Ross Ashton of UK-based The Projection Studio was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to be the main artist for the 2010 Pittsburgh Festival of Lights, for which he produced 4 stunning projection works. It's Ashton's first major work in the US and follows his installations at last yearâ€™s event for curators Marguerite Jarrett-Marks and Christopher Oberdorf and another that he produced for New Yearâ€™s Eve 2009/2010. The challenge was on to produce something that was completely different from anything in the past and that would engage the public as well as bring critical acclaim to the festival. The Festival of Light was concentrated in The Cultural Quarter of the city, and the art works had to utilise existing architecture and spaces, which for projection purposes, were primarily confined to a series of flat walled buildings. Says Ashton, "It was a great privilege to be asked to contribute as the lead artist and a very exhilarating task to be able to create bold, original pieces related to the life, vibrancy and culture of the city, with which people could engage and enjoy".
The first piece was projected onto the Mahla Office Furniture building by 2 x PIGI 6K projectors positioned side by side making one 50 metre wide by 30 high panoramic image, complete with double rotating scrollers. The content was inspired by Ashtonâ€™s background in biology, taking the world class selection of â€˜Type Specimensâ€™ available at the cityâ€™s Carnegie Museum and its significance as one of the most important Palaeontology centres in the world as the theme for the installation.
The brief for the second work came from the Festivalâ€™s main sponsors Dusquene Light, who really wanted a piece involving elements of an exhibition of Vatican art, which was in town at the same time. This became a 3 PIGI show, throwing a 60 metre wide by 30 metre high image on to a wall of the David L Lawrence Convention Centre. Two of the projectors were overlaid to make one image and the centre one worked independently, allowing centre, left and right images to change separately or to morph from a smaller central image to the full width double image.
Two overlaid PIGIs were set up in the car park on top of a purpose built tower, projecting a 30 x 20 metre picture onto the back of Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. They were masked and contra-masked to produce the lifelike movement for the shimmering, cascading waterfall. A special accompanying audioscape was created by sound artist Karen Monid, mimicking the falling water and the chatter of birds native to the area. The idea was to create a natural haven of woodland in the heart of urbanity.
This final piece featured a static slide mounted in a Pani BP6 projector projected on to the side of the Catholic Charities Building, a prominent landmark in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, at 9th Street between Liberty & Penn Avenues. The image was of the rising sun breaking through a trellis of roses and the projector was located inside an empty building opposite. It was the same place and floor as was housing the "Old Bones" projectors, which were pointing in a different direction. The PIGI projectors were supplied by White Light in London and the logistics - crewing, PIGI engineering, rigging solutions, building of structures, etc - was co-ordinated by Cory Cope of Pittsburgh based Fly Space. The 2010 event was a major success. Ashton found the urban environment a different and stimulating space in which to work and a real contrast, as much of his work is projected onto historically and architecturally significant buildings. "To have the blank canvass of neutral coloured, open walls and concrete as surfaces for the works, and the dynamics of the city around me as the public viewing spaces really made it come alive in terms of practical working art".