Art can lift, inspire, and transform, but with Angel Presence, a new immersive light and sound installation, Chris Levine wants to induce full-on spiritual enlightenment.
The British artist – famous for his photographic portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and the Dalai Lama – has transformed The Danish Church on the outskirts of Regent’s Park into a festival of light for this year’s Frieze London.
A RGB 10W-scanning laser is refracted around the Neo-Gothic church’s interior through Swarovski crystals. Visitors are given wireless headphones to listen to an accompanying soundscape. But the installation feeds more than just the eyes and ears.
‘The site lines, the geometry, the volumes of space – that’s what you’re working with. I think of it in terms of a grid. The lasers pick out the sacred geometry. Often it’s about the spaces between things,’ Levine says.
The installation is inspired by Levine’s experiences of meditation, when some of his best ideas arise. ‘Somehow all the dots line up,’ he says. ‘Things get very expansive through meditation, just through being still. If I can take people towards stillness with my work, through laser light, which is a very pure form of light, then it’s my duty to do that.’
Visitors will also notice – after being encouraged to shake their heads vigorously and ‘look a little stupid’ – an image of an angel appears in the periphery of their vision, which then alternately disappears and reappears.
He is not transmitting a religious message, however. ‘I’m not religious, this is a spiritual endeavour, but the essence of religion is a thing of light, a thing of goodness,’ he adds. ‘This is a sacred place to hold the experience.’
Levine has previously collaborated with musicians including Antony and The Johnsons and Massive Attack. The ambient drone of the soundscape, which is based on the ancient Solfeggio scale – the foundation of Roman Catholicism’s Gregorian chanting – is almost evocative of an intense clubbing experience when combined with the lasers.
‘With the kit in here, you could do a full on rave,’ he jokes.
God is a DJ? Perhaps. But for now there’s euphoria to be found in remaining perfectly still.