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The Temple of a Thousand Bells

— May 2012

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Detail of Laura Belém installation, Temple of a Thousand Bells, York St Mary's, York, England

A new installation at York Art Gallery's contemporary art space

York St Mary’s by Laura Belém

11 May - 4 November 2012

A thousand cast glass bells evoking a visual quality of water will be suspended in the nave of St Mary’s Church, York, this spring. 
The Temple of a Thousand Bells, by Laura Belém, is inspired by an ancient legend about a temple on an island that sinks into the ocean. As the story unfolds it reveals the attempts of a sailor to hear the music of the thousand bells which were lost to the depths. 
Originally commissioned for the Liverpool Biennial International 10 exhibition and housed in the Oratory, the work is being reinstalled at York St Mary's.

Laura Turner, curator of art, for York Museums Trust, said: ‘We first saw this incredible piece of art at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland and thought it would be ideal for the space of York St Mary’s. We proposed the idea to Laura and she was really excited about showing the piece here because it was originally created to be shown in a church-like setting. 
The ideas and imagery which the piece evokes will take on new meanings in St Mary’s, offering visitors the chance to see something truly unique.’

The installation will open on 11 May and entry is free. 
The glass bells used in the installation have all been individually produced at the Glassblobbery, Wales, and will hang with nylon strings in the nave of the former church. They do not have a clapper, creating a visual metaphor that matches the narrated legend, which tells about the lost music of the bells in the depths of the ocean.

The mass of clear, translucent glass bells evoke a visual quality of water and notions of spirituality and evanescence. They also convey a sense of fragility, lyricism, dream, imagination, a sense of presence and absence, and memory and displacement. 
Laura's intention is to show a work that can touch the viewer's ‘inner score’ – soul and heart – something we share in common universally and that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries. 
A specially composed polyphonic sound piece, creating a 3-D effect to the sound of a narrated story, will accompany the bells.

York St Mary’s

York St Mary’s is a mediaeval church in the centre of York, England. It was de-consecrated in 1958 and in 2004 York Museums Trust opened it as a contemporary art venue. The first exhibition was a light crescendo, which brought together a number of works by international artists. In 2005, we commissioned breathing space by Caroline Broadhead, followed by Echo by Susie MacMurray in 2006. 2007-8 was The Memory of Place by Keiko Mukaide. In 2009 Emma Biggs and Matthew Collings used shards of mediaeval pottery from the Yorkshire Museum to create an installation Five Sisters inspired by the window by the same name at York Minster. 2010 saw Susan Stockwell install Flood, made from thousands of disused computer components, while Cornelia Parker’s Thirty Pieces of Silver was installed last year as part of Art in Yorkshire, supported by Tate.

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