Nucleus | Imagining science

Noorderlicht Photofestival 2017

NUCLEUS, Imagining Science

NUCLEUS is the title of the Noorderlicht 2017 International Photography Festival. This 24th edition is about science and the representation of it by photographers and artists. The exhibitions revolve around the human urge to want to understand and control the world around us. NUCLEUS (‘the core’) is about discovery and progress.

NUCLEUS will take place from 22st October - 26nd November in Groningen.


Science as knowledge, process and community

Science flows from the imagination, just like art. It intrigues and fascinates with its unmistakable, and sometimes contested, beauty. It is human ingenuity that has brought us to where we are now. The wealth of knowledge that we have accumulated in the relatively short period of time we’ve been roaming this planet, is tremendous.

Scientific practice is inextricably linked to our society. The value for society is virtually unchallenged. Time and again, scientists hand us the potential keys to a better future, even though it’s not always clear whether we are opening a wrong door and whether this knowledge will be put to good or bad use.

The scientific community is spread around the world and is globally connected. It comprises researchers, with their urge to objectively look beyond boundaries and to increase our knowledge – and our control over – humanity and nature. Their scientific motivation is characterised, in its most fundamental form, by a selfless curiosity. In this applied science, the acquisition of knowledge is central as a means to solving problems and discovering new applications.

Science and art           

Art poses many of the same key questions as science does. Both disciplines share an investigative impulse, in which originality, creativity, and an open mind are crucial starting points. What is truth? How can we grow as humans? Why does this often go well, but just as often wrong? In art, the intangible takes the place of that which is the objective ideal in science. In NUCLEUS, science and art enter a dialogue.

Socially relevant and urgent

In our current time, in which the positive achievements of the growing knowledge economy go hand in hand with alarming reports regarding the future liveability of our planet, we see a revival of public interest in knowledge acquisition. This fascination for science is paired with a critical attitude towards technological advancement.

We are on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution, in which our society is fundamentally going to change. Biotechnology is changing how we handle the production of food. Medical advancement and nanotechnology promise much for our quality of life and life expectancy. Robotization and artificial intelligence will replace human work, with enormous consequences for the labour market worldwide. In the new data-economy, algorithms already largely determine our worldview and the information we get to see at a personal level. Who is going to profit from all these changes, and who will be denied this?

Photography Festival Noorderlicht 2017

The central theme of NUCLEUS will be presented in the main location of Der Aa-Kerk church, in the Noorderlicht Photography Gallery, and in several yet-to-be determined satellite locations in the city of Groningen and other places in the Northern Netherlands. This open call will partly determine the formation of the exhibitions.

Since 1990, Noorderlicht has been well-known for its annual photography festival, held alternately in the provinces of Groningen and Friesland; its permanent photography gallery in the heart of the city of Groningen; and the multiform projects it organises next to this.

Noorderlicht distinguishes itself through engaging narrative photography at the intersection of art and documentary. For the coming years, Noorderlicht has formulated three central, recurring themes, each of which is anchored in a festival: NUCLEUS (science and art), ARENA (man and nature) and BIG (economy and power). These topics were set out in early 2016, in the policy plan for 2017-2020.