Recovered Light (2009 DOWNIE ESHKAR KAISER)

Recovered Light is a site-specific public artwork created for the York Minster in England. Projected directly on the scaffolded eastern facade of the cathedral, it acted as a kind of massive virtual x-ray (90 feet tall), peering through the scaffold at a masterpiece of 15th century stained glass, the Great East Window. The piece ran live for five hours every evening, taking more than seven hours to complete a single cycle of its never-repeating imagery. It is now on permanent display inside the Minster.

Obscured by scaffolding during a long process of restoration, the Great East Window is the largest work of medieval stained glass. Created by John Thornton between 1405 and 1408, it illuminates many stories from the Bible, primarily those of Genesis and of Revelation. Its scope is vast, and its iconography complex.

Recovered Light “solves” the puzzle of each main stained glass panel by magnifying its key elements and then reassembling them as if they were pieces in a complex jigsaw puzzle, matching the corresponding biblical passage with the given scene. In the process, it brings to light the expressive faces and vivid scenes from the past, many visible for the first time. Since this act of recovery runs live, the reassembly and magnification of a given panel never quite repeats from one cycle to the next.

The artwork does not perform a simple act of visual restoration; rather it performs an intricate act of artistic retransformation. It is a creative response reaching back across time from the 21st century to the 15th, its bright projected beam providing a new sun for the darkened glass.

Recovered Light was exhibited from the 6th to the 28th of January 2007. A permanent indoor version opened inside the Minster in fall 2007, where it takes its place in juxtapostion to its subject, the Great East Window.