Javier Riera Intervention on Palace Green and Durham Cathedral LUMIERE 2023

How did you approach the work here at the Lumiere Durham 2023 Light Festival?

From the beginning Artichoke proposed to me to do something that would cover the whole space of the Palace Green BUT not only focused on the cathedral. The concept has been to intervene by projecting light on both Durham Cathedral and the houses on either side of the square, which are extraordinarily beautiful. These houses inspired me with the idea of the time when they were still built of wood, something common in the medieval world. This generated a movement, a dynamism in those walls that has always seemed magical to me. For me it was about transforming the place without assaulting it, creating a dynamic and metaphysical atmosphere in the whole square, a sensation of sensory openness.

Durham Cathedral Light Festival
Durham Catedral Light Festival

In any case, Durham Cathedral takes on a natural prominence in the square, it is one of the most important cathedrals in England and a World Heritage Site. How has it been your way of working with it?

I usually work on nature and trees, among other things because they are living elements. So from the beginning I asked myself the question of what was the “life” of the cathedral. By this I mean, on the one hand, that which soaks its stone like rain, the energy deposited in it by thousands of people over time who have projected their emotions and transcendent feelings onto this place. They have gazed with devotion and admiration at its walls and have inhabited it spiritually . All of that remains there in some way. On the other hand, I also call life to an energy, an order that emerges from its forms, from the architectural concepts with which it was built, which visually translates essential forms of nature. If we imagine a backwater of a river, the cathedral is for me like a backwater in the flow of forms of the universe, which have been materialised in it.

Durhman Cathedral Land art

What effect do you hope to have on the viewer of Lumiere Durham 2023?

In our current way of looking at things, it is difficult to imagine what a newly built Durham Cathedral would look like. Since the 20th century the world has been filled with monumental buildings and on the other side we now live in a world of images in which nothing surprises us anymore. But for someone in 1300S or 1500 who came perhaps from a village and saw this cathedral, the effect was totally transcendental and astonishing, it had nuances that made it supernatural and definately it was of an unlimited beauty.
I would like to recapture that effect of awe and calm at the same time, that metaphysical feeling and openness of perception. That’s why my project is intended to generate  a sense of openness to other planes, something dimensional that opens up but with a visually language akin to the forms of the cathedral. I wanted to create something, using today’s technology, that can be seen to some extent as antique or classical. On the other hand my work has a sense of slow time, in keeping with the sense of the temporal expanse present in the square.

Durhman Light festival

How do you rate your experience at LUMIERE, the Durham Light Festival produced by Artichoke?

I feel REALLY proud to take part in a Festival of Light that has reached such a high artistic level, with artists like Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Daniel Canogar or Ai Wei Wei. I believe that this is the way of the Festivals of Light, which traditionally have had pieces of a good artistic level together with others more related to leisure and spectacle. All the LUMIERE pieces have a great integration with the Durham features. I think Artichoke knows  the city very well since  they have a long experience with the Festival and have been able to produce something really exceptional and unique.