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> > > International artist Simon McKeown lights up Culture Night with stellar spectacle

30 September 2015

Up to 10,000 people gathered to see a historic riverside building brought to life with a stunning digital projection by Teesside University’s Simon McKeown.

Cork's College of Commerce is lit up with a projection depicting colourful buildings with an Invacar driving down the projected street emitting blue smoke © Clare Keogh

McKeown's Cork Ignite illuminated Cork's College of Commerce with a dazzling display

Image: © Clare Keogh

With over 25 years’ digital skill at the highest level in computer games and animation, McKeown’s Cork Ignite project was one of the highlights of Ireland’s Culture Night with a stunning mix of digital technology, surreal soundscapes and animation.

Culture Night saw more than 3,000 free events take place across 500 venues with an estimated audience of 350,000 people. Cork Ignite was the centre piece of Cork's Culture Night experience and was one of three ‘Ignite’ commissions, which represented the largest ever investment in Ireland’s arts and disability sector.

A photograph depicting Cork's College of Commerce with a projection which make it appear that the building is falling down © Clare Keogh

Cork Ignite employed clever visual techniques to create the illusion that the building was crumbling

Image: © Clare Keogh

McKeown, a Reader in Animation and Post Production at Teesside University, collaborated with people with a range of impairments, including Down’s syndrome, autism and deafness, all helping to inform and inspire his piece.

The 30-minute live art projection also featured disabled actors and bespoke musical scores created by disabled musicians.

McKeown: “This project has been two years in the making and is by far the most ambitious piece of work I have ever created – it was so technically demanding and creatively difficult”.

“You become so engrained in the work that it can be difficult to appreciate what you have done – but the reaction on the night was immense and the feedback, in person and on social media, has been incredible.”


Cork Ignite, which took place on the evening of 18 September, was a spectacular visual feast which focused in part on the history and landscape of Cork, intertwined with imagery to evoke people’s perceptions of disability.

A close up photograph of Cork's College of Commerce. It has the silhouette of someone sitting in a chair projected on to it. © Clare Keogh

Cork Ignite utilised imagery both spectacular and haunting.

Image: © Clare Keogh

It was designed as an outdoor spectacle by Simon and focussed on the hugely detailed and complex visual manipulation of the College of Commerce. Set to a surreal sound track, the audience watched the building rotate and collapse, be covered in flowers and ivy and collapse again.

Games such as Pong were played on the surface and many of the fabulously coloured buildings of Cork made speedy appearances linked to Simon’s favourite 1970’s disability vehicle.

Mary McCarthy, Director of the National Sculpture Factory, said:

“Cork Ignite was transformational and presented the public with a dazzling complex sequence of visuals and soundscapes. Technically brilliant and aesthetically complex, this work demonstrated Simon’s extraordinarily understanding of technology, collaboration and engagement.”

McKeown added:

“My aim was to create, in collaboration with different groups, a hugely exciting body of work in Cork and for this work to be seen as a fundamental stepping stone in the perception and production of art which touches on, or considers disability. Cork Ignite has wowed a hugely diverse audience and in doing so achieved that aim and for me that's success.”

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