Lighten Up! On Biology and Time

EPFL Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Place Cosandey
1015 Lausanne

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.