What seems at first to be narrow rays of turquoise light streaming in through the stained glass windows of a vacant Gothic Revival church turn out to be over 6,500 feet of paracord painstakingly wound around ornate posts and columns. Artist Aaron Asis temporarily transformed West Philadelphia’s St. Andrew’s Collegiate Chapel, which has been closed for more than 40 years, with a geometric string installation that shifts the spatial perception within its darkened nave.
Entitled Ci-Lines, the project re-opened the disused chapel for three days over three weekends so visitors could take in both the grandeur of the church itself and the surreal sight of criss-crossing string creating new geometries within the negative space. Built in 1924, the chapel was used for sermon lessons and school services until 1974, and though the larger complex has been reclaimed for other uses, the chapel remains vacant.
“The geometry of Ci-Lines is like an artistic exercise in connecting the dots, crisscrossing overhead and inviting visitors to visually explore a sculptural form as a portal into the nuances of a vacant environ,” says Asis. “The resultant series of cords in tension draws direct inspiration from the existing architectural form inside the chapel. These cords literally render a woven and symmetrical connection between the ornamental posts lining the chapel walls and architectural columns featured along the balconies above, combining to act as a temporary catalyst for observation, investigation, conversation, and realization of spatial majesty in vacant context.”
Asis hopes that the project will renew interest in the historic structure, helping to preserve it as the cityscape around it shifts and changes. Making use of vacant spaces for art installations helps the public see them in a new light and can spur ideas for revitalization.