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Artists and scientists bring light to Glasgow

22 November 2012

This weekend, audiences will be invited to explore the dark effects of seasonal affective disorder and experience ‘Heliotrope’ - an immersive installation of sound, light and movement, a place where the sun is guaranteed to shine.

A collaboration between writers, artists, designers, architects and scientists, and supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, Creative Scotland and Glasgow Life, 'Heliotrope' is a pod where visitors experience light through the four seasons in an enclosed and unique environment.

Set in the stunning surroundings of Glasgow's Botanic Gardens, the work explores our relationship with light and asks questions about what would happen if modern life were to acknowledge the seasonality of the human body. Visitors will receive a booklet of poetry and science writing.

To give shape to Heliotrope, Trigger has brought together up-and-coming artist Hanna Tuulikki and DO Architecture, fresh from representing Scotland at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. Tuulikki has created a 'sonic bath' composed of samples of singing bowls, and DO Architecture have designed a rotating cocoon complete with rising sun.

Joining the team are psychiatrist and author John Eagles, a veteran of SAD studies; acclaimed poet and playwright Molly Naylor; Stefanie Posavec, known for her work as a book designer and data visualiser; and developer Justin Quillanin.

Suzy Glass, Trigger producer, said: "We began developing the idea of an enclosure, a safe space that people could escape to during the winter months, a warm environment where the sun would definitely shine. We wanted to create something uplifting, a place that could make people feel good."

While SAD - an extreme reaction to a lack of light in the winter - affects a minority of people, its causes touch all human beings. Whereas our ancestors would have slowed down in the winter months, the relentless demands of modern life get in the way of letting our bodies respond to the environment of the darker season.

Those furthest away from the equator are the most affected by SAD, which is three times more common in women than in men. It is estimated that three in every 100 adults in Britain experience significant winter depression.

Symptoms include low mood, lack of energy, lack of interest in life, irritability and a drop in sexual activity. Unlike other forms of depression, SAD seems to trigger individuals to sleep more and eat more.

Trigger and collaborators have devised Heliotrope through a combination of scientifically rigorous knowledge and artistic interpretation. The team hope that those taking part will understand more about SAD through the experience.

The installation will be live in the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, 24-27 November, between 16.00 and 20.00. Tickets can be bought online.

Find out more through the projects' interactive website, which reflects the light in visitors' lives, dependent on their location and time of access.

Image: ‘Heliotrope’ at the Botanic Gardens. Credit: Wattie Cheung.


Eagles JM. Light therapy and seasonal affective disorder. Psychiatry 2009;8:125-9.

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