Installation sheds psychedelic light on York Minster's facade

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The Independent Online

The Gothic facade of York Minster was last night transformed by a maelstrom of psychedelic colour generated by the surrounding sounds of the city.

The digital artwork, "Evoke", operated by voice-activated technology, picked up the frequencies of various sounds to trigger a riot of projected colours.

The installation covers the imposing 60 metre-high front of York Minster, which is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. It was brought to life by the public, who used their voices to trigger millions of light patterns spanning the entire colour spectrum.

The cathedral's facade, originally built to link the earth to the heavens, was designed to drive the viewer's gaze skywards.

In an attempt to continue this tradition, Usman Haque, the "digital architect" and the installation's creator, said his work also encouraged the viewer to look upward.

"The concept behind it came from the fact that the building has historically been where people would communicate with the heavens," he said. "It is architecturally designed to draw your gaze upwards. I wanted to find a way the public could bring this building to life with their voice.

"With this installation, their speech will generate colours to skim the surface of the Minster, pour round its features and finally emerge near the top of the facade where they will sparkle high overhead," he added.

The colour patterns thrown onto the cathedral's front are generated in real time by the words, sounds, music and noises produced collectively by the public, determined by their particular voice characteristics.

People with voices of varying frequencies, rhythms and cadences will be able to evoke different kinds of patterns on the surface of the building.

Mr Haque, who last month created a large-scale helium balloon sculpture to launch London Fashion Week in London, said four microphones had been placed around the cathedral for public use. "It's the unique tones and paces of each person's voice that will create different magical colours, shapes and patterns on the side of the Minster, no patterns will be the same," he said.

"It is the juxtaposition of old meets new – cutting-edge digital art combined with the beautiful historic backdrop of York makes it ever more unique and special."

The project is the centre piece of a nine-day arts festival, "Illuminating York", showcasing cutting-edge outdoor artwork, exhibitions, performances and tours.

A spokeswoman from York Tourism Bureau said the installation was part of an initiative to encourage the public to appreciate the city's architecture. "We thought this would be a unique way to profile the buildings," she said. "Often we walk past buildings but don't really observe them. But this will showcase the architectural beauty of what is around us." "Evoke" is on view until 3 November.

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