Channel of Peace
CLIENT National Trust
LOCATION Lacock Abbey
TYPE Temporary Art Installation
STATUS in situ May-July 2019
In 2018 we won a commission for the National Trust through Trust New Art to develop a project at Lacock Abbey on the theme of Peace from a contemporary perspective; peace understood not as an object, rather as a process of interaction and communication – not only between people, but between humans, nature and place.
Channel of Peace was conceived from our personal, intuitive response to the site and the tangible spirit of place at Lacock. Founded by Ela as a peaceful place of contemplation, the site for Lacock Abbey was chosen for the tranquillity brought by the meadow landscape and the river Avon which, ‘seems to steal by, lingeringly… as if it sought to wander from the tumult of this world, in search of… silence’. Annals and Antiquities of Lacock Abbey, by W.L. Bowles and J.G. Nichols
Our instincts were backed up by further research into the history and foundation of Lacock, which identified that there is a clear and strong association between water and the essence of the site: the name, ‘Lacock’ means small stream or watery meadow; there was once a conduit bringing a supply of fresh water for the nuns at the Abbey, and formal water gardens which are now lost. Channel of Peace was a contemporary interpretation of this legacy.
A delicate channel of reflective water following an axial line, connecting building and landscape, was the principle idea for the intervention.
We wanted to internalise the essence of the surrounding landscape, to bring the spirit of place - the peaceful river and meadow - into the more private and solitary cloister, and enhance the beauty, simplicity and tranquility of the Abbey.
Water and rivers are symbolic of peace, and the river is a key characteristic of the landscape outside of the cloister, so creating a simple line in the landscape, which seemingly stretched from the river into the cloister felt like a fitting response to the brief.
The first part of the installation was situated in the cloister. Channel of Peace had a ‘mirror like’ quality in still weather, which inspired self reflection, causing people to slow down, pause and take a moment from the hurriedness of every day life. When there was a breeze, the ripples in the shallow water created fleeting moments of delight as sunlight was reflected off the surface of the water and into the cloister, creating dappled light patterns on the the ancient stone walls. The play of light, water and reflection created an engaging sensory experience in the cloister.
Channel of Peace continued outside of the abbey cloister; views along the axis of the watery line were framed by the doors of the Abbey, and new frames which were positioned in the landscape to frame the river Avon. This encouraged people to view the water meadow from a particular perspective and to make the link between the abbey and the river Avon beyond.
The installation was in situ at Lacock from May 4th – July 14th 2019. We hope it encouraged people to understand and contemplate the spirit of place and the reason for the founding of the Abbey in this particular landscape through the interplay between the abbey, art and the surrounding landscape, whilst also prompting moments for self reflection and calm.