The computer-controlled lasers were visible thanks to the smallest amount of water released into the building, to create a haze that “acts like a canvas for the light”.

“The artwork is founded on the construct of creating a secondary layer of dynamic, temporal and ephemeral architecture sculptured from light,” says studio founder Jason Bruges.

“Inspired by the continuous crafting and iterating of the layers of work by the Minster’s stonemasons, the studio investigated the relationship between the vaults, light and the audience. Drawing upon the ceremonial nature of the space, the studio created a synchronised procession of light that highlighted and explored the nave as a choreographed architectural experience.”


© Anthony Chappel-Ross for Make It York

Beams of light form new shapes and spaces within York Minster

Enlightenment / Power of Words
Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury, UK


Anthony Rowe and Liam Birtles from Squid Soup - by AshMills

In 2015, Squidsoup (Anthony Rowe, Gaz Bushell, Chris Bennewith and Liam Birtles) created a light installation for the north porch of Salisbury Cathedral, where visitors walked through an array of thousands of individually controlled lights.

Squidsoup founder and lead creative Rowe describes it as “a virtual world, where pixels on a screen are replaced by thousands of points of light floating in space that create environments, atmospheres and physical spaces you can enter, affect and immerse yourself”.

The same year, Squidsoup also designed a piece of interactive wall art to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Power of Words was a growing display of quotes and phrases that visitors could shake and disrupt, helping put the famous tome in context today.


Thousands of points of light floating in space cleverly create immersive physical spaces

Shooting Thoughts
Saint-Eustache Church
Paris, France
Filipe Vilas-Boas / Nuit Blanche


Filipe Vilas-Boas

Filipe Vilas-Boas is a Portuguese-born new media artist who lives and works in Paris. In late 2014, his interactive public installation Shooting Thoughts, which used projection mapping to create a “constellation of stars”, was housed in Saint-Eustache Church.

Visitors to the church could participate by sending a thought via a mobile device. The message generates a laser beam which makes a journey to the ceiling via the intricate architecture of the Gothic church.

“The pillars of Saint-Eustache Church are used as launch stations that carry the star to its final destination on the ceiling via the arches and vaults. Like all of us, each star finds its place at its own speed with its own trajectory,” says Vilas-Boas.

The project was borne of a frustration at the light pollution that prevents city dwellers in the French capital city from seeing the stars.

“We can’t admire the night sky when we live in a big city and that’s a huge pity to me,” says the artist. “We really miss the most beautiful, poetic, philosophic show in the world. So at first, I prototyped an interactive starry sky in my living room connected to a real-time engine which displayed the actual night sky. The first time I entered Saint-Eustache Church, I felt like it was the right place to share a similar experience with the public.”


© douglas cabel

Visitors can send laser beams to the ceiling of the church via mobile devices

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral
Lyon, France
Yann Nguema / La Maison Production


Digital artist Yann Nguema

Yann Nguema, a digital artist and member of the French music group EZ3kiel, worked on a projection mapping, laser and light show project for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral during the 2016 Lyon Festival of Lights.

The multimedia show was inspired by the way the cathedral has been seen by different generations, and plays with the concept of material, casting the 15th-century building in variations of stone, iron, paper, silk, steel and light.

Yann Nguema worked with long-time collaborators, light designers Arnaud Doucet and Gael Digne.


The installation casts the cathedral in variations of stone, iron, paper, silk, steel and light

Time Drifts
Cologne Cathedral
Cologne, Germany
Philipp Geist | VIDEOGEIST


Philipp Geist

Berlin-based light and multimedia artist Phillip Geist created Time Drifts to be a focal point for revellers celebrating New Year’s Eve in Cologne in 2016. Taking place at the central Domplatte outside the cathedral, the installation was partly in response to the mass sexual assaults that took place in the city the previous year, on 31st December 2015. Helmut Bien and Angelika Kroll-Marth, curators of the Luminale light festival in Frankfurt, worked with Geist on the idea for Time Drifts, during which words, concepts, signs, colours and shapes were projected onto the square and the façades of Cologne Cathedral.

The complex array of projections appeared to float in the specially generated artificial fog. Visitors were asked to submit concepts they wanted to see in advance of the installation.


Words, concepts, signs, colours and shapes were projected onto the square and cathedral

Jacob’s Dream: A Luminous Path
Grace Cathedral
San Francisco, California, USA
Benjamin Bergery and Jim Campbell

In 2016, artists-in-residence Benjamin Bergery and Jim Campbell created the light art installation Jacob’s Dream: A Luminous Path at Grace Cathedral.

Bergery, a media artist and cinematographer, and Campbell, a light artist, used a combination of light and moving images to reveal a path or ladder rising up through the cathedral, evoking the “stairway” that Jacob dreams about in Genesis in the Bible.

“The piece is made of rungs of LED lights and rungs that act as a fragmented screen for low-resolution moving images of figures going up and down, some climbing arduously, others gliding, some flying, some descending,” explains a spokesperson at Grace Cathedral.

Grace Cathedral in California has been hosting an artist-in-residence programme since 2012.

"A ladder rising up through the cathedral evokes the “stairway” that Jacob dreams about in Genesis in the Bible"


Jacob’s Dream: A Luminous Path designed by artists-in-residence Bergery and Campbell
Dear World…
Yours, Cambridge
King’s College Chapel

Cambridge, UK
Miguel Chevalier / Artichoke Trust

In 2015, artist Miguel Chevalier created a series of projection mapping and light installations to compliment a fundraising campaign – called Dear World… Yours, Cambridge – at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge.

Chevalier’s light show complemented a number of speeches by esteemed professors and former students, and were thus inspired by topics including health, biology, neuroscience and physics.

In one display, his work accompanied the work of physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawkings, illustrating his research on black holes by surrounding guests at the chapel in thousands of constellations of stars.


The light show cleverly complemented speeches by esteemed professors

The light show cleverly complemented speeches by esteemed professors

Miguel Chevalier talks about his work


Miguel Chevalier

“I like to create installations in atypical places, like in churches and cathedrals. Throughout the history of Western culture, churches have been spaces for the expression and representation of artworks and artists. Paintings, sculptures, frescoes, stained glass windows … and that tradition continues today with contemporary artists.

I create in situ installations. Church is not a neutral space like a museum or a gallery. The work can’t be isolated from the context. A dialogue is created between the consecrated place and the contemporary work. Through the digital, I revisit the history, culture and architecture of the place. My installations show them in a new light.

I created installations on the façade of Enghien-les-Bains Church in France in 2008; on the floor of the former Sacré Coeur of Casablanca Church in Morocco in 2014; on the ceiling of Saint-Eustache Church in Paris, France, in 2016; and on the walls and ceiling of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, UK, in 2015.

All of these installations highlight the site’s architecture. The soft light and the wealth of colours from the digital installation is in resonance with the light from the stained glass windows. These digital installations immerse visitors in a magical atmosphere while opening unto infinity. These immaterial works make it possible to transcribe the invisible, to find the essence of things. They invoke a spiritual elevation, contemplation and dream. What is interesting about these installations, is that it allows us to introduce art into places where we don’t expect it.”


Chevalier’s installation at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge aims to invoke spiritual elevation, contemplation and dreams

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2017 issue 1

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