Lux in Tenebris (Light in Darkness)
Virtual Reality, 2023

Lux in Tenebris was developed during a two-month digital residency at the Deutsches Museum, Germany. A paper about the project and supporting research can be found here

“The roads by which men arrive at their insights into celestial matters seem to me almost as worthy of wonder as those matters in themselves.”
— Johannes Kepler.

In 1545 Nicolaus Copernicus published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, a book in which he argued the Sun, rather than the Earth, lies in the center of the solar system. This discovery directly preceded The Enlightenment or The Age of Reason in which many ideas based on tradition and religious faith were disrupted — bringing into question not just how human knowledge works but also what its limits are.

Lux in Tenebris (Light in Darkness) is an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience which draws upon the Deutsche museum’s collection of astronomical models. Models which for centuries have sought to communicate, and make visible, our place in the solar system.

At its center is a model designed by Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer, who used five Platonic solids - shapes with identical faces and vertices - to explain the spaces between planets that Copernicus's heliocentric theory of the universe had left a mystery. Although Kepler's model was ultimately proven inaccurate, it was a visionary model that paved the way for advances in astronomy and revealed the human process of making sense of the vast celestial unknown and the imaginative leaps required to advance our understanding of the universe.

The VR experience explores modern-day parallels with advances in human knowledge facilitated by artificial intelligence (AI). Six new models have been created using text-to-image AI with source images from the Deutsche Museum's astronomical collection. These models question the potential of AI to creatively interpret gaps in our existing knowledge and challenge our preconceptions, much like Kepler's model did during The Enlightenment.

Lux in Tenebris invites audiences to explore the resulting virtual space which seeks to raise questions about human knowledge, its limits, and the physical and mental models we create to help us understand our place in the world.

(Above) Detail of Kepler's model of the Solar System from ‘Mysterium Cosmographicum’ 

(Above): Example of an image created using Midjourney and its 3D counterpart in Unreal

© Sophie Dixon 2023