An event to truly brighten up dark winter streets, Illuminating York was an impressive display of innovative installations lit up throughout the city centre. With over 50,000 visitors the event gained masses of public interest that allowed a new kind of visual experience within York’s historic grounds. The artworks created a new view of hidden gems and well known heritage sites, with eight different artists, designers and makers contributing to the festival.
The first installation I came across was simple, but revealed a new experience of the iconic streets of Shambles; Orbit by Studio PSK acted as an expanded light trail as lights continuously danced to highlight different aspects of architecture, a continuing theme throughout the festival. Arcs of light were positioned at the top of Shambles, inviting viewers to look up to the historic buildings and as the lights revolved, the view of the street transformed.
The most impressive display of light and sound, Jason Bruges’ Light Masonry (pictured above) was a stunning exhibition of visual trickery which allowed spectators to view York Minster in an entirely new light. The white beams of light cut through the dark space in York Minsters’ nave to highlight the stunning architecture and alongside the bright white light, haunting organ music created a powerful and immersive connection between the viewer and their environment. The work was intended to be site-specific and I believe this showed through, with considerable care taken with the installation’s environment.
The Northern Youth also contributed to this year’s Illuminating York festival with Millennial Minds, presented in the Minsters’ Chapter House. Drawing upon a rise in mental illnesses that the millennial generation is facing, the northern youth decided to explore a visual representation of this topic within the Chapter House – as a site of discussion and contemplation the artists wanted to promote and encourage open and healthy conversation of a topic that is so often avoided. The artwork consisted of personal videos, sculptures and soundscapes created by Lucie MacGregor, Joel Anthony, Dan Howarth and Samuel Bartle. The videos created a sense of unease, and the setting succeeded in drawing viewers’ attention directly to the artwork, at the central point of the Chapter House, which reflected well with the issues The Northern Youth wanted to address.
Set in York St. Johns’ Lord Mayor’s Walk Campus, a new location for the festival, Lumen (pictured above) was created by David Ogle and was a magical addition to Illuminating York. As spectators walked into the historical quad, it opened to a skeletal forest of glowing luminescent lights, accompanied with a soundscape created by students of York St. John. Shadows of people and trees are cast onto the ground, creating an interactive installation which delighted its visitors. Everyone within the piece interacted immediately, younger visitors danced and jumped through the space whilst others took pictures of the strange surroundings. Despite being a very simple visual affect, the overall reaction was one of wonderment and amusement at the other-worldly experience it gave.
In addition to these pieces, York’s Art Gallery, Holy Trinity Church and the National Railway Museum were illuminated by innovative designs of light. As most events were free, the festival held a very welcoming atmosphere to families and students, making visitors want to return year after year. Using cutting-edge technology, York’s unique heritage was displayed through a range of wonderful events that created a refreshing experience of the city.