Seven metres beneath the financial data and media company Bloomberg’s newest European Headquarters, lies one of the oldest buildings in London. The Roman Temple of Mithras from the 3rd Century AD has been physically reconstructed in its original location for an immersive, multi-sensory reincarnation of its mysterious origins.
A visit to the London Mithraeum housed at Bloomberg SPACE begins with a very modern twist to an ancient narrative.
Artist Isabel Nolan’s installation, ‘Another View from Nowhen’, fills the entrance with the colourful exuberance and charisma of varied mediums. Hidden within the graphic contours of an enormous 19.45 metre long tapestry, ‘The Barely Perceptible Vibration of Everything’, is an expansive archaeological representation of the ancient Walbrook River. In the forefront is a gaping, painted steel sculpture, ‘Blind to the Rays of the Returning Sun’ of comparable size. The familiar museum case relics from Roman times are hidden from this frontal perspective so that Nolan’s installation, to anyone walking past the glass facade, could easily be mistaken for one of many contemporary art shows.
‘The Barely Perceptible Vibration of Everything’ is modern art though. But Nolan presents in duality, the ways in which we are connected to this 3rd century AD past: in a modern medium and through the layers of archaeology the Roman world of Londinium, is the very concrete foundation to our own modern 21st Century London.
To the left of the white walls of the installation room, the nearing proximity to the temple is contrasted by reflective but black marble walls of part two. A giant case of ancient artefacts excavated from the original site is displayed in a vertical cabinet of curiosities. It displays objects such as tiny pottery milk bottles to a golden manicure set, complete with tweezers, a cuticle pusher and instrument to scrape dirt out from underneath nails. There is also the first financial document from Britain amongst coins and glass vials. The artefacts are explained by ipads, and once again there is this graceful wedding between old and new.
The final part descends into the temple itself. Clever use of music and lighting is truly transportive. Again, the most authentic way of experiencing and understanding the atmosphere of the temple as it once was, is achieved with technology. In the basement of one of the world’s most current affairs minded businesses, is a nod to the city steeped in history. This juxtaposition between new and old is a creatively and authentically curated exhibition which marks the increasing innovation involved in presenting history to a modern public.
Photo credit: Brigitte Zheng