As long as people have lived in what we now know as Poole they have stood on the shores of the harbour and pondered what lies over the horizon.
That quest for knowledge is just one of the ideas that inspired international acclaimed award winning sound and lights artists Ross Ashton and Karen Monid to create a new work called Horizon as one of the centrepieces of this year’s Light Up Poole festival of light art to be projected on the outside of St James’s Church.
Sponsored by Poole BID and funded by Arts Council England, from 21 to 23 February Light Up Poole will see more than twenty light art spectacles transforming the Old Town as some of the world’s leading practitioners join local groups and artists to respond to the theme of ‘Tides’.
“Horizon is quite a complex piece, but basically it’s about what we see of the Earth and universe at different points in history,” says Karen Monid. “We’re looking at the medieval view of the universe and where they understood our place to be in it. And then we’re looking at the modern take on the same thing and showing them in parallel using content provided for us by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA.”
The piece, a European premiere for Light Up Poole, has been produced in collaboration with Napa Lighted Art Festival in California and is juxtaposed with the world premiere of another new piece, Zenith, being made by Ross and Karen to be shown inside the church. It uses beams of interrupted light projected on a mirror ball to create an immersive sensory experience.
Ross, whose work has illuminated iconic buildings such as Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the Shanti Stupa at Dhauligiri in India, explains: “On the outside of the church we’re talking about how we look back on the Earth and on the inside we’re talking about looking out into the universe as these light beams shatter into the stars – we’re kind of turning things inside out.”
Horizon deals with the idea that human understanding has always been bounded by things we can see that we extrapolate from to make sense of things we can’t see. In that sense the questions we ask today are similar those our forebears asked, but from a different point of view now that we can reach the stars.
From the global and universal to the intensely parochial, Karen’s immersive soundscape Sonic Tides has been created specifically for the garden at Scaplen’s Court where it takes audiences on a journey back to the Poole of the 16th century.
“It’s a multi channel audio piece based on research done by local volunteers,” she says. “It’s looking at the life of the property through the lens of the 16th century, a period when Poole was quite successful in terms of trade so it would have been a quite lively town.
“The idea is you walk through the garden and it is dark, things are transformed and you’re immersed in that world so you’ll hear voices from behind trees, there may be some French speaking, the sound of horses, whatever it takes to allow the research to speak.”
Ross and Karen are just two of the international artists showing work alongside emerging artists and students from Bournemouth and Southampton universities and Arts University Bournemouth, as well as Poole schools, as Light Up Poole sets out to challenge and inspire young people’s creativity.
“We are showing work by world class artists as well as young local practitioners so there are clues here for young people who feel the creative urge but wonder what their futures might look like,” says Libby Battaglia of festival directors Audacious.
A cornerstone of this year’s programme the Light Art Symposium led by Bournemouth University will consider creative and commercial opportunities presented by cultural events, such as their contribution to the regeneration of places by developing tourism out of season.
Justin Hundley-Appleton, Poole BID manager, comments: “Light Up Poole is great news for the town and shows that we can rise to the economic challenges that lie ahead by developing cultural and out of season tourism. It all helps to put Poole on the map as a destination to visit throughout the year.”