Light Fantastic at National Media Museum

27 April 2015


A new 10m x 5m art installation and a series of workshops and demonstrations by artists-in-residence take centre stage in a season of free events at the National Media Museum, celebrating the UNESCO International Year of Light.

From 18 July–1 November 2015 the National Media Museum presents Light Fantastic: Adventures in the Science of Light, which also includes a publicly viewable darkroom alongside interactive photographic experiments and exhibits from the Museum’s National Collections of Photography, Cinematography and Television. In addition, regular family activities and events will take an illuminating hands-on approach to the science of light.

Manchester-based artist Liz West has been commissioned by the Museum to create a brand new £30,000 installation inspired by the theme. It comprises a purpose-built 10m x 5m room containing approximately 300 coloured fluorescent tubes combined with ‘infinity’ mirrors. Titled An Additive Mix, it takes the principle that white light is composed of different colours of the spectrum (additive colours) and places people in the centre of the phenomenon; saturating them in individual hues that collectively create an intense white glow in a seemingly endless space.

An Additive Mix, which is free to enter and designed to be enjoyed by all ages, builds on themes developed in West’s previous works - most recently the acclaimed Your Colour Perception, which was described as ‘walking through a rainbow’. The new work, West’s largest commission to date, turns this occurrence in natural science on its head; reassembling the diffracted colours of the rainbow and projecting them to ‘infinity’ as visitors explore.

Liz West said: “This is a body of work that I have dreamed of being able to make for a number of years. To be given the opportunity as part of the Museum’s celebration of light is thrilling and very fitting.

“Artworks I remember seeing as a child are the ones in which I was completely immersed, and that’s what I hope An Additive Mix will achieve: taking people out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, and staying in their memories for a long time.”

In addition, the first of two artist-in-residence projects also opens on 18 July. Martha Jurksaitis (Cherry Kino, based in Portugal) & Christian Hardy (Alchemy Studio, based in Bradford) will investigate and contrast the scientific principles behind dark and light. Creating two fictional worlds – one permanently bathed in daylight, the other constantly night time – the artists will demonstrate both analogue and digital techniques in photography and filmmaking, focusing on the challenges of extreme light conditions.

It is the first time the National Media Museum has appointed artists-in-residence to a temporary gallery, and visitors will be able to view and interact with Martha and Christian as they develop new prints in a purpose-built darkroom and edit a bespoke cine film production by hand.  Adults and families will also have the chance to take part in free activities such as creating their own cyanotypes – an early photographic printing process.

Martha Jurksaitis said: “This residency is such a unique opportunity for us to present analogue film and photography processes as accessible to all, and ripe with diverse ideas, techniques and aesthetics. Through our working darkroom, viewable by the public, we will hopefully rejuvenate interest in the hand-made craft of the analogue image in a digital age, creating two very different visual worlds defined by light and dark.”

The artists in residence projects have received Grants for the Arts National Lottery funding from Arts Council England.

Elsewhere, the Museum will be exhibiting key objects from its National Collections of Photography, Cinematography and Television, demonstrating the technological history of capturing or creating light to produce still and moving images.

Claire Hampton, Curator of Broadcast Technology at the National Media Museum, said: “Almost our entire National Collections embody the use of light – whether it’s taking photographs, making films or transmitting television images. We are uniquely placed to explore this area of art and technology, and I’m delighted the artists will add another layer of inspiration and creativity.”

Entrance and activities are free, and full details will be available at

Image: Additive mixture, Liz West © Liz West