Some of York’s top attractions are to be transformed into interactive artworks this week, as Illuminating York seeks to fuse architecture with innovative lighting technologies. Following the success of Illuminate London, Make It York have brought the idea up north, creating a diverse line-up for the events’ sixth year. It might not rival the scale of Diwali, but the creative inspiration and hallowed atmosphere of the event draws comparisons to the Festival of Light.
There are nine key pieces to visit, seven of which are newly commissioned and site-specific to York’s landmarks. These include ‘Light Masonry’ (Jason Bruges), situated in the Minster. To prepare for this stunning showcase, a fog machine churns swirling particulates into the Minster’s cavernous body. Visitors then marvel at the scale of the building as powerful spotlights divide the space above their heads, highlighting different parts of the distant ceiling overhead. The dancing lights, in tandem with a chilling score performed by the resident organists, makes for a spectacular and humbling experience. The Minster’s size is hard to continually appreciate, especially for locals, but this exhibit makes you feel it afresh, and rediscover the initial marvel of its overwhelming scale.
Seeing York through new eyes is a common theme among the pieces. Elsewhere you’ll find York St. John’s University quad bedecked with neon trees (David Ogle’s ‘Lumen’) – under the canopy of which lurk wanderers playing trumpets, saxophones, and the occasional clarinet. This piece incorporates more performative elements, which can be interacted with too. Taking a closer look at a tree, I was followed by a trumpeter for a while, who briefly soundtracked my movements. This, as well as bringing great hilarity to fellow viewers, gave the environment an inclusive air, letting people explore the space as they wished.
Also on show is an experimental film, exhibited in the National Railway Museum (‘Travelling Light’ – Heinrich and Palmer). Here, the Museum’s workshop has been painstakingly rendered by millions of laser points. The laser-mapped images are projected on a thin veil hanging out past a viewing platform, where the real world mingles with the digitally mapped one. It’s a slightly disconcerting experience, made more so by the Lynchian blasts which emanate from speakers on either side. Artist Leon Palmer spoke of his intention to inspire remembrance of things past, as well as explore ‘the nature of stuff’ – not a big topic at all then. This piece takes a while to build to its full effect, but when the digital and real images become less distinguishable the space does appear to transform. As does each sight included in the project, in line with the festival’s belief in ‘the transformative power of light’.
Other sites for exhibits include The Shambles, Clifford’s Tower and King’s Square. York residents and visitors will relish the treasure hunt or tracking them all down. But they will have to be quick. They are only on show until the 29th October – much too short, but understandable given the expense of taking over so many spaces. Catch it while you can.