Illuminating York is back tonight with what promises to be the best light festival York has seen. Now in its seventh year the festival has broken from tradition and moved its focus from the Minster to the Castle Museum. With 60,000 visitors attending in 2010 the expectation this year is greater than ever and from what we saw at the press night exclusive it could well be the best Illuminating York yet.
As we arrived at the Castle Museum the preview of this year’s central piece ‘Envison’ was just getting started. As the front of the building was first lit up with psychedelic swirls of pink and green, the building then transformed itself into a homage to York’s railway past as train wheels and pistons appeared and the pillars of the museum turned into giant screws drilling down into the earth. Next a Roman battalion on horse back materialized and galloped across the front of the building before the unmistakable image of Guy Fawkes was projected onto the stone work and the whole museum appeared to be engulfed in flames and then disintegrated brick by brick.
The festival is not just confined to the Castle Museum though, the whole city will be lit up until 29th October, and right on time for Halloween one of the main themes this year is the city’s wonderful spooky history. While the sneak preview we saw tonight was very much centered on the classic York themes of Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin the installations are truly international in design with artists from all over the world involved.
We spoke to Pedro Zaz of United VJs and Ben Stern of GaiaNova, two of the artist involved, who told us that for the installation we saw tonight 13 artists were involved in its creation, “When we got brief to do this work they asked us to reflect the echo’s of the past,” Pedro told us “thirteen artists from Serbia, Hungry, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, and England all read the brief and researched York and we all came up with the same characters which was really difficult to avoid such as Dick Turpin, Guy Fawkes and all the ghosts.”
The artists were all given the same brief to work to and used digital mapping of the buildings to create the wonderful light illusions you will see all over York. Working on the highly detailed maps of the anterior of the buildings allowed the international artists to work on specialised art works that exactly match and play to the architectural details of the individual buildings even though the artists were sometimes thousands of miles away at the time.
2011 isn’t the first year that Ben has been involved with Illuminating York, “I was first involved in 2009 when we did an installation called the wall of light and since then I’ve stayed in touch with the committee. We sent them a projection mapping piece that United VJs had done in La Paz, Bolivia, and they really liked it and got in touch and asked if we would do something for this year.”
The festival is not just an artistic pleasure for tourists and York residents as the four nights will bring in an expected £1.7 million to the local economy. Cllr Sonja Crisp, the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Social Inclusion said “It’s going to be really funky and modern this year but there’s still going to be an old twist as it’s leading up to York 800 next year so there’s a bit of history in there. The amazing thing with this year is that local businesses have got involved all over the city and there wont be anywhere you can turn where you won’t find a little bit of Illuminating York. We are becoming known as a city that has cutting edge public art and it’s getting bigger and better every year.”
The international aspect behind the creation of the art works is matched by an international interest in what York is doing with the cutting edge technology. Illuminating York is combining the city’s rich heritage and history with modern conceptual art in a unique way. Gillian Cruddas, Chief Executive of Visit York, said “We’ve had enquires from all over the world from the media and people who want to visit. This is one of York’s key festivals. It’s quite different and a great reason to come to the city. There are different lighting festivals around the world, there’s one in Lyon, but what makes York’s different is that were using historic buildings and nowhere really has historic buildings like York.”
The festival is running from tonight (Wednesday 26th October) until Saturday 29th York and more details can be found here.