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Cork Ignite by Simon Mckeown – part of the largest ever investment in Ireland’s arts and disability sector. Photo: Clare Keogh.

International artist Simon Mckeown lights up Culture Night, Cork, with Stellar Spectacle

Up to 10,000 people gathered to see Cork College of Commerce, a historic riverside building brought to life with a stunning digital projection by artist Simon McKeown.

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

Cork Ignite was the centre piece of the 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. Culture Night saw more than 3,000 free events take place across 500 venues with an estimated audience of 350,000.

Simon, internationally renown artists and also a Reader in Animation and Post Production at Teesside University, collaborated with people with a range of disabilities, including Down’s syndrome, autism and deafness, to inform and inspire his piece. The 30 minute live art projection also featured disabled actors and bespoke musical scores created by disabled musicians.

“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,” explained Simon.

“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 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.

It was designed as an outdoor spectacle by Simon, and focussed on hugely detailed and complex visual manipulation of the College of Commerce. In amongst a startling surreal sound track, the audience watched the building rotate and collapse, be covered in flowers and ivy and collapsed 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. The building became a broken cuckoo clock which misbehaved before becoming a virtual 1660 map, accompanied by a score from the brilliant blind Irish composer Turlough O'Carolan. Computer technology, which finds its home in Cork, was referred to using DNA inspired games and from the shadows emerged Icarus supported by Deafness inspired music derived from wonderful visual and audio workshops with disabled Cork artists. Set in front of the river Lee, water is also central to Cork Ignite and it’s often underwater!

Simon, who is himself disabled, having been born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a condition causing extremely fragile bones, creates work that draws on his own personal experiences and challenges people’s perceptions of disability. His Motion Disabled Unlimited project - a stunning digital installation that used animation to show how disabled athletes move - was shown all over the world and was an integral part of the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad.

Mary McCarthy (Director, 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.”

Ailbhe Murphy, Director of Create, Ireland’s national development agency for collaborative arts, added: “Create was thrilled and delighted to be part of the team with the Cork Ignite partners. The outdoor spectacle, with such a large audience, pushed the envelope in terms of public engagement and challenged stereotypes about disability arts.”

Cork Ignite was led by the National Sculpture Factory and Create in association with SoundOUT and Suisha Inclusive Arts at COPE Foundation
Cork Ignite was commissioned by Cork City Council with partners, The Arts Council and Arts & Disability Ireland.

Ignite is a platform designed to generate Ireland’s most ambitious showcasing of talent from people with disabilities, led by international and Irish artists and performers with disabilities. Ignite is a partnership involving the Arts Council, Arts & Disability Ireland, Cork City Council, Galway City and County Councils, and Mayo County Council.

Simon 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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