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How can artists and astronomers collaborate to communicate the mysteries of the universe?

1 December 2021
  • Other

Programme for Week 3

Keynote speakers in Session 3 include Professor Henk Hoekstra (Leiden University), and artist Thijs Biersteker (Woven Studio), who will present a case study of their artist-scientist collaboration to develop an installation to represent the behaviour of the mysterious and elusive dark matter. This will be followed by a moderated audience Q+A.

The practical part of Session 3 will involve “prototyping” and “testing” ideas - in particular, teasing out both the audience experience and the scientific concepts being shared. Participants will also consider evaluation at this point, and try to imagine how they would capture the impact of their proposed interventions. By the end of this session, groups will have a fully developed proposal for an inclusive public engagement initiative. There will be a two-week break between this session and Session #4, allowing participants time to carry out some user testing of their ideas, to refine their approach, and to create compelling presentation formats to share their ideas with the world.

Speaker bios:

Henk Hoekstra is a professor of observational cosmology at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. His research focuses on the study of dark matter and dark energy using weak gravitational lensing. He has played leading roles in a number of large imaging surveys, and since 2011 he is a cosmology coordinator for Euclid, the ESA mission to study the nature of dark energy and many other aspects of our current cosmological paradigm.

Thijs Biersteker creates interactive awareness installations about the world’s most pressing issues today. In his work he seamlessly combines scientific research and new technologies to deliver an empowering experience that is accessible both intellectually and technologically. His highly awarded immersive art installations, often described as eco - or awareness art, turn the impact of topics like climate change, air pollution, ocean plastic and the anthropocene into tangible experiences that travel the world to create awareness around these topics. Thijs is founder of Woven Studio, which works together with universities, scientists, research groups, museums and architects to communicate their scientific facts in an immersive way.

He has won awards like the prestigious Lumen Prize for digital art, got nominated for the Stars Prize from Ars Electronica, and the New Technology Art Award. He is a TED speaker and has exhibited at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain Paris (FR), Today Art Museum (CN), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (NL), Science Gallery Dublin (IE), SXSW (USA), Science Centre Kuwait (KW), Mu Gallery (NL) and has been featured in Wired, New Scientist, Financial Times and Discovery Channel. He also holds a teaching position at the Delft University of Technology (NL) and a Fellowship at the VU university in Amsterdam.


  • Space
  • researchers
  • science communicators


Sharing Space: creative collaboration for public engagement with cutting-edge astronomy

Many astronomers and science communicators are familiar with communicating the wonder of the solar system, or missions to Mars. However, cutting-edge astronomical research such as the search for dark energy, or gravitational waves, while showing up in press releases, is much less common in the public engagement of science and technology.