E/T/C London Illuminates York

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Large scale projection specialists E/T/C London produced a centrepiece show for the 10 day "Illuminating York" event, with E/T/C's Ross Ashton commissioned by Visit York to design and create the spectacle.

The work, “Accendo”, involved two independent but complimentary video and film projection shows running concurrently.

One was projected onto the charismatic ruins of the 10th century Benedectine Abbey of St Mary's, and the other onto the Yorkshire Museum, opened in 1830 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, an organization devoted to the study of science through public display and study of archaeology, geology and natural history collections. Both are located in Museum Gardens in the city centre.

Ashton had a completely clean slate for storyboarding and creating the shows, on which he worked closely with sound designer Karen Monid, who composed special sound tracks for them.

"My goal was to create a large piece of interactive live art that told a story relevant to the historical scientific and religious roots of the buildings, which engaged the public and could be enjoyed by people of all ages and interests," Ashton explains.

His narrative starting point and the central show theme was that both buildings were centres of learning. From an initial quote from the 10th century monk Alcuin of York about studying the world in order to understand it, Ashton extracted the topics of astronomy, geometry, mathematics and music, developing these into the two 13 minute projection shows.

"I wanted to represent these ancient areas of study in a modern and contemporary way," tells Ashton. He and Monid were given access to the York Museum and City of York archives, and also to the British Library, from which they obtained images to use for the Medieval section of the Abbey show. He spent approximately 4 weeks researching and sourcing material to be turned into appropriate artwork and video content.

Making a basic temporal delineation between the two buildings, he specified 3 PIGI 6kW projectors to cover the 75 metre span of the Abbey's arches and towers, each fitted with double rotating scrollers containing approximately 10 metres of film and fifty images. The PIGI projectors were programmed and run via an E/T/C OnlyCue system.

Ashton decided on video for the Museum. Its somewhat stoic 35 metre wide pale stone fascia proved an ideal projection surface and was covered by 2 Barco R18 projectors. The content was stored, programmed and played back via E/T/C's OnlyView multimedia control platform, programmed by Richard Porter and Karen Monid.

While designed to be completely independent, there were some similar and related images common to both shows, and both sets of images and soundtracks were also meticulously compiled to allow viewers to move between either projections and still be able to relate to the visuals and stories.

E/T/C London's technician Michael Barry worked closely with the event's production manager Ben Pugh of Trebeca to rig the projectors on custom weatherized platforms that were built in Museum Gardens.

The project was arguably the most spectacular and memorable yet staged for an “Illuminating York” event, of which this was the fourth.

Running from 5 to 11pm each night, the shows were also a massive hit with the public. Pulling up to 1,000 people an hour into the Museum Gardens to watch the shows at peak points, the projections soon became a local talking point that self-generated more interest.

Ian Tempest of Visit York comments, "We're delighted with E/T/C's and Ross's work and the results and have received an impressive amount of positive feedback from the public. It's also a real credit to the City of York, reflecting the quality of the town's historic buildings and their surroundings."

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