Amplifier for Art, Science and Society

Lighten Up!

On Biology and Time

Through the lens of art, Lighten Up! On Biology and Time explores the connection of living organisms with the natural cycle of light and dark. From fungi to ferns, from hamsters to humans, all have evolved circadian rhythms that connect them to the alternation of day and night. In our screen-based society, there is an increasing urgency to raise awareness of reconnecting to the outdoor environment. Nineteen installations transform our daily, lunar and seasonal rhythms into light- and soundscapes, immersive spaces or virtual experiences to remind us the necessity of regular light exposure for a healthy life.

Circadian Dreams, Helga Schmid, 2022

Image courtesy of The Design Museum. Photo: Suzanne Zhang.

Circadian Bloom, Anna Ridler, 2020–2021

Image: Akbank Sanat, Anna Ridler & Nagel Draxler. Photo: Görsel Çözüm.

Circadian House, Colin Fournier, 2021

Image courtesy of Dominique Piwnica private collection. Drawing: Colin Fournier.

Circadian House, Colin Fournier, 2021

Image: Aidan Newsome.

Synchronicity, Robin Meier Wiratunga with André Gwerder and Guy Amichay, 2022

Image: Robin Meier Wiratunga. Photos: ©ADAGP.

SunDial: NightWatch series, Sleep/Wake 2010–2014 (MLS Version), Susan Morris, 2015

Image courtesy of Bartha Contemporary, London. Photo: Steve White & Co.

Cyclus, Andreas Horlitz, 2000

Courtesy of the Horlitz collection, Centre for Chronobiology, Psychiatric University Clinics, Basel.

Sweet Solar Dreams, Liliane Lijn, 2002, 2022

Images courtesy of Liliane Lijn, Rodeo London / Piraeus. Photo: Lewis Ronald  2023, ProLitteris, Zurich.

Your circadian embrace, Olafur Eliasson, 2023

Courtesy of the artist, neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles. Photo: Christian Uchtmann / Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Embodied Light, James Carpenter, 2023

Image courtesy and credit: James Carpenter Design Associates.

Light-Oriented Ontologies — The Beginnings, Alan Bogana, 2023

Image Courtesy of the artist. Photos: Alan Bogana.

print my sleep, Rafael Gil Cordeiro, 2020

Image courtesy and credit: Rafael Gil Cordeiro.

Circa Diem, Marilyne Andersen et al., 2021–2023

Image courtesy of EPFL. Photo: Alain Herzog.

Circa Diem, Marilyne Andersen et al., 2021–2023

Image courtesy of EPFL. Photo: Alain Herzog.

We live on a rotating planet whose environment is alternating between day and night and changing daylength with seasons. All living organisms have internalised this external light-dark cycle in the form of circadian rhythms that optimally prepare the body for the right behaviour at the right time. Being exposed to enough bright light at the appropriate time of day can have significant effects in boosting our immune system, ensuring sleep quality, alertness or mood and determine our overall health.

Many of us have already experienced jetlag, shiftwork, and the hour lost when Daylight Saving Time begins in spring: all instances of a forced desynchrony between our internal and the external clock. With contemporary urban lifestyles making much of the world population chronically light-deprived, and with screen-based activities exploding in all areas of work and recreation, there is an increasing urgency to raise awareness, to engage the public in a self-reflection and help us all recognize the importance of daylight.

Through a striking variety of forms and experiences, Lighten Up! employs art to explore our connection to light and the crucial role of circadian rhythms. These artworks celebrate the power and beauty of daylight, introduce us to the secrets of biological clocks, offer alternative representations of time, delve into the unicity of one’s activity cycle or probe the mysteries of sleep and dreams. Lighten Up! reminds us not only of the passage of the sun across the sky, but the necessity of regular light exposure for a healthy life. Let us regain the night and lighten up the day!

The exhibition was curated by Prof. em. Anna Wirz-Justice (Centre for Chronobiology, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel), Prof. Marilyne Andersen (Director of EPFL’s Laboratory of Integrated Performance in Design, LIPID), Prof. Sarah Kenderdine (Director and lead-curator of EPFL Pavilions, and director of EPFL’s Laboratory for Experimental Museology, eM+) and Dr. Giulia Bini (Curator and head of EPFL-CDH AiR Program “Enter the Hyper-Scientific”), and produced by EPFL Pavilions.