New light cast over Kensington Palace
Contemporary artist, Chris Levine, has created a series of unique light works, entitled ‘Echoes’, as part of the evolving Enchanted Palace experience at Kensington Palace. Levine was asked to create the works by Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity undertaking a £12 million major renovation project at Kensington Palace. Whilst improvement works are underway, the immersive exhibition Enchanted Palace has cast a spell over Kensington’s magnificent State Apartments, creating a mysterious and atmospheric world for visitors to explore. Contemporary fashion installations inspired by the stories of the seven princesses who once lived at the palace - Mary, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte, Victoria, Margaret and Diana – are enhanced by live performance, storytelling, soundscapes, light works and film projections imaginatively presented in association with artists from Cornish theatre company WILDWORKS, to reveal Kensington Palace in a magical new light.
As visitors discover the secrets of the Enchanted Palace, and the princesses whose stories emerge throughout their journey, they will chance upon ‘image echoes’ created by Chris Levine. Using an oscillating strip of LEDs, images are projected onto the viewer’s peripheral vision taking visitors by surprise as they glimpse a princess from the corner of their eye.
The Privy Chamber, which has been transformed into ‘The Room of Enlightenment’ as part of the Enchanted Palace experience also features Levine’s light installations. In this room, former royal resident Princess Caroline once entertained philosophers and scientists, including Sir Isaac Newton. They debated the nature of time and the universe and marvelled at experiments with light refraction. Levine has taken inspiration from Newton to create two unique installations, one of tiny red stars journeying across the ceiling, created using laser pods, and another above Newton’s head - a crystal revolving with beams of lights breaking into rays of green, blue and red across the room.
Chris Levine, who famously became the first artist to photograph HM Queen Elizabeth II for a hologram in 2004, said: “To have created a laser lightwork in the same room as Newton shared his breakthrough concepts around the mechanics of light to the Queen (Caroline) was very special for me. If he were alive today he would be using lasers in his research and would be marvelling at the ability to observe single frequencies of light. He would put his theories into practice with the kind of technology I've been using in my artworks.
“A lot of my work is about the wonder of reality and attempts to awaken a sense of awe in the viewer and in the Palace it becomes a kind of dream state. It was an honour to be involved and to engage in the history of this amazing Palace… it was inspiring to be working in the very same rooms as history played out and to help tell those stories with my light.”
A Cabinet of Curiosities created for the opening of the Enchanted Palace last year has also undergone a new incarnation inspired by Princess Caroline who collected everything from people and art to ‘unicorns’ horns’! The cabinet, now the Cabinet of the Sea, has been transformed by Cornish artist Jane Darke and filled with intriguing items washed up on the north Cornish coast that she has collected over the years including trigger fish, Amazonian seed pods and children’s toys. Light installations by Chris Levine also feature in the cupboards where visitors will discover the moving sea created by Chris through screens and film footage.
The Room of Royal Power which hosts a very special knitted throne will now also house a set of knitted crown jewels! Created by community charity Stitches in Time, the crown jewels are complemented by a knitted coat of arms suspended above the fireplace – making this a fitting location to imagine the heavy burden of royal responsibility that the palace’s former residents may have felt.
WILDWORKS’ Sue Hill has created a new centrepiece for The Room of Lost Childhood, a small glasshouse enclosing a twig child in a white cotton dress, portraying the strict, isolating and sometimes oppressive upbringing associated with a royal childhood. WILDWORKS’ Myriddin Wannell has also transformed Princess Victoria’s bedroom bringing inside a display of the 'outdoor'. A wild landscape emerges from beneath the bed blending into the carpet, flowers and a video installation to convey that the young Victoria, whilst kept under a strict regime by her mother, had aspirations and ideas beyond the confines of the palace
Alexandra Kim, Curator Historic Royal Palaces, said “We have yet again been able to invite into the Palace some truly special and unique artists to help us create our Enchanted Palace. This latest transformation has stunning new installations from Chris Levine and WILDWORKS which beautifully illuminate some of the Palace's most fascinating history and that we hope will inspire our visitors.”
Continuing from the second evolution of Enchanted Palace, unique outfits by Vivienne Westwood and Bruce Oldfield, originally created for the palace’s 1992’s ‘Court Couture’ exhibition, have been given a new fairytale twist. Vivienne Westwood’s fabulous corseted creation, renamed a ‘Dress for Flying into the Arms of Love and Death’, is suspended mid-air as if fleeing down the King’s Grand Staircase. WILDWORKS artistic director Bill Mitchell has transformed Bruce Oldfield’s classic white gown into a ‘Dress for Reflection’ in the sumptuous Queen’s Bedchamber. Boudicca’s glistening metallic sculptures, unveiled during the first phase of Enchanted Palace, continue to adorn the golden chandeliers of the magnificent Cupola Room.
All of these extraordinary contemporary installations are exhibited alongside historic items from the Royal Collection and Kensington Palace's Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, together with two beautiful dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret.
Enchanted Palace will continue until 4 January 2012 when the palace will close briefly in anticipation of Kensington Palace’s £12 million major renovation project which will be completed and unveiled to visitors on 26 March 2012.
Notes to editors
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work. www.hrp.org.uk Registered charity number 1068852
WILDWORKS is an international theatre company, based in Cornwall.
WILDWORKS produces unique landscape theatre in challenging places and with extraordinary communities. Our productions have been sited in old quarries, derelict mines, working fishing quays, abandoned department stores, dockyards, a Napoleonic citadel, the Green Line in Nicosia… We have worked with gospel choirs, drama groups, local artists, surfers, tea dance regulars, North African migrants, cake-makers, ex-miners, a young hip-hop group, abseilers and a Hell’s Angels chapter. WILDWORKS have just worked on 'The Passion' a collaboration with Michael Sheen and NTW.
Drawing its power from community, WILDWORKS integrates music, dance and theatre. We use everything: food, stunning imagery, action, film, music and text to tell our story. Narrative is at the centre of our work. We bring the seeds of a story to a site and weave in the strands that tie people and place together.