Plan for installation in Chapter House, Wells Cathedral – WAC 2021

The Chapter House at Wells Cathedral

I am applying to install a new work, ‘Gathered from the Four Corners of the Earth’, in the Chapter House at Wells Cathedral. This as part of WAC, the Wells Art Contemporary. The exhibition is very popular and is a great opportunity for me to get my work noticed. I know the space, having visited the cathedral very recently and two years ago. It provides a stunning site for an installation. I have designed my piece specifically for the space, in size and form. I believe it responds to the octagonal shape of the Chapter House and respects its’ spiritual purpose. My installation would be peaceful, with gentle, mesmeric, meditative movement that will hopefully inspire quiet contemplation.

‘Gathered from the Four Corners of the Earth’ would be my largest work to date, 400 pendulums in four units of 100. The units would be arranged in a cruciform structure and supported in a frame of lightweight aluminium tube and wood. The entire installation weighs very little and is completely free-standing. It does not require any attachment to the fabric of the Chapter House and will not impact on the floor.

An early stage of modelling the installation

To scale the installation correctly, I studied photographs and plans. I then made drawings and constructed scale models of the Chapter House and the installation. The plans were rather limited but I was able to check the dimensions on a recent visit to the cathedral. My calculations proved accurate and the site is 16m across, as I had estimated. This allows room for ‘Gathered’ with space around it for visitors to move freely.

A view of the model showing the size of the work relative to the Chapter House

Once the model had been made it was clear that the scale was perfect for the space. I introduced a few sketched human figures to make the scale of the piece clearer.

To be clear, the plastic boxes of each unit in the model are purely to define the space and do not represent the actual structure. The units will not be enclosed. To illustrate the actual structure it would be useful to see pictures from previous installations.

The 400 pendulums are each made up of 2.5 m long perpex rods supporting an acrylic sphere. The sphere contains a ceramic magnet and a gold acrylic mirror. The mirror and the perspex rod are very optically active, reflecting and refracting light falling on the sculpture. They also cast multiple shadows which adds to the interest of the piece.

The most important parts of the work are the magnets. They are arranged to repel one another, so if one moves it pushes those around it and movement spreads through the array. ‘Gathered’ is a kinetic sculpture but the motion is slow and gentle. The oscillations of the pendulums is chaotic, mesmerising and strangely calming. It is similar in some ways to the intersecting waves in a harbour or murmurations of a flock of starlings. Hypnotic and entrancing.

The motion of the four arrays is the same yet different, similar yet independent. They are separate but part of a single unified structure. It is easy to draw parallels with individuals, within communities, part of nations and wider groups. All part of humanity. What affects one person in turn affects others around them.

A proportion of the pendulums do not contain magnets and, consequently, do not move with the rest of the array. That these elements of the ‘Gathered’ do not, or cannot, join the majority is another parallel with human society. There are always people who chose not to be a part of the community, or are excluded, or are unable to take part for some reason.

The magnets are kept in constant motion by pulses from small electromagnets hidden in the base of each unit. These are controlled by electronics which link the units and activate the electromagnets at random intervals. The work requires a mains, 230V ac, supply. This can be drawn from the sockets around the edges of the site.

Video of ‘Community’ an installation of 100 pendulums in MK Gallery

Previous installations of Magnetic Pendulums – ‘Community’

I have made units of 100 pendulums before, which I gave the title ‘Community’. Successive iterations of ‘Community’ have been exhibited in London, at the OXO Bargehouse for London ULTRA 2019, Milton Keynes, for MK Calling 2020, and at High Wycome Arts Centre, as the central exhibit of ‘Time & Place’. This last venue was in a repurposed church, which provided an affecting space for the installation.

‘Community’ installation in MK Gallery

‘Community’ at Private View for MK Calling 2020
‘Community’ installation in Room 1 of London ULTRA 2019 at the OXO Bargehouse
‘Community’ at its’ first installation in Wycombe Arts Centre, formerly St John’s Church. I am looking through the perspex rods of the pendulums at the coloured shadows cast by the lighting
Detail of acrylic spheres with mirrors, magnets and shadows

These installations of ‘Community’ were very popular with visitors. I had many interesting conversations with people who were fascinated by the work. This was one of the most rewarding aspects of the exhibitions. I hope to have many wonderful discussions with visitors to the installation at the cathedral.

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