Light and Dark Matters – the Institute of Physics at the Tate Modern

On 20-21 November leading artists, scientists, philosophers, theorists and the public come together to debate, share and uncover our contemporary experience of light, dark and dark matter at the Tate Modern Gallery in London (UK). This event is organized by the Tate Modern Gallery and the Institute of Physics as part of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) celebrations.


What are the many forms of light and dark that surround us? How do we harness this energy and what do we imagine for the future? Explore these questions and more through sunrise and sunset walks, talks & discussions and collaborative workshops.

Talks and Lectures:

The Power of Light: Robbert Dijkgraaf in conversation with Liliane Lijn, chaired by Sean Cubitt | Friday 20 November 2015, 19.00 – 20.30

How does light help us understand space and time? How does it shape our material world and how do we shape light through technology, architecture, art and design?

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and internationally acclaimed artist Liliane Lijn discuss the power of light, its transformative and unifying qualities, and what fascinates and fuels scientists and artists to experiment with and make advancements with this energy.

Are we darkened by light? Catherine Heymans, Katie Paterson, Marek Kukula, | Saturday 21 November 2015, 14.00 – 16.00

Chaired by London designer Asif Khan, a panel of artists, scientists and architects examine our contemporary urban experiences of light and how we understand 95% of the universe that we cannot see: dark energy and dark matter. What are the social and political implications of our lust for light, and are we now darkened by it?

Harnessing Light: Roger Hiorns, Flow Motion, Harald Hass, Kishan Dholakia | Saturday 21 November 2015, 17.00 – 19.00

How are we harnessing and manipulating light to re-imagine the spaces and places we inhabit, to construct virtual worlds and understand our own bodies? Chaired by theorist Sean Cubitt, this panel of artists, scientists and theorists asks what role light plays in the discovery of new frontiers in art, design, technology and medicine?

Special events

Sunrise walk and breakfast with scientist Lucie Green | Saturday 21 November 2015, 7.15 – 8.45

Join Royal Society University Research Fellow Lucie Green to walk and talk about the activity and atmosphere of our nearest star, the Sun. What happens when magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere erupt and reach Earth? The walk meets at 07.15 at the Turbine Hall entrance and ends with breakfast in the East Room on Level 6 with spectacular views of London waking up.

Sunset walk and talk with artist Susan Schuppli | Saturday 21 November 2015, 15.30 – 17.00

Artist Susan Schuppli leads a walk in Tate Modern’s surrounding area reflecting on disputed sunsets and the politics of light. Why is the sun setting further west in the Canadian arctic? Do atmospheric pollutants supercharge our sunsets? Whose world is illuminated, and who is being left in the dark? The walk meets at 15.30 at the Turbine Hall entrance.

Courses and workshops (free – please just drop in! No pre-booking required)

Open Studio: Black Light with the drawing shed | Saturday 21 November 2015, 11.00 – 17.00

What does society keep in the dark, and how can it be illuminated? Labern&Lloyd of the drawing shed, working here as The Light Collectors, collaborate with scientists hosted by the Institute of Physics. Together they invite you to engage in an afternoon of Black Light, with open conversation and research. The Public Typing Pool, with its manual typewriters fitted with invisible UV inked typewriter ribbons, welcomes the public to contribute to an ever growing installation of contemporary concerns, made from UV ink texts and drawings revealed through the use of hand held Black Light torches.

#LightDarkMatters – Light and Dark on Instagram | Saturday 21 November 2015, 11.00 – 17.00

How does light transform through photography? Mobile photography has become a global medium and an established form of visual communication. In the lead up to Light and Dark Matters, Oliver Lang invites you and your mobile phone camera to capture the transformational effects of light and share them on Instagram. In a special event, a selection of London’s most active Instagrammers document leading scientific institutions’ research into the use of light, to inspire you to contribute your own experience of the power of light to #lightdarkmatters.

On Saturday 21 November, view a selection of these images curated by Oliver Lang and join him in an open workshop exploring what you can do with your mobile phone, alternative light sources and special devices from Imperial College London.

To find out more and to book your place, please visit the Tate Modern website.

For more information on IYL 2015 activities in the UK, visit the IYL 2015 UK National Website.

About IOP

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is a leading scientific society. IOP is a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application.

IOP engages with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, it is a world leader in professional scientific communications.

The IOP is a Founding Partner of the IYL 2015.

For more information visit or follow IOP on Twitter @physicsnews.

About IYL 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations (A/RES/68/221) to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  With UNESCO as lead agency, IYL 2015 programs will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015—from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.  The IYL Global Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

The Founding Partners of IYL 2015 are the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the European Physical Society (EPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Light: Science and Applications, the International Network, 1001 Inventions, The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

Patron Sponsors include Bosca, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Royal Philips Lighting, Thorlabs and UL.


Toby Shannon
UK international Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 Coordinator

John Dudley
Steering Committee Chair
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015

Joe Niemela
Global Coordinator (IYL Secretariat)
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015