First Light


First Light is an artistic venture into the origins of the capture of light. The project is the culmination of a year-long artist in residency at the Observatory of Paris and Musée des arts et métiers, studying their astronomy and scientific collections in collaboration with historians, astronomers and physicists.

This research inspired a series of contemporary artworks, from painting and photography to video and performance, which aim to render visible the hidden face of light. These were arranged in three installations displayed in the ancient church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs at the Musée des art et métiers from late 2015 to early 2015.

Eclipse […] diaphane, video installation, Lily HIbberd, 2015. Musée des arts et métiers.

Download First Light booklet above

A French language illustrated guide was produced for the exhibition with contributions from collaborating artists and physcists, as well as Musée des arts et métiers curators, and astronomers from the Observatory of Paris. Essays were also commissioned from experts in eclipse observation, and on the work of Léon Foucault.

This project was supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

It was also assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Under an Ephemeral Sun

Situated around the Pendulum of Léon Foucault in the chapel of Musée des art et métiers, this installation features a series of paintings, videos and archival objects all centred on the forgotten history of the oldest surviving solar daguerreotype taken in 1845 by Fizeau and Foucault. Forgotten in history, this object is held in permanent storage at the Musée des arts et métiers archives, far from the public eye.

The oldest known surviving image of the Sun, daguerreotype by Hippolyte Fizeau and Léon Foucault, 1845. Courtesy of Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam.

Disappearance or future? installation of photoluminescent painting and UV lamp, Lily HIbberd, 2015. Musée des arts et métiers.

Eclipse […] diaphane

This 7 minute film was shot on the Faroe Islands during the total solar eclipse on 20 March 2015. The location on the remote island of Suðuroy was organised in collaboration with the local Faroes community. And the theme for the soundtrack was authored by Faroes composer Sunleif Rassmussen.

The video's subtitles echo the voice of Léon Foucault, based on his memoir of the 1860 expedition to observe the total solar eclipse in Spain. The Eclipse […] diaphane installation importantly included Foucault’s original reflecting mirror telescope on loan from Observatory of Paris, which Foucault transported on horse and cart to Spain to observe this eclipse.

Beyond the Speed of Light

This installation presents Léon Foucault's scientific imagination to conceive the first precise measure of the speed of light in 1862. Two experimental videos relate the story of Foucault's capture of light alongside the his experimental instruments on loan from the Observatory of Paris.

Installation views of Beyond the Speed of Light in the antechamber of the Musée des arts et méties chapel, Lily Hibberd, 2015. 1845. Original instruments from the collections of the Musée des arts et métiers and the Observatory of Paris.

Light in Flight is a 10 minute video created by Lily Hibberd in collaboration with Extreme Light group physicists Genevieve Gariepy and Daniele Faccio, 2015. At Lily Hibberd’s request, the physcists recreated Léon Foucault’s measure of the speed of light using the latest technologies to film the light in flight as it passed through the experiment – the first ever film made of matter moving at the speed of light in real time. The video was installed in the antechamber of the Musée des arts et métiers chapel along with Foucault’s original instruments.

The Owl of Minerva and I

This ten minute film chronicles Léon Foucault’s vision and mission to measure the elusive speed of light, which like the Owl of Minerva only takes flight at the crepescule.

Concept, text and video by Lily Hibberd. Voiceover by Maxime Bugeaud. Filmed at the Temple of Minerva in Montefoscoli, Italy and the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris.

Performance Drawing

Each Saturday during the two month duration of First Light, Lily Hibberd performed a live drawing of a total solar eclipse in the chapel of the Musée des arts et métiers, titled In Search of Lost Light.

Drawing performance In Search of Lost Light by Lily Hibberd, 2015. Photo: Sam Nightingale.

Cosmos Projects