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E/T/C Projection Lights Up Durham Cathedral

PLSN Staff • International News • November 21, 2009

DURHAM, U.K. — E/T/C UK’s Ross Ashton designed a projection project for Durham Cathedral as part of the four-day “Lumière” Durham Festival of Light event, curated and co-ordinated by Artichoke. Ashton’s work, Crown of Light, covered the entire North fascia of the Cathedral, including all sides of the three towers — the largest installation of the festival. Durham Cathedral dates back to 1093 and is, along with nearby Durham Castle which faces it across Palace Green, a designated Unesco World Heritage Site.

Ashton received an initial brief from Artichoke’s Helen Marriage and Nicky Webb about the narrative and direction of the show. Taking these as a creative starting point, he then input and developed his own ideas.

The story encompassed the history of the Cathedral, including the Lindesfarne Gospels, noted for their imagery and Celtic calligraphy. These were originated by the Lindesfarne monks and stored in Durham Cathedral for many years, along with the bones of St. Cuthbert, which are still there.

Ashton’s piece also explored the building as an architectural space and its relationship with and historical significance to the city of Durham.

He and Paul Chatfield developed the PIGI projection artwork over a period of two weeks, also collaborating with musical director Robert Ziegler, who compiled a soundscape for the 16 minute show, and sound designer John Del’Nero, who designed the audio system.

Ashton used material sourced from the British Library and also conducted a photo shoot at the Cathedral to capture all the architectural and structural elements he wanted to incorporate into the show.

The projection system used seven PIGI 6KW machines with double rotating scrollers, positioned at various distances around the Cathedral. The longest throw distance was 150 meters and the shortest just 20 meters.

The projector positions were carefully chosen to eliminate any shadowing from the numerous trees dotted around the Cathedral Gardens — and that also proved to be one of the major creative and technical challenges of the project.

The seven projectors were in six different positions, fitted with five different types of lenses, ranging from a 10cm wide angle lens to an 85cm long throw lens. The seven different positions each covered a separate zone of the Cathedral’s architecture.

The PIGI film scrolls were all approximately 15 meters in length, and the PIGI artwork was assembled and pre-corrected for perspective and keystoning in Photoshop.

The show was programmed into E/T/C’s PC-based OnlyCue controller and operated by Karen Monid. It featured some smooth movement dissolves, transitions and other subtleties accomplished by OnlyCue and PIGI.

Ashton comments,

“It was a huge honor to be asked to create and present this piece,” Ashton said. “Durham is one of the country’s signature Cathedrals — it’s a wonderful site with a fabulously rich history — and is a very special location in which to work.”

The E/T/C London crew of Richard Porter and Michael Barry started rigging the projectors on the Tuesday before the Thursday night opening. The PIGIs were all housed in custom weatherized hides, also supplied by E/T/C.

This show — which ran eight times nightly — and the other Lumiere installations involving over 50 U.K.-based and international artists, attracted up to 75,000 people in Durham’s city center each evening despite inclement weather.

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