On October 29, Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates debuted his first public project in the United Kingdom. Sanctum is a modern sound-filled sanctuary, constructed from reclaimed materials and nestled within the ruined walls of Bristol’s Temple Church, a structure with roots in the 12th century but which has been a roofless shell since bomb damage sustained in the Second World War. Gates envisions his art installation as a refuge from the busy buzz of work and the trappings of everyday life. In an effort to provide that, Sanctum will be filled with sound and music around the clock for a full 24 days.
Theaster Gates‘ new installation, Sanctum, opened October 29, fully contained within the roofless shell of a church in Bristol. From the looks of these photographs captured by Max McClure, the opening was a rollicking good time, an appropriate kick-off for a 24-day continuous program of sound, featuring hundreds of performers, artists, and speakers. This is the first public project in the United Kingdom for the Chicago-based artist, and Sanctum follows the same vein as the rest of Gates’ body of work. He aims to breathe new life into sites which have been ‘sleeping’ by using locally-sourced materials to build his installation pieces. The timbers, bricks, doors and windows for Sanctum came from former Georgian houses and 19th century sites across Bristol.
Sound, speech, and music will resound from the installation 24 hours a day for 24 days. For Gates, bringing latent locations to life is the name of the game, and Sanctum is also about providing sanctuary from the stress and speed of everyday life. “I think the everyday gets between us and our voice,” Gates told the Independent prior to the installation’s launch. “The need to just make ends meet, the constant hustle to maintain some adequate sense of normalcy keeps us from hearing ourselves. We hear our schedules, we hear our phones ring, but we rarely hear quiet.”
The installation offers visitors a rare chance to step inside the walls of the bombed-out Temple Church, which is not usually open to the public. The church is a scheduled monument managed by the charity English Heritage, and consists of the ruins of the centuries-old church, which was bombed almost 75 years to the day of the installation opening as part of the first night blitz on Bristol in 1940. Sanctum will conclude on November 21 at the culmination of 552 hours of continuous programming, in case you’re keeping track.
Images via Max McClure