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A Constellation Lights Up in an 11th Century Cathedral

Miguel Chevalier's 'Complex Meshes' projects a "living universe" onto the proto-Gothic vault of Durham cathedral.
November 17, 2015, 2:30pm

The nave vault of the 11th century Durham cathedral, noted for its pointed arch design and ribbed ceiling, was transformed recently by pioneering digital artist Miguel Chevalier for his piece Complex Meshes, a dancing cobweb of projected light. The French artist—known for augmenting large architectural spaces with his site-specific visuals—created the piece for the fourth Lumiere light festival, produced by Artichoke and commissioned by Durham County Council, which took place in the city.

The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its Norman architecture and being a precursor to the Gothic style—Chevalier's piece, a "generative and virtual reality installation," integrates the cathedral's innovative stone design, along with its stain glass windows, into the projections which are formed of colored 3D wifeframe meshes and grids.

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"Different colored weaving patterns composed of triangles, quadrilaterals and other polygons overlap, evolve and transform slowly in real time," notes the artist. "This huge virtual light curtain twists, moves and resizes to create diverse and complex shapes. The surface is deformed to generate the abstract landscapes of a living universe which is constantly evolving."

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

With a nod to the kinetic art and Op art of artists like Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Julio Le Parc the morphing shapes form a "continuously evolving light fresco" and create a kind of trompe l'oeil effect for people staring up at it. The projections are also changed by visitors' movements, as sensors detect the public's actions in the nave below and these influence the work's structure.

The piece was complimented with music by composer Jacopo Baboni Schilingi. Check out some images of it below.

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Image courtesy of the artist

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Image courtesy of the artist

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Miguel Chevalier, Complex Meshes, Lumiere 2015, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Image courtesy of the artist

Complex Meshes 2015, Miguel Chevalier
Music : Jacopo Baboni Schilingi
Generative and interactive virtual-reality installation
Produced by Artichoke
Lumiere Durham 2015, Durham Cathedral, UK
12th-15th of November 2015
Software : Cyrille Henry and Antoine Villeret
Technical Production : Voxels Productions

Click here to visit the artist's website.

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