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Case study – Rose at the 2010 Illuminating York festival

Andrew Brister 8 December 2010

Rose, a son et lumière collaboration between projection artist Ross Ashton and sound artist Karen Monid, was the main centrepiece of the 2010 Illuminating York festival of light. It alone drew in an incredible 65,000 people to York city centre to enjoy the show over four days, running for three hours each evening in a continuous loop.

Ashton and Monid were commissioned to produce this latest work following their very successful Accendo event for the 2008 Illuminating York festival, which lit the facades of the Yorkshire Museum and Abbey Ruins in York’s Museum Gardens.

Rose was a 40 metre high artwork that transformed the Minster’s famous medieval Rose window and surrounding architecture into a fabulous amalgam of images, ideas, colour and sounds. It was a four-part study encompassing the symbolism of the rose and its relevance to the city’s ancient and contemporary history.

Ashton’s projection system comprised four Pigi 7 kW projectors with double rotating scrollers, each of which was loaded with about 14 metres of film. These were housed in a specially constructed tower in front of the south transept of the Minster. The projectors were all fitted with 15.5cm wide-angle lenses to maximise the short throw distance of the long but shallow viewing area. The extreme angles made the line up a real challenge, with some serious keystone correction required to get the artwork appearing in perspective on the building.

Ashton and Monid had an open brief and no shortage of ideas once they decided to concentrate on the rose and its myriad of real and imaginative possibilities. They spent about a month intensively developing the show, which is divided into four sections.

The first concentrates on the rose as a symbol of Yorkshire, complete with Latin inscription taken from the Cathedral’s chapter house and sounds bringing Yorkshire’s wild nature to life. The second section, Rose Garden, combined love poetry spoken by local volunteers with images of climbing rose trees. This then led into Mary, which combined images of the Virgin Mary with an extract of the York Minster choir singing Magnificat Septimi Toni by Lassus. The final part was a study of perfection, both mathematical and tonal as glass sounds accompanied stained glass imagery and geometrical shapes and patterns.

Ashton was given access to the intricate stained glass work of the Minster, some of it up to 800 years old, via the York Glazier’s Trust, who opened up its archive and photographic library. From this massive resource, he chose images to make into film artwork, utilising a treatment involving enlargement of the often small and fine details.

All the artwork was produced by Ashton and The Projection Studio, comprising of Paul Chatfield and Steve Larkins. The equipment was installed by Ashton, Monid and Michael Barry, who worked with Illuminating York’s production manager Ben Pugh. The show was programmed on and run by Monid using an OnlyCue system, a process completed in four overnighters on site.

Central to the philosophy of the piece was back-lighting of the rose window from inside the Cathedral, achieved with a Robert Juliat 2.5K follow spot supplied by White Light, which juxtaposed the central feature exquisitely against the projections.

The sound was run off an ADAT machine, with 10 audio inputs in to the mixer, output to d&b speakers and subs in four positions around the viewing area.

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