Loughcrew Lights 2022 – Celtic Myths and Legends

The main poster

Project focus and intention

My research for the project included looking at the past Loughcrew events and images, and videos of other light shows worldwide. I also had to research Celtic mythology and the themes selected by the client. Initially, I was considering exploring The Devine Hag and The Selkie.

The selkie folk are a feature of both Scottish and Irish mythology. The stories of selkies inspired me due to the themes of sea, transformation, hiding, and elusiveness. I was looking for a modern way of interpreting the story. I am familiar with a poem by a Scottish poet, Rachel Plummer, where the selkie transformation is described as a story of a transgender person. However, in deciding about the project focus, I looked at other factors, such as the possible location of the installation, the type of visitors who visit the light show, and what experience I wanted the visitor to have. Instead of looking at the story in a more modern and philosophical way, I decided to try and give the visitor an experience of meeting an elusive selkie.

Audience and experience
I saw that locals, tourists, and families with children attended the Lougcrew light show in the past. The event takes place outdoors, and despite my worries about the possible impact of bad weather, I gathered that the water features in the estate could be used as a staging ground for a story of a water creature like the selkie.
I selected a small bridge crossing as the best place for a water projection, hoping that the location would surprise the visitors. I imagined that the people entering the bridge would trigger a sound of a giggle and a water splash, and a projection. They would see a selkie looking up at them from the safety of the water. The encounter with the selkie is meant to give the people an impression that they found themselves in the land of myths and legends.

Audience and experience
The audience and the technical approach

The sequence
The sequence of the visitor’s experience relies on approaching visitors triggering the sensor. The nearby speaker would play a sound of a giggle and a splash. After that, the projection would start on the water surface.
The sequence would end with the projection fading, it would not be interrupted. The next visitor would be able to trigger the sequence from the beginning. The location of the experience is meant to be surprising and unexpected for the visitors.

Technical approach

I had an idea to try two different approaches, the first one involving projecting the selkie animation directly on the water surface. The second approach relied on using a 3D shape that would look like a head and allow the projection mapping on the object.
I prepared an animation and tested the projection on the Union Canal. The projection trial looked striking with vivid colours in the videos and photographs. However, it was hard to see much detail of the selkie with a naked eye. The movement of the selkie and the animated water rings were not as visible as I had hoped. Because of the depth of the Union Canal, the light could not bounce off the bottom. To improve the direct water projection, I considered using fabric stretched just below the water surface.

My initial plan was to hide the projector and all the pieces of technology from the visitors by placing them below the bridge or on the side of the rail. The feedback given by the client indicated that the bridge is to low so I prepared an alternative schematics of a rigging above the bridge.

The novel approach
Audience experience and projection trials

Novel Approach

There are several benefits of using the water projection technique. Water provides natural reflections ambience; it has tranquil quality, so placing artwork in that setting can add to the visitors’ overall experience.
I tried to examine what the Loughcrew Estate organized in the previous editions of Loughcrew Lights. I can see that there are more possibilities to utilize the bodies of water on the estate during the light show.
I know that weather is an issue, and I am not sure how deeply winds or rainfall might affect the quality of a projection on the water’s surface.
For my research, I looked at compelling examples of work being done with 3D projection mapping and considered various approaches to water projection. The more popular recently seems technique of projecting on a water mist or curtain, like in this example below from the 2013 Lichtsicht Biennale in Germany. I also looked at examples such as the Sydney Vivid Festival 2012, when a 3D shape of a person was projected on water and was animated in a playful way.
I also examined Mifuneyama Rakuen Pond projection on the Water Surface that included animated koi fish and a physical boat floating on the pond. This installation used sensors to animate the movement of koi fish around the boat, and it gave me an idea of including more interaction potential in my proposal.

Development reflection
When developing the project concept, I participated in a group brainstorming session. To find a suitable projection location, I visited several places, such as the Union Canal and the Water of Leith river.
I tried to refine my presentation skills throughout this project by participating in live feedback sessions with my peers. My first set of posters relied heavily on text and did not use visual aids. My revised posters included sketches and schematics as suggested by my peers.

I created the selkie head using digital vector drawing in Photoshop and animating it using Adobe After Effects. The projection was tested twice, first to refine the speed of the animation and the subsequent trial to determine how the projection might look like in a deeper body of water. From the received feedback, I know that the client is interested in adding practical effects such as bubbles of water created by an aerator placed below the surface.

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