Once a Desert by Heinrich and Palmer

24 February 2022

Chester Cathedral is the magnificent venue for Once a Desert, a stunning large-scale video, sound and light installation created especially for the Cathedral space by artists Heinrich and Palmer. 

Once a Desert is part of the Refresh cultural recovery programme for Chester, bringing high quality arts and cultural activities into the city. Refresh is funded by Arts Council England and by the Government’s Additional Restrictions Grant to Cheshire West and Chester Council. 

Using a combination of highspeed film and animated point cloud imagery created from 3D laser scans of the Cathedral, this ethereal installation uses the cathedral’s magnificent interior as the backdrop for a new and unique work of art. 

The installation is free to see at Chester Cathedral 
  • Wednesday 9 March, 6.30pm to 10pm (last admission 9pm) 
  • Thursday 10 March, 7.30pm to 10pm (last admission 9pm)
  • Saturday 12 March, 6.30pm to 10pm (last admission 9pm)
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said:

“Our Refresh cultural recovery programme is now bringing a unique art installation to Chester. This is such an exciting artwork for the Cathedral and the city.

“Chester Cathedral has built a reputation over the years for hosting spectacular art and I’m sure Once a Desert will add to this reputation. Chester has seen visitor numbers steadily increasing as the city welcomes more events and activities.”  

The origins of Chester Cathedral date as far back as 1092 when it was founded as a Benedictine Abbey, built on a bedrock of red sandstone. During that time the waters of the River Dee extended over the Roodee, now the site of Chester’s Racecourse, and boats could sail up the River Dee right into the city.

This red sandstone, sourced from the city’s quarries was used to gradually rebuild the Cathedral up until the Victorian period when a different red sandstone was used, sourced from quarries in the Wirral and Liverpool. 

The title of the work alludes to the period of time when this stone was formed, during the Triassic period over 200 million years ago. This was a time when the earth’s climate was mostly hot and dry, with deserts spanning much of the interior of Pangaea, the huge land mass from which our present-day continents split.

As we face the challenges of global climate change, Once a Desert is a reflection upon the permeability and impermanence of material within the context of the cathedral and deeper time. 

The Hamilton Project are Creative Producers for the Refresh cultural recovery programme for Chester

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