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Film (and photographic documentation), 2016, 16:30 min

An installation in the London Foundling Hospital Mortuary

Fabrication: Francis Thorburn (in collaboration with artist)


The film and photographic series documents an in-situ art installation within the London Foundling Hospital mortuary, in Bloomsbury. Skylights was commissioned by the leading children’s charity Coram to mark the demolition of the Victorian building, prior to the construction of the new Queen Elizabeth II Centre. The documentation therefore functions as an ongoing memorial to the children whose fate was tragically linked to this unremarkable, yet poignant outbuilding. One poignant factor of the old mortuary is that boys and girls were separated even in death. Timed to mark the summer solstice, the light and water installation flooded the boys’ and girls’ rooms, inserting two new skylights: one oriented towards the midday sun, and one to the evening sun. Children were invited to splash in the puddle rooms, while adults were invited to reflect upon the deeper significance of the historic spaces. The installation thus set out to reanimate a space that for many years had functioned as a general store. In opening up the voids to the sky, Skylights (metaphorically) allowed the spirits of the children to rise up out of the building prior to its demolition. The soundtrack documents contemporary life, while also the sounds emanating from the extraordinary trees that grew within the Foundling Hospital gardens. Onto this sound track is overlaid György Ligeti’s 1966 Lux Aeterna, a Requiem Mass for 16 voices, which ends with the words: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis (Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them).

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