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Skylum

‘A number of Kearney’s previous works, Skylum, and Silence echo the entity of The Prisoner, at first innocuous, fragile, even pretty, but upon reflection their inexplicability becomes incongruous and perplexing. Skylum and Silence are large suspended inflatables made from white parachute silk that waft and puff. Kearney fitted sensors inside the works that are activated remotely by the exterior environment and general public so as to animate the works with light and/or sound. […] In one installation of Silence, birds could be heard at even song but their spasmodic irregularity and mysterious origin was haunting and unnerving. Skylum and Silence have a strange and antique science fiction appearance, a kind of Orwellian peril.”

Carissa Farrell
Irish Arts Review: Spring 2014

Skylum arises from Kearney’s ambition to create and alternative skyscape within the internal space of the atrium. The installation incorporates custom written computer software that reacts to the movement of people and artificial intelligence algorithms that translate this data into an ever-changing composition of light and sound. Skylum was presented at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2012. A new iteration of Skylum was developed to mark the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013; including Filleadh ar an gCathair, the selected poem for the Presidency, read in Irish by the poet Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh.

Nuit Blanche 2012, Toronto

Justus Lipsius Building, Brussels. Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, 2013


Skylum bring together elements of inhabitation, performance and monumentality to expand on the dialogue between the outside world and the man-made environment. The theatrical qualities of the work enhance our experience by both drawing out and extending the boundary between one and the other.

The elongated shape of the minimalist white ellipsoid hovering within the public space suggests a sensation of still movement. The simplicity of the form and lack of decoration accentuate its ‘otherness’ in relation to building and audience, whereas the segmented surface and modular seed-like pattern reference organic forms found in the natural world.

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Motion detecting cameras positioned outside the sculpture track the movement of people against a virtual grid with one hundred location points. This data is then translated into an ever-changing composition of light and sound by the hundred light units mounted internally on an eight metre long truss and the eight surround sound speakers located outside the inflatable. The unique wave of light and the overlapping scores generated from a hundred pre-recorded thirty-second long samples bring life to the installation. Thus, the three components of Skylum, its physical body, its soul and its voice converge to become the catalyst for the dialogue between audience and space. Without human interaction, Skylum remains inert, quiet and it is only when the audience interacts with the environment that it comes into life and by doing so a new immersive environment is created where our understanding of the space is challenged by its novel presence, light sequence and soundscape.