Best known for his haunting hologram portrait of a closed-eye Queen, Canadian-born Chris Levine has been experimenting with light for more than a decade. Following an acclaimed laser show at Glastonbury 2016–the homage to David Bowie on Philip Glass’ Heroes Symphony–Levine unveiled his new work, ‘iy_Project’, on Hastings pier, Saturday 10th September, 2016.
‘iy_Project’ reflects on the now peaceful relationship between Britain and its once mortal enemy, France, in an immersive light and sound show. We spoke to Levine ahead of the show, about Virtual Reality, being disappointed by Paul McCartney and collaborating with Philip Glass.
What is your creative process?
It generally starts with a feeling or a desire for a certain realm of sensory experience born out of harmonising sound and vision. The work is experimental and to make it truly experiential or even transformational, it has to connect at an emotive level and I try to do that through its energy.
In light of Brexit and resignations such as the V&A’s director Martin Roth, how do you imagine the future of arts in the UK?
Art comes from the soul and in an increasingly crazy world, artists will find salvation, release, and refuge in artistic expression. Art will evolve with the times.
‘iy_Project’ is multimedia, all senses are titillated and the audience can also use an app to experience it in a more intimate way. Do you think VR (virtual reality) could be the next step?
AR and VR will be the next mood altering method and we’ll have VR Anonymous soon.
You have a long-standing relationship with Britain. What led you to finally set up home there? And does it influence your work?
Actually, both my parents are British, they just happened to be in Canada when I popped into their lives!
Had you been to Hastings before participating in the Root 1066 International Festival?
Yes, I’ve been to Hastings a number of times to visit friends. I love being near the sea and the fact that Hastings has not been sanitised by brand takeover.
Has the setting (pier by the sea) and the elements (wind, crashing waves) impacted the project?
The iy_project is born out of the Eden Project and is a celebration of the fact that we are beings of nature, not apart from it. To create an experience so connected to the elements, I hope, will amplify the work somehow. It’s a challenging scenario and subject to the English weather. Actually, the beams look extraordinary in the rain.
Hastings is celebrating its relationship with France and Normandy. How did you integrate history into this modern installation?
We’re projecting beams and scanning across the channel to Normandy from where we were… ‘visited’. The iy_project is the antithesis of conflict, it’s about unity and a phenomenon of the 21st Century.
During your creative process, does music influence the visual result or do you already have laser in mind when looking for music?
I choose to work at the moment primarily with laser as its the purest form of light we have available, literally single frequencies of electromagnetic energy. The interface is pure feeling and intuition and this piece is something of a montage of light and sound.
Philip Glass’ music works really well with the laser art-form. Would you consider creating an original collaboration with him?
With Bowie, Philip Glass was a big influence on me and my desire to work with sound in waveform structures was first inspired by his work. An original collaboration? Yes, please! Let’s put that to the universe together!
There is a sensibility to your shows. Do you guide your audience on their emotional journey or are they free to roam?
The iy_project work is undefined and uncharted and as I’ve said, experimental. Truly, it is what people make it to be in their personal experience. I hope to take people, if only briefly, into a meditative state which is positive and restorative.
You have worked with some high-profile people. Which collaboration was the most daunting?
Paul McCartney. He’s the nicest guy you could meet and was very cool. I wanted so much to please as Stella had introduced us, but it was a very challenging brief in the Albert Hall and I was so disappointed with what I created for him. It was only once installing I realised this it wasn’t working and that there was nowhere to hide.
Of which of your artworks are you most proud?
‘Sphere 9’ represents the essence of my work: form distilled into light to evoke the dimension of stillness. There is a spiritual dimension to the work that resonates. There is something profoundly beautiful about a sphere of light.
What’s in the pipeline for the end of 2016 and beyond that?
I’ve a number of portraits of iconic subjects in development, an installation at the Eden Project, the development of iy_project and shows at Saatchi and the Fine Art Society. And in order to keep it all together, I’m doing a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in January. I can’t wait!
For more shows and exhibitions, check out ROOT 1066’s brochure.