Tate Modern Talk

The Power of Light: Robbert Dijkgraaf in conversation with Liliane Lijn, chaired by Sean Cubitt

How does light help us understand space and time? How does it shape our material world and how do we shape light through technology, architecture, art and design?

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and internationally acclaimed artist Liliane Lijn discuss the power of light, its transformative and unifying qualities, and what fascinates and fuels scientists and artists to experiment with and make advancements with this energy.


Robbert Dijkgraaf is Director and Leon Levy Professor of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. The Institute is one of the world’s leading centres for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry, and exists to encourage and support fundamental research in the sciences and humanities. Dijkgraaf is a mathematical physicist who has made significant contributions to string theory and to the advancement of science education. His research focuses on the interface between mathematics and particle physics. He is Past President (2008–12) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Co-Chair (since 2009) of the InterAcademy Council, the global alliance of academies of sciences advising the United Nations and other international organisations. For his contributions to science and his leadership and outreach in science education and public policy, Dijkgraaf was awarded the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands, in 2003. He was named a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2012 and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Liliane Lijn is an artist and poet based in London. Internationally exhibited since the 1960’s, Lijn’s practice explores the relation between light and matter. In 2005, Lijn was ACE NASA, Leonardo Network artist in residence at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Lijn’s recent and forthcoming exhibitions include Thomas Dane Gallery at Frieze Masters, RCM Gallery, Paris, Images Moving Out Onto Space, Tate St Ives, Musee de Picardie, Amiens, Light Years, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, MOMA, Cosmic Dramas, mima. In 2013, Lijn was one of the six artists short-listed to produce a sculpture for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Recent public commissions include Solar Beacon, a solar installation in collaboration with astrophyisicist John Vallerga on the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge and Light Pyramid, a beacon for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Milton Keynes. Lijn’s epic poem Crossing Map, translated and adapted by Gaby Hartel, will be transmitted as a bi-lingual radio play produced by Deutschlandradio Kultur.

Sean Cubitt is the Joint Head of Department and PhD Admissions Tutor for the programme in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths. Cubitt is currently researching the history of visual technologies, media art history, and relationships between environmental and post-colonial criticism of film and media – three strands that converge around the political economy of globalisation and aesthetics. He is on the editorial boards of a number of journals including Screen, Cultural Politics, Animation, International Journal of Cultural Politics, Visual Communications, Futures, Time and Society, fibreculture, MIRAJ and The New Review of Film and Television Studies, as well as a series editor for Leonardo Books, MIT Press. Sean Cubitt is half of the thriller-writing team Lambert Nagle.

Part of the International Year of Light in collaboration with the Institute of Physics.

Tate Modern

Starr Cinema

London SE1 9TG
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Date & Time

20 November 2015 at 19.00–20.30