The Lighthouse Project
In November 2018, 2000 people experienced the most intensive Area Composing in the Mariendom Neviges. PHARUS was described in the WAZ as a “breathtaking art project” and an “unbelievably harmonious symphony of colors, light and sounds …, which left a lot of room for own thoughts and emotions”. “A lighthouse in the Mariendom” was the title of the Westdeutsche Zeitung.
After ten years of developing and perfecting the “Area Composing” format, we were looking for a place that would combine all our axioms. We already knew it: The Mariendom Neviges. Hidden between Ruhrgebiet and Bergisches Land, this icon of brutalist sacred architecture rises from the medieval center of the small town of Velbert-Neviges. Anyone who sees it can feel the power that emanates from the architecture of the cathedral. Gottfried Böhm created it in the 1960s in the sheer insanity of a sculptor’s approach – drawn with coarse charcoal, built up, torn down again, and finally realized with ever new, unsolvable ideas. This is also the approach of the Area Composers: to make the seemingly impossible possible without consideration of feasibility and always in search of perfection down to the last detail.
We want to make this place our biggest project so far, our lighthouse project. A signpost for everything that will follow. Our idea: The 720 square meter folded and fissured wall of the sanctuary – designed by Gottfried Böhm as a bare concrete surface that throws people back on themselves – is to become a powerful projection screen for our Area Composing. We want to make the cathedral tremble with the power of its long-range acoustics. We want to communicate with it, make it play along.
Many months of tireless persuasion finally brought us into contact with the Franciscan friars who lived and worked here at that time. We inspire them with our idea. Our lighthouse project becomes the program: “PHARUS” (lat. Lighthouse) will be the name of our Area Composing and will be the artistic highlight of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Mariendom. The cathedral will truly become a lighthouse – for us and for the many people who will accompany our project and experience the performance. Our work begins.
We scan the cathedral with all our senses, with cameras and microphones. We explore its light and colors, hear how concrete sounds. Every visit is different, again and again it surprises us. Its extremely repellent architecture makes it look like a fortress from the outside. But on the inside, a different world opens up that fascinates everyone – whether pilgrims, architecture lovers or simple visitors. Bit by bit we conquer the fortress and capture it in countless image and sound recordings. In the end we realize: We too have been conquered, appropriated and changed by this incomprehensible building.
Four stations of an inner journey
Starting from the sculptural architecture of the cathedral, our artistic concept focuses more and more on the function of the cathedral as a pilgrimage church. Not necessarily out of religious motivation, but nevertheless with deep respect for the power of faith that has created this pilgrimage place, we deal with the theme of pilgrimage, in which we find many parallels to secular philosophical principles. For “PHARUS” we develop four stations of an inner journey out of it:
Setting out for a goal in the hope of coming to terms with oneself and the world. The goal, the last stage of the pilgrimage, already appears on the horizon: the pilgrimage cathedral rising like a mountain. Hope, confidence and inner tension are still fighting with each other.
Place and time of self-discovery have been reached. Here and now the existential confrontation with faith, the world and with oneself should take place. In community with the friars and other pilgrims a kind of enlightenment becomes present, symbolized by the sun-flooded glass windows of the cathedral.
Confrontation with the unfathomable, also with the abysmal. At the heart of the cathedral, at the Marian column with the picture of grace, the deepest interior with all its demons is revealed. To let them rise, to accept them as part of oneself and thereby normalize or even neutralize them is a purification that frees from all fears.
This intensive self-confrontation clarifies the view on one’s own life and opens new ways. When stepping out into the open air, the gaze is directed upwards into the bright blue sky, to which the spires of the cathedral point. Liberation and healing, the fundamental longings of mankind, seem tangible.
»PHARUS has become a part of the pilgrimage history of Neviges. Those who have been there will remember it for a long time and see the Mariendom with different eyes.« (Friar Frank Krampf)
The composition work on Liquid Image and Soundscape begins. Thousands of single photographs and many hours of field recordings are sighted and processed. It is not yet clear how “PHARUS” will be financed. We have no budget or financial commitments. Nevertheless we are throwing everything forward. We are strongly convinced that we will make the cathedral shine and inspire many people. To support our project, we are gaining the Minister of Economic and Digital Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia, Professor Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, as patron. We are preparing a detailed cost plan, writing project proposals and trying to get sponsors on board. The director of the pilgrimage, Friar Frank, is tirelessly canvassing for donations. However, the basis of our financing will be the sale of tickets. Our goal is to sell 1,000 tickets.
To achieve this, we develop a comprehensive marketing concept. In cooperation with the city of Velbert, Velbert Marketing and the pilgrimage secretariat, we organize press conferences and achieve an enthusiastic echo in the press right from the start. We design posters, flyers and tickets, create press information and a website, make previews in a Velbert gallery and mobilize numerous multipliers. Velbert Marketing supports us with large posters, radio spots and ticketing. The result: One week before the premiere, the three days of the performance are sold out – 2,000 visitors are sure to come.
When WDR television broadcasts a feature on “PHARUS” the day before the premiere, we have to turn away interested people who react to it – the capacity of the dome is exhausted.
»Four Panasonic beamers with a total of 80,000 ANSI lumens in the interior – I have never experienced that before!« (Emanuele Musca, architectural mapping)
The performance in the cathedral presents us with enormous technical challenges. To master them, we hire the best and most experienced technicians, who we infect with our enthusiasm for “PHARUS” and who are fully committed to our project. After an initial test run, however, it becomes apparent that their concept with three high-performance beamers for a projection on the 720 square meter, heavily darkened concrete wall did not work. We need more light, and we know how to do it: with stacking. Four laser projectors, each equipped with an output of 20,000 ANSI lumens, are stacked in pairs on top of each other in order to squeeze out even the last bit of light. They let the colors shine with an enormous brilliance on the sanctuary wall and make the black appear even deeper. This is exactly what we had in mind! Now the detailed mapping work begins. With the help of a special software, the Area Composing is mapped precisely into the folded wall – down to the last of the acute angles. When the bright images are faded in, the wall seems to float in space.
The very long reverb, which creates a very unique sound image at every point of the cathedral with its three-story gallery, is a technical challenge of a special kind. Our solution: We split the sound composition and spread it over the different areas: two event sound levels (crypt and roof) and two surround sound levels (choir and orchestra level). With a 13-channel sound installation and 20 playback stations, consisting of 30 loudspeakers and 3 relay stations, and rounded off by a battery of subwoofers in the sanctuary, we provide the room with sound down to the last corner. From every listening position it is now not far to the next sound source.
This arrangement minimizes the sound overlap of the huge, uninsulated nave and allows for a differentiated and transparent near-field acoustic. From the sound-powerful choir level (1st gallery, rotated 180 degrees) we create the authentic church acoustics. The two event sound levels provide for noisy surprise moments. In days and nights of detailed work, up to the last minute just before the premiere, we synchronize this ingenious system and tune it to the individual instruments and noises of the sound composition. In this way we create a realistic stage for our complex sound narrative.
As final furioso the organ of the Mariendom goes into action. In the middle of the fourth part of “PHARUS” it suddenly sets in and makes the whole church vibrate. For this purpose we modify the original organ composition and thus expand the sound possibilities of the cathedral organ. However, an organist alone could never play this composition. To realize our sound, we use the midi interface of the organ and let the computer play for us.
»PHARUS makes you speechless. Also, because the cathedral is not a backdrop, but rather plays the leading role.« (Kathrin Melliwa, WAZ)
Symphony of sounds, images and light
Three days and three nights as well as a team of top-class specialists are necessary to bring the entire technical equipment into position and synchronize it. Finally, our Area Composing is enhanced by a detailed, balanced light dramaturgy, which – finely tuned to our composition – sets the scene for the entire church interior, right up to the tops of the roofs. Now, at the latest, we realize that this symphony of sounds, images and light can by no means be grasped in all its facets during the first experience, especially since this completely new and unusual way of presentation needs time to get involved, at best to immerse itself in it. We decide to show “PHARUS” twice per evening and to give the visitors the opportunity to leave their seats the second time and to move around the entire church interior.
»PHARUS: Wonders, moments of happiness, excitement, togetherness, compassion, warmth, happiness. THANK YOU” (Entry in the guestbook of the Mariendom)
We will never forget the moment when “PHARUS” lights up for the first time in front of us and the sold out rows. Our meticulous planning worked down to the last detail. And now happens what we have been working on for three and a half years. The architecture of the cathedral and our Area Composing enter into a symbiosis. The cathedral vibrates, its concrete walls shine high into the dome. A rush of colors and sounds. The sanctuary wall not only becomes a huge projection surface. Through the exact mapping it seems to dissolve. The whole cathedral becomes a huge, glowing body of sound and opens up to the visitors’ world of feelings and thoughts. Everyone goes on his own personal journey, sees, hears, feels the Mariendom like never before. Associations, emotions, self-reflections – an irretrievable and unique encounter between people and the cathedral.
»I am deeply convinced that with such installations in our churches, we are again reaching out to people who are no longer our regular worshipers or have never been. Such cultural/spiritual offerings, which are not spectacles of light but have a message to convey, can build bridges to people of all ages. (Provost Gerd Bachner, Cologne)
The four stations of “PHARUS” are now also fulfilling themselves for us in a completely new way. We also set off for Neviges in the great hope of realizing a lighthouse project (Aspiration). This place has inspired and inflamed us. Together with the Franciscans we set out for the lighthouse (Epiphany). In doing so, we went to the limits of our possibilities, had to face the most difficult challenges and manifold doubts and transformed ourselves mentally and artistically (Purification). Three successful performance days with an enthusiastic audience give us pure happiness. We have reached our goal and are able to let go (Salvation).
- Idea and artistic conception
- Image and sound recording
- Technical planning and implementation
- Creative Controlling
- Complete project management
- Cost planning and control
- Marketing concept
- Press and public relations
- Cooperation with local actors
- Coordination of all project participants
Kunstprojekt „Pharus“ begeistert Besucher im Dom zu Neviges
Bericht von Kathrin Melliwa in der WAZ, 10. November 2018
Pharus verwandelt den Dom in ein Lichtermeer
Fotostrecke von Peter Preis in der WAZ, 9. November 2018
PHARUS: Ein Leuchtturm im Mariendom
Bericht von Reinhard Lüdeke in der Westdeutschen Zeitung, 9. November 2018
Vorbericht im WDR-Fernsehen
WDR-Lokalzeit vom 7. November 2018
Wallfahrtskirche wird zum Kunstobjekt
Bericht von Philipp Müller im Solinger Tageblatt, 19. Oktober 2018
Bericht von Claudia Heinrich im Kulturmagazin engels, 19. Oktober 2018
Kunstprojekt „Pharus“ bringt Farbenrausch in den Dom
Bericht von Jory Aranda in der WAZ, 19. Oktober 2018
Künstler verzaubern den Dom
Bericht von Michael Bosse in der WZ, 18. Oktober 2018
PHARUS zeig vier Stationen einer Reise oder Wallfahrt zum Mariendom
Bericht auf lokalkompass.de, 18. Oktober 2018
Das Leuchtturmfeuer des Rosenfensters
Bericht von Thomas Hoeveler in der WAZ, 29. Mai 2018
Bruder Frank Krampf / Stefanie Schmitz, Katholische Kirchengemeinde Maria, Königin des Friedens, Velbert-Neviges
Uta von Schenck / Paul Friedel, Lichtkultur, Göttingen
Hendrik Wendler / Emanuele Musca, device + context, Weimar / Berlin
Wolfgang Dambacher, team technik, Recklinghausen
Peter Kanngießer, Sound Supervision, Wuppertal
Scheinwurf Veranstaltungstechnik, München
Benedikt Aufterbeck, Sinua GmbH, Düsseldorf
Supporters and Sponsors
50 Nevigeser e.V.
Galerie #23, Velbert-Langenberg
Video message from the Minister of Economic and Digital Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart
»This literally illuminating art project not only stands for the diversity and exceptionality of cultural life in North Rhine-Westphalia, but – with the staging of digital color and sound symphonies in the venerable St. Mary’s Cathedral in Neviges – also symbolizes a special strength of our state: The fusion of innovation and tradition.« (Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart)