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Surreal projections on the ceiling of this Paris church leave visitors seeing stars

On a normal day, visitors to the ancient Church of Saint-Eustache in Paris’ 1st arrondissement have the luxury of enjoying the chapel’s gorgeous and historic Gothic architecture. Now — for a limited time — the church’s vaulted ceilings have been transformed into an otherworldly spectacle designed and created by renowned French digital artist Miguel Chevalier. An art installation for Nuit Blanche 2016, Chevalier’s work is presented in the form of constellation-like digital projections displayed throughout the expansive church, giving onlookers the chance to become engulfed in 16th Century architecture while enjoying a bit of augmented reality.

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In addition to the visual treat of the projections, the installation is also supplemented by the improvisational musical stylings of French organist Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvrard. As visitors peruse the innovative art installation, the designs and structures constantly change, providing a real-time landscape of fictional constellations. The continuously evolving finished product is comprised of 35 separate colored systems of lights that ebb and flow to create twisting and braiding webs.

Designed with the intent of highlighting the church’s towering ceilings and stature as one of the premier Gothic cathedrals, Chevalier wants visitors to feel completely immersed in both the real and digital surroundings. In tandem with Saint-Eustache’s already lit hallways and rooms, the constellations provide a futuristic glow that works perfectly against the interior’s structure.

To add even more to its already impressive level of pageantry, anyone present during the installation is encouraged not just to walk around and take in the display but to lie down on the church floor and gaze toward the ceiling. An odd scene to picture, no doubt, but it’s clear Chevalier and those who set up the exhibit want nothing more than for interested visitors to keep their heads pointed high in order to fully enjoy the show. It’s not entirely clear how long the installation will stay inside the church, though a companion video (posted above) shows that it’s been incredibly popular since arriving at the chapel around October 1.