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Inspiring Lumiere with ground-breaking research

Durham inspires      
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As November arrives, we’re eagerly anticipating the return of Lumiere for another dazzling display of light art.

As well as hosting a number of installations on our land, this year’s event includes two installations which draw on ground-breaking research taking place at the University.  

Lighting up the origins of the universe

Universal Loom by Spanish artist Daniel Canogar, will illuminate the façade of the Ogden Centre, home to our Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC).

While the piece is inspired by string theory, our very own Professor Carlos Frenk has worked with the artists to share his research into the cosmos and the origins of the universe.

This expertise and insight, along with astronomical data from the ICC’s research, has helped develop the artwork to be premiered at Lumiere 2023.

Professor Frenk, the Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics in our Department of Physics and founder and former director of our ICC, was recently elected to the Royal Society Council. He is passionate about engaging the public in scientific research.

Speaking about his involvement in Lumiere 2023, Professor Frenk said:

Sharing our research in imaginative, novel ways is the perfect way to transmit the excitement of science to the public and to inspire the next generation of scientists. 

“An event like Lumiere brings our research to an audience of thousands and shows them that science can be visually beautiful and captivating. 

“Like art, science relies on creativity and originality. Working with an artist on a project like this forces us scientists to take a step back and look at our research from a different perspective. It invites us to explain our work in new ways and how it fits into the wider world. 

“It is a fantastic opportunity to show how a pure science, such as cosmology, links into many other areas of life and has applications far beyond our own discipline.”

Professor Frenk has been involved in a number of Lumiere installations in the past, including seeing his research projected onto the façade of Durham Cathedral during Lumiere 2015 at an installation entitled World Machine – which he cites as one of the highlights of his career.

Meanings of justice

Also bringing their world-leading expertise to Lumiere 2023 is Nicole Westmarland, Professor of Criminology in our Department of Sociology.

Professor Westmarland is renowned for her work on victim-survivors of domestic violence and abuse as well as those who perpetrate such offences. She is also Director of the Durham Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA). 

She has been involved in the piece On Blank Pages, which will be displayed at Millennium Place in Durham city centre.

The piece, by Spanish anonymous activist group Luzinterruptus, explores the state of the UK justice system. It collected attitudes from individuals, groups and organisations across England and Wales who have experience of the legal system, be it through work, jury service or lived experience.

These will be displayed in illuminated notebooks as part of the installation, while visitors can also add their own responses at the event.

Earlier this autumn Nicole facilitated sessions between the producers of Lumiere and sociology, criminology, social work and law students here at Durham, giving them the unique opportunity to add their insights on the theme of justice, to a powerful piece of art.

Nicole has also been involved in the design of the questions that are part of the data gathering for the installation. After Lumiere concludes, the anonymised information captured for this installation will be made available to Durham University (where participants have given consent) giving our students and staff a unique data set to access and study.

Professor Nicole Westmarland with producers of Lumiere and sociology, criminology, social work and law students
Professor Nicole Westmarland with producers of Lumiere and sociology, criminology, social work and law students

Other installations

Alongside installations inspired by our research, we are also hosting incredible art at St Mary’s College and on Palace Green.

St Mary’s welcomes the work of Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi in a UK first, as it hosts Sacral on its grounds.

Palace Green will become home to Liquid Geometry – an immersive series of three-dimensional projections created by Spanish artist Javier Riera.

Find out more about our involvement in Lumiere.

About Lumiere

Lumiere is the UK’s light art biennial. It is a free-to-attend, four-day event that transforms Durham into a nocturnal outdoor art gallery. It is produced by Artichoke and commissioned by Durham County Council, with additional support from Arts Council England, Durham University and a number of other supporters.

This year Lumiere will take place from 16-19 November. Find out more here.



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