Installation created during Viewpoint Residency at Portsmouth Cathedral, November 2015
Light, salt, cast concrete and steel pendulum
Over the last month we have been artists in residence at Portsmouth Cathedral developing artworks in response to the space and theme of the residency. This year the overarching theme for the Cathedral and residency is focused on ‘faiths connected’, which explores how Christianity relates to other faiths. We have used light at the darkest time of the year to look into this concept.
Light is a perfect medium to explore the phenomena of faith in its broader sense. Light can reveal but also blind; it can change the appearance of things and cast shadows; above all it is seductive to the senses and faith can be all of these things. Using the ambiguities of light and projection, we have been exploring ideas of connection, common ground, division and exclusion. The setting of Portsmouth Cathedral makes this so much more vivid as these questions seem to be embodied within the fabric of the building and its use.
We have installed Precession at the center of the Cathedral. The installation is made up of a large table of salt which is swept by a concrete pendulum pivoting over 10 metres above, from a cross bar spanning the ceiling vault. This is illuminated from above by a red, a green and a blue spot light
Precession is a term used to describe the slow changes in direction of a rotating body such as the changes in direction of swing of a Foucault’s pendulum, as momentum is exchanged between the pendulum bob and the planet earth.
The three lights are positioned and combine to form a center of white light. As the pendulum moves it cuts through the component colours splitting them into yellow, magenta and cyan. This colour split shadows every movement of the pendulum, and human interaction breaks the white light further into red blue and green. Occasionally the shadow is completely dark.
We wanted to use the architecture and symbolism of the Cathedral in a very direct way by creating an intervention along the centre line of the building, between the Baptistry and the Quire. The work is purposefully seductive, enticing and elemental. Each colour appears as a complete entity that could exclude the other or mix to make different colours.
The salt crystals that draw in and refract the light have an obvious connection to the sea and earth, and can both preserve and corrode. In the context of the Cathedral, salt is also a powerful metaphor for the flavour and quality of intention and action within Christianity and across other faiths.
Working with such strong and direct elements and letting them interact at the heart of a building with such a rich culture and symbolism has been an amazing experience.