Projection and digital art specialist Ross Ashton of London based The Projection Studio created two spectacular projection works in Wolverhampton, west Midlands UK for the inaugural Wolverhampton Enchanted City event, which attracted up to 8000 people each evening into the city centre.
Ashton was commissioned to produce the works by Wolverhampton City Council following his work at the first ever Enchanted City ‘pilot’ event at Horncastle, Lincolnshire earlier in the year. Ashton is developing this unique event concept together with Brighton based Robin Morley of Magnetic Events, who also produced this show.
The giant 15 metre tall images were beamed onto two well-known local landmarks – the 1920s style Barclays Bank building in St Peter’s Square, and the Wulfrana Street entrance to the University of Wolverhampton around 100 metres away.
The Oldest Place
This was the title of the Barclays Bank projections in St Peter’s Square and based on the story of the monastery originally consecrated in 994 on land granted by Lady Wulfrun, which then became St Peter’s Church.
Ashton once again collaborated with sound artist Karen Monid who created a dynamic bespoke soundtrack based on Anglo Saxon poetry about the Garden of Eden which was read by a specialist in Old English language that she sourced and recorded.
The images were all inspired by medieval manuscripts together with patterns based on the shape and geometry of the building.
The images were produced using a single Christie Roadster S+20K projector located on top of a specially built tower close to the building, fitted with a 1.2 – 1 short-throw lens.
Content for the three minute loop was played back from a MacBook Pro running Millumin software, which is perfect for single projector shows like this.
The show at the University entrance – projected onto the imposing 1930s building - was designed to be a complete contrast to the pastoral and reflective tone of St Peter’s Square.
Generator was hi-energy all-action animation based on the flow of ideas, knowledge and energy associated with learning.
Set to a pumping dance track, which turned the atmosphere of the space almost into a joyous public rave, the building’s frontage was transformed into a fantasy-style generator with frantically turning cogs emitting oozing steam and flying sparks, together with random objects flying across the surface representing some of the disciplines taught there.
These included cameras (film), keyboards (music) and even a flying cow (agricultural sciences) all with a colourful spacey background of flying stars and galaxies.
“The idea was to make ‘Generator’ fun and amusing while ‘The Oldest Place’ was thoughtful and tranquil, both of them at the polar opposite end of the ‘spiritual spectrum’, and by their juxtaposition, asking people to explore the natural synergies between these two important locations in their city.” explains Ashton, adding “Effectively it highlights these integral elements of the metropolitan area and presents them in a completely different light”.
An almost identical projection set up was utilised for Generator, except the Christie Roadster was fitted with a .7 lens. This show also ran in three minute loops.
The public reaction was overwhelmingly positive: “I have just experienced one of the most wonderful evenings … Just brilliant” wrote one delighted visitor, while another who was also prompted to visit the art gallery for the first time after many years of living in Wolverhampton enthused, “The St Peter’s Gardens illuminations were amazing” … the thank-yous and appreciation flooded the City Council’s Email and social media channels for many days afterwards.
Ian Bustin of Wolverhampton City Council said, “We set out to do something different combining fantastic technology and creativity with community performances representing a true festival atmosphere. The projection images and tone completely changed the perception and atmosphere of the city. Children, families and young people reclaimed the city centre as a place to socialize … and the festival reawakened a real sense of local pride and ambition.”