27. Jul 2017

“Voûtes Célestes” in Saint Eustache church in Paris/FR.

Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag
Photos: Miguel Chevalier

As a rule, what we refer to as “old” churches today were built in significant cultural eras. Their architecture is often highly impressive and the result of sometimes hundreds of years’ work. A huge comparison to seemingly unpretentious modern-day sacred buildings that lack practically any form of ornamentation.

And yet many of the old, architecturally revered sacred buildings are not attracting as many churchgoers or believers as you would think. Projects that make alternative use of the large interiors are few and far between, or are avoided for fear of undermining their religious function or intent.

“Voûtes Célestes”, realised as part of the last Nuit Blanche event in Paris, is the exception to the rule. Tastes differ, of course, as do opinions. But thanks to the colourful dynamic lighting projections designed by Miguel Chevalier and applied in the Gothic vaults in Saint Eustache parish church, which also features some Renaissance elements, we certainly have a case of “history meets tomorrow”. Especially given that the cool installation doubtless attracted visitors to the church who moved around inside the space in a completely unconventional fashion to view and enjoy the unusual intervention, or sit on the floor or even lie down to be able to take in what the heavenly vaults were displaying.

Using a series of projectors, artist Miguel Chevalier created an interactive artwork on the chancel vaults, the central nave, transept crossing and two transepts. A total of 35 coloured networks of light spread out in the form of sinuous webs, taking form and then losing their shape, changing in accordance with the movements of visitors in the central nave. The spectacle was accompanied by musical improvisations played on the organ. Light, colour and sound gave rise to a new virtuality in the space, lending the sacred building a unique level of modern energy and breaking through the spatial boundaries in its own way.

Even though the playful coloured light may come across as being out of place in the old church, it is in fact a bold and unconventional way of underscoring the architecture. The projections were aligned to the architectural forms. The chancel vaults, which are otherwise exposed to very little light, were immersed in the virtual reality artwork and come to life. And although the installation was not connected in any way to a church service, it did attract a lot of people to enter the 16th century sacred building. A good opportunity for the church and its parish to promote themselves. A church that literally reflected signs of modern thinking.


Design: Miguel Chevalier

Software: Cyrille Henry und Atoine Villeret

Technical production: Voxels Productions


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