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Eno installations at the Montefiore Hospital

I’m not given much to hero worship, but Brian Eno is as close as I get.  His ambient music is often the backdrop to my work, and his albums Neroli, Thursday Afternoon, The Plateaux of Mirrors (with Harold Budd), Music for Airports, and On Land are all favourites.  While his book, A Year With Swollen Appendices, which I read several times, influenced the course of my life and helped me diversify and enrich what have done with my life.

Lately, I have been researching hospital waiting rooms, as I believe the experience for people using them can be drastically improved. No surprise to find that Eno had already gone there before me. I visited the Montefiore Hospital  in Hove, just walking distance from my home, which has two installations by Brian Eno.

In the reception area you can find Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings for Montefiore, a slowly-mutating light painting, which layers and combines in millions of ways previous artworks by Eno.  He says in his notes, ‘The movement of the whole piece is deliberately slow. My feeling is that this slowness produces a calming experience — because it takes the viewer down to its speed.’ Soothing ambient sounds also provide a tranquil backdrop to the reception area.

The Quiet Room for Montefiore  is chiefly used by patients after chemotherapy and it creates a therapeutic, humanising tranquillity.  About this room Eno writes, ‘Creating a healing environment isn’t only about correct surgical procedures and the right technology but also about making an atmosphere where the patients feel able to relax enough to clearly think through their options, and to properly take part in the healing process themselves.’ As you sit on the sofa and watch the light combine in different ways, and sense the ambient sound calming you, you can tell this is art of a different sort, that provides a context for you to exist calmly. It is a brilliant piece of work.

I picked up the comments book in reception and read, ‘you can feel your blood pressure calming by the minute. It made me think of cells and change and the beauty of life.’ Another person wrote, ‘I truly believe they play a significant role in my treatment and my journey to being well’.

I believe treatment should begin in the waiting room, and The Montefiore Hospital, through its use of these Eno installations, may be on the way to doing just that.

I would like to thank Tom Collins of Montefiore Hospital for showing me the work.

Below a snap of the endlessly changing 77 Million Paintings for Montefiore, in the reception area, and a photo taken from the sofa in the darkened The Quiet Room for Montefiore.

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77 Million Paintings for Montefiore by Brian Eno
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The Quiet Room for Montefiore, by Brian Eno

 

 

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a writer's life Architecture Religion

The Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba

A mosque with a cathedral bursting out of its roof. Ever since Lorraine and I went to Spain a month ago, I have been haunted by the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba.

It is not rare for different religions to use the same holy sites over history, although what makes people originally decide a site is holy or not is an interesting question. The building in Córdoba close to the Guadalquivir river has its roots at least as far back as the mid-6th Century, with establishment of a Visigoth Basilica of San Vincente. It became a mosque in 786 and after the dissolution of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031, was rededicated as a Catholic temple in 1146, and its strange hybrid life began.

I found the Mezquita exquisite. A forest of pillars, that line up as you walk past them, with the visitors inside flickering between them.

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But what held me spellbound, was the the semicircular niche, the mihrab, in the qibla wall, where people orient themselves in prayer. This mihrab, was simply one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. Lorraine and I spent a long time just looking at this beautiful thing, and returned early a few days later so we could spend more time drinking it in with our eyes.

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And looking up…

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On my next visit, I wanted to look harder at the Cathedral too.

The effect of a almost vertical shaft of light, which is extremely  dramatic when you walk into it from the low light levels of the mosque. Walking into the Cathedral after looking at the patterns of Islamic art, the depictions of Jesus, God, Mary, various saints and angels was a stark difference.

It made me think how the holy art of Islam contrasts with Christian depictions of Christ, Mary, the apostles and so on. For me, these depictions, however beautiful, always have a touch of bathos. They particularise and funnel the imagination towards human likenesses. While I found my first impression of the mihrab made me imagine reaching out to something divine and ultimately indefineable.

To me, imposing a new Cathedral which literally goes through the roof of the old mosque seemed almost a brutality, and inclined me to a political reading of the building, that the Cathedral was triumphalist expression of the overthrow of the Caliphate and the reconquest of Spain.

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But after a second visit, I changed my mind. The building’s hybrid nature won me over.

I’ve forgotten where I first bumped into the thought that religions could be considered to be fingers on the hand of God, but this Mosque Cathedral reminded me of it.

Through many centuries people have yearned towards the idea of God in so many ways, including eastwards, upwards or by looking within. What strange things we people are, and what beauty can religions draw out of us.

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