Lollapalooza, SXSW, Coachella: these multi-day festivals may seem long, but they have nothing on the latest Theaster Gates project. Opening later today in Bristol, England, Sanctum, a temporary stage and intimate concert venue constructed from reclaimed material, will begin hosting a 24-hour-a-day concert through November 21. That's 552 hours of continuous programming, if you're keeping track. Gates, a Chicago-based installation artist and community developer known for innovative projects such as the Stony Island Arts Bank, which combine art and creative reuse to engage the community, envisioned his first project in the UK as a means to literally and figuratively amplify the city of Bristol. Set inside the crumbling walls of the historic Temple Church, a 14th century structure bombed 75 years ago during the Bristol Blitz, the stage will resonate with the words and music of local artists for the next three-and-a-half weeks.
According to a press release from Situations, the organization sponsoring the project, Gates went to great lengths to make sure the stage, set inside a heritage site rarely open to the public, reflected Bristol. The materials in the patchwork façade and frame come from all over the city: timbers, brick and doors from local Georgian homes; bricks of Redcliffe clay from the demolished citadel in St. Pauls; flooring from a former chocolate factory in nearby Greenbank, Easton; and wood from the Prince Street swing bridge, currently undergoing repairs.
The programming matches the structure's commitment to diversity and storytelling. The extensive lineup, which will constantly fill the site with music and sound, includes soul singers, post-punk bands, grime artists and spoken word performances. Celtic, Jamaican and Balkan acts will be part of an eclectic program, which will include late-night/early-morning DJ sets as well as the reciting of the azan, the Islamic call to prayer by a woman.
According to Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, this type of immersive project and performance represents a new direction for the organization.
"In our new role as a charity, English Heritage is looking at new and imaginative ways to bring the buildings in our care to life," she said. "Sanctum is part of this new approach. Temple Church with its leaning tower is a familiar Bristol landmark, and we're excited to open it for what promises to be a very special experience."
Theaster Gates will give a performance lecture at St George's Bristol to celebrate the opening of Sanctum this Saturday, October 31, at 7 p.m.