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Two Projects for Historic Salisbury Cathedral
Panoramic of Bruce Munro's Water-Towers in the Cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral. Photo: Stephen Weeks.

WILTSHIRE.- The Art & Exhibitions Committee at Salisbury Cathedral have invited artist and lighting designer Bruce Munro to exhibit two large installations in and around the Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral is known to many as the most glorious building in Britain. Designed by Elias de Derham it was built by a team of 300 men over a period of 38 years and was finally consecrated in 1258.

Over the centuries it has inspired some of England’s finest artists: Turner, Constable, and Whistler. Bruce Munro would never claim to be in their league. But he is honoured to be invited to show his work in this extraordinary, historic and holy place.

Munro’s first piece is Light Shower, essentially a huge chandelier like a magical cloud of light which will be installed in the middle of the cathedral during the winter months of 2010/2011. A massive fibre optic installation with 2,000 clear ‘Tear Drop’ diffusers, it will be attached high in the nave between the north and south transepts. It will create a beautiful shimmer of light, replacing the existing metal halide flood lights and spotlights that currently dominate that area of the cathedral. It is both structurally and aesthetically light. Light Shower will not block the extraordinary view through the cathedral from any point on the ground, but Munro hopes that it will enhance the spiritual presence of this magnificent building.

The second installation is for the huge Cloisters surrounding the Cathedral, which were built between 1240 and 1270. Munro’s installation is called Water-Towers and is planned for early 2011.

Sponsorship is being sought for both artworks, although one private donor has already come forward to contribute £10,000 towards the project.

The inspiration for Water-Towers stretches far back. When he was 21 years old, Munro read a book called ‘Gifts of Unknown Things’ by Lyall Watson, a radical thinker operating on the margins of accepted science.

In it Watson describes Tia, a young girl living on an island in the Indonesian archipelago, who possesses the magical gift of seeing sounds in colour. 25 years later Tia’s gift inspires Munro’s design for a colourful, watery, musical maze.

Watson described how the earth has a natural pulse in the upper atmosphere, resonating at a rate of sixty-nine beats per day. The pulse forms a deep note well below human powers of hearing.

This earth pulse is inspires Water-Towers, which will consist of 69 towers; one for each pulse per day. The installation will consist of a maze of towers that will populate the cloisters walkways. Each tower is created from illuminated water bottles, which change colour in synch with a musical score.

A choral piece by the cathedral choir, (heard through either headphones or discreetly placed speakers) will unify sound, light and form as the visitors promenade along the cloisters

Water-Towers is also an ‘eco’ sculpture, each tower is built of simple recycled materials: rain water, 216 used bottles and laser-cut recycled wood. Fibre optics are laced through the towers (one fibre curled into each bottle) and using only 7 Watts per tower, a low energy LED projector sends the light down the fibres.

Munro plans for the projectors to be powered by hydrogen cell technology, or pure water-power, making this a complete experiment in eco-sculpture using recycled materials and a pure, alternative energy source.

“It’s not an intellectual piece, but for me it’s a symbol of some very positive things.” says Munro.

As the towers change colour, visitors will experience sound magically translated into colour, just as Tia, Lyall Watson’s heroine does. “I believe that I had similar experiences of synesthesia as a young chorister; sunlight, stained glass windows and song” says Munro.

Munro’s current projects include a joint exhibition ‘Contemplating the Void’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in New York, from February to April 2010. A large installation has been commissioned by The Royal Society and his installations CD-Sea is shortly to be mounted at Long Knoll Field in Wiltshire.

Munro is a lighting designer and installation artist, whose work has been shown at the V&A museum in London. His installation ‘Field of Light’ at The Eden Project in Cornwall Nov 08-March 09 was enjoyed by millions.

“I’m so grateful to Salisbury Cathedral for giving me the opportunity to create something in this inspiring building.” says Munro. “Light Showers will look like a huge halo of light, and I hope it will have an uplifting effect. Water-Towers, for me, is a symbol of some very positive things and I hope people will like it. It will be colourful, and through the Cloister openings I think it’s going to look like a massive stained glass window.” says Munro.

Salisbury Cathedral | Elias de Derham | Bruce Munro |

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