Temple Church, off Victoria Street, is currently hosting Theaster Gates’ Sanctum, which opened on 29 October; the work is a continuous programme of sound over 24 days by hundreds of performers, artists and speakers.
Produced by international arts producers Situations, in partnership with English Heritage, Sanctum is the first public project in the UK by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates and forms part of the cultural programme for Bristol 2015 European Green Capital supported by Arts Council England.
Gates spoke at the opening of his latest project: “The [Bristol] space is like a talent show that you would bring your mum or dad to. I’m excited that there will be these rotating crowds. They will hear something they would normally go to the pub to hear,” describing Bristol “as an amalgam of different narratives”.
“I imagine that material and spaces have life in them, that they have something extremely sacred inside them,” Gates says in a statement. At the opening, he also discussed his hopes for closer communal interaction throughout the non-stop performance marathon, which is due to last 552 hours (the schedule remains a secret with visitors discovering who is performing on arrival).
“With the transition of one sound to the next, one group of people might get to know the next, be interested in each other, exchange emails and phone numbers,” he concluded.
A Scheduled Monument in the care of the charity English Heritage, Temple Church is not usually open to the public – Sanctum offers a rare chance to step inside. Bombed almost 75 years to the day as part of the first night blitz on Bristol in 1940, the shell of the building dates from mainly the 14th century, underneath which are buried the remains of the original 12th century circular church built by the Knights Templar. The famous tower leans 5 feet (1.6m) out of the vertical, comparable to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Image: Theaster Gates’ Sanctum in Bristol. Photo: Max McClure