Faith, fashion and the power of sound: how digital art connects audiences

Image: The Faith Museum AY-PE Stone Cross projection mappping

AY-PE explains how it delivered three diverse AV software projects for high-profile museums in the UK, focusing on creating emotional and intellectual connections for visitors through digital artistry, interpretation, and human experience.

Autumn is a busy time as the attractions sector strive to open exhibitions before the festive season take over. For digital experience designers AY-PE, this has meant delivering three diverse AV software projects, to high-profile museums across the UK, all opening within ten days of each other. Despite the varied subject matter and timescales, their approach remains the same. Creative Director Richard Playford emphasises the importance of focusing on visitors and the desired emotional and intellectual connection. AY-PE’s installations seamlessly combine digital artistry, interpretation, and human experience to create memorable moments for their clients’ audiences.

“Good film, sound, digital interactive and general AV design should always focus on visitor first – where are you taking them, what key takeaways should they walk away with, what do you want them to feel? It’s very helpful for museums and exhibition designers to know what kind of look they’d like an AV to have and to share examples of what they’ve seen and liked, but if that doesn’t relate to the feeling, the messaging and the connection to the visitor which you want the visitor to have, then we may have to go back to the drawing board. Digital art, film, projection, and sound creation are not just mediums for aesthetic pleasure or for surplus information which doesn’t fit into gallery text — they serve as conduits for emotional and intellectual connection.”

The impact of AY-PE’s installations lies in their ability to seamlessly weave together the realms of beautiful digital artistry, interpretation and this connectivity to human experience, creating memorable moments for their clients’ audiences.

The Faith Museum within The Auckland Project, Bishop Auckland, opened 7th October. The Faith Museum explores the myriad of ways in which faith has shaped lives and communities across Britain, inviting visitors to consider how people across 6,000 years of history have encountered faith. When entering the Faith Museum, visitors are not mere observers; they become active participants in a dynamic journey. Alongside almost 300 objects, priceless treasures and personal mementos, The Auckland Project were keen to express that “faith isn’t a thing you can see or touch, capture in a display cabinet, or hang on a wall” (Amina Wright Senior Curator to BBC). As banker, philanthropist and Founder of The Auckland Project Jonathan Ruffer said to the BBC “Everybody lives by some idea of what faith is, and this is a chance to come and see what others think about faith.”

With these intentions carried forwards through the stunning architectural designs of Niall McLaughlin Architects and the innovative exhibition design of Studio MB, AY-PE took the mission for each of their eight AV designs to be thoughtful, inspirational and elegant conduits to reflection. As an example, the projection sequence mapped onto the Lindisfarne stone cross head is more than a visual spectacle – it carries the vibrancy of centuries, invoking a sense of wonder and reverence in Anglo-Saxon art and literature, bringing a contemporary artistic display to sections of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Other AV designs move between those demonstrating how many types of faith can help push people in their lives, to those prompting a person to think on what faith is to them, and also a graceful, beautiful animated wall covering, designed to evoke spirit, faith and nature. AY-PE understand that digital art in AV has the power to move people and to touch their memories and core, bringing clients’ ideas and messaging into a deeply personal interpretation of what is seen and heard.

Image: The Science Museum Group's Turn it Up with AY-PE sound design All Things Studio exhibition design

Similarly, the Science Museum Turn It Up: The Power of Sound exhibition invites visitors to explore the power of sound in a deeply personal and transformative way. Opening 19 October, Turn it Up poses the questions: Why does music have such a hold over us? What is it about music that drives us to create, perform, feel, connect with others? In this “Toe-tapping, foot stomping new exhibition” (BBC Radio 4, Front Row) visitors are immersed in sound and explore the science and secrets around the impact which music has on us.

AY-PE originally consulted on, developed and produced audio with the Science and Industry Museum Manchester, their work covering soundscaping, much of the ‘out-loud’ music heard across the experience and the visual presentation of sound in a projected ‘Unusual Instruments’ film. Turn it Up opened in Manchester a year ago and has proven such a thought-provoking and fun ‘hit’ that it has transferred to Science Museum London. AY-PE have again been hands on in delivering the soundscapes, film and several exhibit compositions – collaborating with Science Museum and Fusion LX hardware to install and sound balance for the new gallery spaces. The joy of this exhibition is allowing the power of music and sound to take centre stage.

As AY-PE’s Managing Director Simon Ackerley says, “In any AV experience design we always say “do not neglect sound, do not put it last on the list”. Music and sound connects to people instantly, transports people, takes them back to memory, or catapults them into the emotion which your message needs them to feel. That’s why Turn It Up has been an amazing project to work on, as it’s demonstrating exactly that.”

The Science Museum Group along with Dr Emily Scott-Dearing, exhibition designers All Things Studio and the many contributors and researchers alongside have together developed a fun, interactive and informative experience which drives the relevance and science of sound, home. AY-PE’s skilful integration of music, soundscapes, and motion graphic elements, have been designed to peak and trough different emotions and thoughts within visitors. Sound becomes a vehicle for introspection, perhaps triggering memories, or stirring emotions, all while other pieces specially commissioned by the Science Museum Group allow physical, full body interaction – the actionable counterbalance to inward thought. AY-PE’s understanding that music and sound have an undeniable ability to bridge gaps, to transcend boundaries, and to touch the depths of our understanding, is at the foundation of their work.

On 13 October, Museum of London Docklands ‘Fashion City’opened, an exhibition which uncovers the major contribution of Jewish designers in making London an iconic fashion city. Staged as a literal walk through of the streets and shops in which they were residents, trainees, creatives and tailors, there is also a Central line tube tunnel linking East to West London. The visitor then arrives in the vibrancy of Carnaby Street’s glitzy boutiques and the bustling, celebrity endorsed tailors of the Swinging Sixties, when London was considered the fashion capital of the world.

Museum London Docklands Fashion City - AY-PE fashion and fame AV 04 - Skellon exhibition design

AY-PE worked alongside the Museum of London team and Skellon Studio exhibition design to deliver digital experiences in keeping with the context and street life experience. The media helps deliver the stories and details surrounding the people, trades and garments who made up this movement of people, and the boom in the London fashion industry. Subtle soundscaping throughout the various sections of the galleries help settle the visitor’s mind into the times and places they move in. Discreet oral audio points and artistic layering of spoken accounts deliver personal and atmospheric snapshots into migration, settlement and growth. AY-PE were honoured to film and edit the interviews of Dr Lucie Whitmore as she spoke with iconic designer David Sassoon and with those who recalled their close connections with the designer Netty Spiegel. The films were created to feel rich and stylish, yet personal, picking up on the flashes of emotion – the viewer connecting with how this fashion evolution felt to those who were directly involved.

Two other bold AVs bookend the Fashion City experience. One projected piece elegantly but objectively explores the context of Jewish migration to London, allowing the visitor to draw their own thoughts from the information displayed. The second, in bold contrast, helps set the tone for the West End. Based on the notion of Piccadilly Circus and its bright advertising board patchwork, still and moving images appear and disappear, synched across four screens, in a splendour of ‘retro’ feeling graphic motions and overlays. The assets, carefully chosen by Museum of London in conjunction with AY-PE’s guidance, reflect the boom in London’s global fashion presence as people from Jimi Hendrix to Dr Who and Princess Margaret wear the iconic designs. As with Piccadilly Circus, visitors are both entertained and informed, with AY-PE intentionally designing a focal AV which both catapults the visitor into the exciting 60s era (and onwards), but also creates a centre piece to promote the diversity, quality and impact that the Jewish migration of talent into London had created.

Richard Playford, Creative Director AY-PE: “To us, every audio-visual experience should have craft, thought and inspiration within it. No matter if we’re delighting audiences with the exciting bright lights of London celebrity, or moving them to inwardly contemplate on their spiritual connection with nature, the starting point is the same. What’s your message, what’s the content and location and most importantly, where do you want us to take your audience. If we have those foundations nailed down, then our digital artistry can fly.”

Exhibitions give thanks to supporters, donators and National Lottery Heritage Fund.