Q&A with Ross Ashton, Designer of Double Guinness World Record Winning Company The Projection Studio

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

Above: Detailed interview about the 2018 installation

We had a sit-down with Guild Member and award winning projection artist, Ross Ashton who is has created Northern Lights alongside award winning audio artist, Karen Monid.

In the midst of the Tropical Storm Humberto, one month prior to the opening of the phenomenal Northern Lights, which returns to York Minster this October, we wanted to know about some of the technical aspects of Northern Lights. Read on to find out what we could tease out of him...

Ross, tell us what Northern Lights is in your words as one half of the creative team behind this project: Northern Lights is an immersive 3D projection mapping of the inside of the nave at York Minster and the west end which includes the Heart of Yorkshire.

What inspired you / how did you come up with this specific interpretation? We wanted to create something that would inspire the same feeling of awe that would have been felt by a medieval visitor to the space.

We tried to imagine what that must have meant to a person for which this would have been the biggest building that they had ever seen, with its vivid saturated bright colours in the glass and the painted architecture. Our inspiration started with the glass from the Great East Window and its apocalyptical images.

Finding inspiration in York isn't hard. Did you pick anything, in particular, to take influence from?

In our research, we found that York has many connections with apocalyptic imagery and we decided that it would be interesting to base the work around this broader idea of ‘Northern Apocalypse.

The stained glass images are interwoven with spoken texts drawn from the description of Ragnarok in the Poetic Edda to reflect York's Viking past. We also included quotations from Archbishop Wulfstans 'Secundam Lucam'.

We had a lot of help from our advisors at the University of York Centre for Medieval Studies, The Ordered Universe based out of Durham University, The Minster Choir and organist, and the York Glaziers Trust. The voices that are heard in the work are academics and students from York CMS. As well as English, the piece includes readings in Old English, Old Norse and Latin".

Above: Short preview from 2018

Let's get down to it - we are the Guild of Media Arts, after all - give us some geeky insight:

[Ross laughs - the interviewer is pleased] Using 3D mapping we can ‘repaint’ the walls and ceiling. We chose to use images and themes that are closely related to the space and to York.

To create the installation we are using multiple video projectors that are installed on custom made hanging brackets that minimise the installation's impact on the space whilst still allowing us the freedom to cover the roof as we wish. The multi-channel audio system allows us to zone voices and effects into different parts of the space".

Now we're getting there, what else: [after a short silence, Ross calls time on my probing] You'll have to come as see.

Above: Audience feedback from 2018

I for one will be swinging by to check this out after I missed it in 2018.

See you there?

If you're a Guild of Media Arts member and subscriber to our newsletter, York Minster and our Master, Ann Gurnell have negotiated discounted tickets of £5 instead of £6 for the opening night, Thursday 24 October, at the 7pm showing.

Check your inbox for the newsletter with details.