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Science Gallery London Dark Matter

Dark matter inspires artists

The Dark Matter exhibition held at Science Gallery London in the summer of 2019 has had some lasting spin-offs. The exhibition was hugely successful, attracting more than 37,000 visitors. It drew on research by Professor Malcolm Fairbairn on dark matter phenomenology.

The exhibition inspired film-maker Adeyemi Michael, to produce a film which uses Dark Matter as a metaphor for the marginalisation of black women in society, working with the Science Gallery young leader and mediator involved in the exhibition, Laura Pieters. The film was screened on Channel 4’s Random Acts platform in October 2019 and is available on Youtube . This project gave Laura an opportunity to achieve her ambition to produce a film, and to address her own experience as a woman of colour in science.

On the mediator team there are a few of us – women of colour who work in science. I chatted to them about what the film could be and how rare it is to see women of colour in science especially physics”. – Laura Pieters, Science Gallery London young leader

As part of the exhibition artists Yu-Chen Wang, Aura Satz and Agnieszka Kurant each worked with Malcolm Fairbairn, who expanded their understanding of dark matter research and connected them to other King’s physicists, including Dr Chris McCabe, Professor John Ellis, Professor Mairi Sakellariadou, Dr Diego Blas and Dr David Marsh. The artists all reported that as a result they feel more able to work with scientists, and that the exhibition had expanded their audience base. One of the artists, Aura Satz, who worked with Malcolm Fairbairn and David Marsh, found that the process  changed her understanding of music.  Her work incorporated research on axions: in particular, the sounds created in the art piece are a sonification of a simulation of axion physics that was part of the research carried out in his papers.  

(The process) profoundly informed how I now approach both the creation and the analysis of structures evoked by music, and my appreciation, interaction and understanding of sound has become much deeper and more fundamental.” – Aura Satz, artist

Following the success of the Dark Matter season at Science Gallery Londnn the exhibition was recreated by Science Gallery Dublin in March 2020 under a new title INVISIBLE, running as a free exhibition and events programme combining art, physics, and philosophy, and drawing on the latest research from King’s. When COVID-19 and national lockdowns made physical visits unviable, the exhibition and events programme were transferred online. The Science Gallery Dublin team used the exhibition and its themes to trial online programmes (through Zoom/YouTube/Twitch/Instagram), from webinars and panel discussions, to a virtual 360° tour of the exhibition on their website along with calls with their mediators. By the end of 2020, INVISIBLE had become “the longest running Science Gallery exhibition ever” with almost 10,000 views and interactions (physical and online).

Aisling Murray, Head of Programming at Science Gallery Dublin commented:

The biggest piece of work in any Science Gallery season is in making the ideas and cutting-edge research accessible to a broad audience. Being able to build on well thought through ideas as to why this research and these ideas should be communicated to a broad audience meant we only really needed to look at localising some content for our audience. This was only the second time that an exhibition had toured from one Science Gallery to another and what has become evident is the importance of strong research underpinning the original exhibition in order to be able to build upon and adapt the theme…. The ability to rely on the expertise and research in network universities is invaluable in communicating science to our audience.” – Aisling Murray, Science Gallery Dublin

In this story

Malcolm Fairbairn

Malcolm Fairbairn

Professor