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Museum of the Moon | Durham Cathedral

Luke Jerram, Dale Chihuly, Heather Phillipson, Durham Cathedral, Durham1 min read

This work’s simple and impressive: it’s a big blow-up model of the moon. Stencilled with detailed topographical photographs from NASA, this incredible inflatable has been touring for a couple of years, everywhere from downtown Kolkata to the Natural History Museum in London.

I saw it in one of the most awesome rooms in the world, Durham Cathedral. With its pointed arch vault gesturing towards the Gothic, and its fat columns and piers grounded in the Romanesque, this thousand-year-old space is huge and dim. Any exuberance here is from the Greggs pasty-style zigzag patterns on the columns; the local stone is dark and sober.

luke jerram 'museum of the moon' in durham catehdral

Durham's Norman builders were motivated by their need to assert their power, along with any religious concerns. They put up vast building in around 50 years. Now, it sits like a great ship cresting a wave, on its high peninsula over the river Wear. By contrast and despite its size - seven metres across, taking up a big chunk of the cathedral’s central crossing - Jerram’s moon is surprisingly modest. It’s not making a bold statement. It’s just swaying.

The unobtrusive politeness of the work was captured by a tannoy voiceover that cut into the celestial soundscape surrounding the moon, composed for Jerram by Dan Jones, during my visit. “The museum of the moon encourages us to delight in this house of god”, said the priest, just before she encouraged us to pray for the North of England Refugee Service.

She had it exactly right. This big inflatable only respectfully complements this incredible stone chamber. It doesn’t “start a dialogue” with it - praise God! That characteristic made me think of other people-pleasing installation art I’ve seen recently and written about on this website, from Dale Chihuly and Heather Phillipson.

Jerram’s moon will carry on touring into 2022, with venues including Bath Abbey and a festival in Belmont, North Carolina. It will be worth seeing wherever it pitches up.

Image credit: Chronicle Live

Museum of the Moon is at Durham Cathedral (Durham). 13 September - 11 November 2021

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