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Matthew Rosier: 108 Steps

Exploring identity through the lens of history

108 Steps is a site-specific, projection-mapping artwork at Macclesfield’s historic 108 Steps. Created by artist Matthew Rosier, the work presents a day in the life of the steps, captured as an atmospheric film and projected back to passersby. Commissioned by SHIFT, Cheshire East Council, the work ran for three nights in October 2018.

Artist: Matthew Rosier

Date: October 2018
Medium: Projection mapping installation
Related to: Fault Lines

How can you reimagine a familiar, everyday place and uncover new stories through the lens of digital art?

There are places in our towns and cities that we pass through every day and that, through familiarity, become almost invisible to us. Art offers a way to see these spaces anew; to reflect on the role of the city in our lives, and also the human imprint left in places lived.

In 108 Steps, artist Matthew Rosier took to a beloved Macclesfield landmark, breathing new life into the town’s historic stairway with visions of the past and distortions of the present in a playful, projection mapping installation. Named after the location of the work, 108 Steps captures and recreates the daily comings and goings of these steps, playing them back as ghostly imprints that surprise and intrigue in equal measure. Matthew’s work offers a chance to reflect on heritage within our towns and cities, exploring how the identity of a place that has stood for hundreds of years can shift over time.

Located behind St Michael’s Church, the Steps are a winding stairway between Macclesfield station and the town centre. Early in 2018, Matt visited Macclesfield to capture the daily life of the town’s iconic steps. Filming local runners, commuters, dog walkers and everyone in between, Matt composed a loop of memories, which he later projected onto the face of the steps and the people passing by. The work creates a wistful and atmospheric interplay between past and present, bringing to life the Steps’ historic connection to people and place.

“I wanted to create a work that offered a glimpse into the contemporary identity of Macclesfield residents through the lens of a historic piece of infrastructure, the 108 Steps. The creation of the work relied on meeting people locally, both through the process of filming the steps and the research trips beforehand. It’s exciting that many of these people will now feature in the performance of the work!”

— Matthew Rosier, Artist

In its re-visioning of a well known location, 108 Steps offered a quiet intervention into the public realm. Believed to date from 1696 when the local newspaper nicknamed the cobbled climb ‘The Steps’, no one knows exactly when they were created. People have travelled remarkable distances to walk up these steps, passing old brick houses full of character. The siting of the work purposefully juxtaposed the digital composition against the historical setting of Macclesfield’s old town, reconnecting the steps to a contemporary audience and inviting them to reflect on the relationship of past and present. The Steps remained open throughout the projection events, coaxing the public to climb the steps and interact with the ghostly figures.

As part of the 3-day exhibition, Matthew also hosted a series of workshops with local residents, offering an insight into his process. During the workshops, participants tried their hand at projection mapping and had a film of themselves projected in the workshop space.

108 Steps is an artwork by the artist Matthew Rosier, commissioned by SHIFT, Cheshire East Council with support from Barnaby Festival, Macclesfield Town Council and Arts Council England, and produced by FutureEverything. The workshops were delivered with the support of Macclesfield Town Centre and The Old Sunday School, Macclesfield.

With thanks to Macclesfield Museum, Virgin Trains and the Nags Head Pub.


1,470 people visited the installation over three evenings