Illuminate is a spectacular immersive light festival, including a wide range of bookable events held from 15 to 28 November 2021 at Plymouth’s Royal William Yard and Market Hall. Coordinated by Real Ideas for 2021, this year’s Illuminate programme responds to COP26 and the international climate crisis with a thoughtful collection of beautiful work from local and national artists, including projection mapping, bioluminescent artwork, illuminated murals and interactive installations.
For this year’s iteration of the annual festival, Tom Milnes, a BA (Hons) Fine Art Lecturer and key academic launching the new BA (Hons) Creative Technologies at Plymouth College of Art, has been commissioned by the StudioLab for Embodied Media, as part of the iMayflower project, to create a new version of his ‘Invisible Cities’ project for visitors to interact with in Market Hall. Additionally, five new art projects have been created for the festival by current students in Animation and Games, Craft and Material Practices. Young Arts students from the college are also responding to the climate crisis with a stained glass-style installation made from scrap plastic. Live environmental data captured by Smart Citizen sensors around Plymouth will be creatively visualised in an immersive installation developed by Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens Programme and local electronics expert, Lee Nutbean.
Plymouth College of Art student work at Illuminate 2019
Stephanie Owens, Head of Plymouth College of Art’s School of Arts + Media, said: “Plymouth College of Art has long been a champion of city-wide cultural events that galvanise our student's creative skills in new ways and offer opportunities to give something back to communities around the city. We have a firm commitment to continuing to work collaboratively with cultural partners across Plymouth on the Illuminate festival, which consistently offers excellent opportunities for emerging and established artists. We are proud of the innovative, challenging and beautiful responses to climate change made by our students, staff and resident artists for this year's festival.”
Bookable event tickets are needed to visit Illuminate installations at Market Hall, while the Illuminate installations across Ocean Studios in Royal William Yard are covered by a general attendance ticket.
Tom Milnes’s ‘Invisible Cities’ is a morphing and decaying virtual world where visitors to Market Hall from 15 to 28 November can wander the canals of Venice, strewn with e-waste, watching videos of media ecological wastelands, and exploring a changing world that confronts the viewer with the fragile biological impacts of climate change. Tom was commissioned as an Artist Fellow for Illuminate by Plymouth College of Art’s StudioLab for Embodied Media, a recently launched multidisciplinary team of artists, technologists and researchers who are collectively motivated to think about how society can approach the integration of biological and computational systems in a more sustainable and ethical way for the future.
Still from Tom Milnes’ ‘Invisible Cities’
Innovative creations from Plymouth College of Art students
Students from across Plymouth College of Art’s undergraduate and postgraduate courses were selected from open submissions as part of a competitive process to exhibit in Illuminate 2021, including a range of collaborative projection-mapping animations from the School of Arts + Media.
MA Ceramics student Owen Rees is creating ‘The Glowing Outdoors’, a new ceramic installation. Second-year BA (Hons) Animation & Games students Leah Smale and Helena Bone are working together on a new projection-mapping project, ‘The Cycle of Destruction’; Alex Straw, Katie Bird and Tiffany Anderson are working together on ‘Whale, We’re Screwed’; Maximillian Rueth and Jack Polley are working together on ‘Mother Earth’; and Taylor-Paige Timmins is working on ‘Stop the Change with our Climate’.
A large number of the undergraduate students selected to contribute to Illuminate this year previously studied Plymouth College of Art’s A-level equivalent Pre-Degree courses or the college’s Foundation Diploma in Art & Design, showing the benefits of the extra years of specialist creative education.
'Colours of the future'
Young Arts students aged 9 to 16 from Plymouth College will shine a light on the environmental crisis ‘Colours of the Future’, set inside the windows of Market Hall. The students, from across the South West, have worked together to create their own version of stained glass from scrap plastics, highlighting their feelings and response to the climate crisis and the environmental problems that will be inherited by the next generation. Young Arts Clubs meet weekly on a Saturday morning and during holidays at Plymouth College of Art.
Live environmental data captured by Smart Citizen sensors around Plymouth will be creatively visualised in an immersive installation at Market Hall from 6pm on Friday 26th November, as part of a bookable discussion session asking ‘What new approaches can we take to manage the impact of changing weather patterns?’, also featuring guest speaker from Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens Programme, Elizabeth Zahoui.
Developed by Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens Programme and local electronics expert, Lee Nutbean, the custom-coded installation visualises the local environment (such as sun, clouds, rain and hills) by collating data collected by environmental sensors such as humidity, pollution levels, air temperature and barometric pressure from Plymouth and other cities around the world.
The environmental data used to inform the installation is captured by sensors, known as Smart Citizen kits, installed across Plymouth and the globe. Plymouth-based Smart Citizen kits were assembled and coded by local people during six-week training sessions led by the Smart Citizens Programme at Fab Lab Plymouth. Book tickets to view the immersive installation at Mark Hall here. This activity is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.
Smart Citizens and Lee Nutbean's immersive installation at the Market Hall
The Illuminate Festival stems from a longstanding collaboration between Plymouth College of Art, Real Ideas, University of Plymouth and Plymouth Culture
Students from Plymouth College of Art regularly attend a range of international events to broaden their horizons, network with industry professionals and develop new cutting-edge skills. From 2015 to 2018, as part of the Euranim project*, designed to boost the skills of early-career animators with projection-mapping skills, BA (Hons) Animation & Games students from Plymouth College of Art attended Fete de l’Anim, France, in 2017 and 2018, participating in intensive 2D and 3D animation and immersive video-mapping workshops.
Outcomes from the Euranim project included significant support to the transformation of Plymouth’s Illuminate festival, which in 2016 comprised a light parade through the city and in 2017 developed as part of Euranim into an international light festival at Plymouth’s historic Royal William Yard.
Since then, fifty BA (Hons) Animation & Games students from Plymouth College of Art put their projection-mapping skills to use on the side of Royal William Yard’s Melville Building in 2018, working with guidance from Plymouth College of Art graduate Jamie Knight. The next year students from across Plymouth College of Art’s School of Arts + Media transformed the façade of Royal William Yard’s impressive Mill’s Bakery through projection-mapping at Illuminate 2019, alongside headline artist Xavi Bové.