Light graffiti made with Little Sun at Tate Modern, London, 2012 Photograph: Olafur Eliasson
Light graffiti made with Little Sun at Tate Modern, London, 2012

It wasn’t until reading about the new theory behind why yawning is contagious  that I began to understand the impact of man-made light on our individual freedom and creativity.

The theory goes that to survive the harsh reality of prehistoric life, the tribe had to behave as a cohesive group. Move about the country together, hunt as a pack, warm themselves and cook around a communal fire, eat together – and this is where the yawning comes in – all go to sleep together. All the other communal activities wouldn’t work if some of the tribe were out of tune with the others.

Once the fire started dying down, night and dark encroaching, someone would give a fulsome yawn – the chap next door would do the same and one by one the group would feel sleepy, yawn in turn, roll out the wolf skins, go horizontal and fall asleep like one collective being.

Without light this story is still played out, not necessarily in tribal groups but in families, throughout the world. Where there is no access to electricity and light, beyond nightfall, for safety and cohesion simultaneous sleep patterns are a given.

With no light after dark opportunity for a creative individual is limited in the extreme.

Light after dark not only illuminates – it liberates. 


Vanessa Branson
President and Founder of the Arts in Marrakech (AiM) Biennale