Shine on Me

The Sun and Us
28. Sep 2018 - 18. Aug 2019

An exhibition by the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum

The Dresden "Solar Mission"

Curator: Catherine Nichols

Design: raumlabor, Berlin

In late summer 2018 NASA’s Parker Solar Probe blasted off on a historic mission: to get closer to the Sun than ever before. Almost concurrently the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum launches a sister mission of its own, with a large-scale special exhibition aimed at looking at the Sun from all sides. So welcome aboard as we find out more about the cultural significance, scientific findings and some unsolved mysteries surrounding the star around which everything on Earth revolves – and find out more about us human beings, too. How did ancient civilisations on all five continents view the Sun? What can solar science today tell us for certain about the Sun’s composition? And what influence does the Sun have on our present, our well-being, and our everyday lives?

The first thing you encounter as you enter the exhibition is a spatial art installation inspired by space travel’s century-old dream of one day reaching the sun. From there you gravitate along seven ‘orbits’ circling the Sun from various perspectives: the Sun as deity, as an instrument of time, a symbol, a luminous force, a remedy, an energy source, and of course as a star at the centre of our very own universe.

The themes of the exhibition range from worship rituals in Ancient Egypt, alchemy and astrology to solar farms and space probes to bikinis, bombs, and classics of pop music. Each section comprises additional research stations with an opportunity to look deeper into what makes the Sun so fascinating and allow you to reach your own surprising conclusions through a hands-on approach. Here comes the sun!


Josef Albers, Martin Andersen, Silvia und Gerry Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Eugène Atget, Ingeborg  Bachmann, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, Georges Bataille, Hans Sebald Beham, Oliver van den Berg, Joseph Beuys, Alice Boughton, Margaret Bourke-White, George Brecht, Barbara Breitenfellner, Burton Nitta (Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta), Tommaso Campanella, Thue Christiansen, Antonio Corradini, Harry Crosby, Hari Sadhan Dasgupta, Johann Melchior Dinglinger, Tommy Dorsey and His Sentimentalists, Albrecht Dürer, Charles und Ray Eames, Mona Eldaief, Ben Enwonwu, Richard Buckminster Fuller, André Gelpke, Hendrick Goltzius, Robert Gommlich, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Werner Herzog, Ho Rui An, Billie Holiday, Bodin Hon, Stephan Hüsch, Athanasius Kircher, Philipp Khabo Koepsell, Knut Kruppa, Alicja Kwade, Mike Leigh, Zoe Leonard, Ted Lewis, Leo Lionni, El Lissitzky, Herbert List, Jayne Loader, Colin Low, Auguste Lumière, Louis Lumière, Lydia Mall, Vitaly Mansky, Siobhán McDonald, Georges Méliès, Erich Mendelsohn, Elena Mitrofanova und Ivan Mitrofanov, Masaaki Miyazawa, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Ikko Narahara, Trevor Nickolls, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jahane Noujaim, Pete Standing Alone, Otto Piene, Walid Raad, Kevin Rafferty, Pierce Rafferty, Man Ray, Miguel Rothschild, Susan Schuppli, Fazal Sheikh, Katharina Sieverding, Frank Sinatra, Sun Ra, Alphonse Swinehart, Marina Toeters, Panos Tsagaris, Wang Fu, Wladimir Wassiljew, Eyal Weizman, Dhukal Wirrpanda and others

Research stations

Each exhibition space has its own research station where children and adults alike can take a closer look at the Sun’s mysteries. In the ‘Sun as Deity’ section, visitors with creative talents can endow a sun god with a chariot and special properties or dress up like the Sun King Louis XIV in the ‘Sun as Symbol’ section.

The sections on the Sun as a luminous force, remedy, energy source and star also provide opportunities for fine-tuning various experimental models: how is the Sun’s core structured? In what instances are the Sun’s rays good for our body and when are they harmful? What forms of solar energy are there, and how much energy does one household use?

The seven "Orbits"

"Always The Sun" – The Sun as a deity

Many civilisations past and present and many religions have venerated the Sun’s omnipotence: the peoples of Ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, Persia, and Rome, the Aztecs and Mayans in South America, right through to our present day – e.g. in Hinduism, Buddhism, and among Australia’s Aborigines. What needs and fears prompted human beings across the millennia to turn to their own particular sun deities? What are the kinships and the differences?

"Waiting for the Sun" – The Sun as a Timekeeper

The Sun provides us with a means of orientation through time. Its appearance defines the time of day and the seasons, much in the same way as our ‘biological clock’ defines our sleeping and waking hours, like all living creatures. But how do day and night, and the seasons, occur? What sort of influence has this defining function had on the evolution of humankind and our culture, right through to our high-tech society?

"Walking On Sunshine" – The Sun as a Symbol

Across our civilisations and human epochs the Sun has symbolised ideals such as freedom, eternity, illumination, creative power, justice, and above all absolute power. This is true of personalities as contradictory as the Sun King Louis XIV, the dictator Adolf Hitler, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, the freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi, and even the pop icon Beyoncé. In many utopian movements the Sun symbolises a civilization that is both enlightened and more humane. The exhibition aims to decipher these complex and at times contradictory meanings of the Sun as a symbol.


"I’ll Follow the Sun" – The Sun as a luminous force

With its staggering supremacy the Sun is capable of triggering intense existential emotions within us. This sense of wonder is one which has been explored and scrutinized time and again since Antiquity, through the age of Romanticism, to the post-modern era. But there is more to it than a sense of wonder: indeed, beside the emotive impact, the Sun’s illuminating power has a highly practical aspect, too: it provides human beings and animals alike with a means of communication and orientation.

"Blister In The Sun" – The Sun as a Remedy

There is a close correlation between the Sun and our physical and mental wellbeing. It means the Sun is able to heal and prevent illnesses too. But even here, there is something contradictory about the Sun’s very nature. Indeed, too little sunshine can cause illnesses such as rickets or depression while too much of it can cause skin cancer. So how should we show ourselves to the Sun, and how should we protect ourselves from it? How does that influence architecture, fashion and design?

"I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me" – The Sun as an Energy Source

As human beings we have always sought to harness the power of sunlight for our own purposes, using all sorts of technologies. The trend itself gained ever greater momentum with the discovery of nuclear power in the early 20th century. From current developments in photovoltaics to the use of solar fuels, solar energy is now one of the most important sources of innovation. But will the sun be able in future to contribute to solving the energy crisis that looms before us?

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond" – The Sun as a Star

It took us thousands of years to understand that the Sun is not a planet, but a star, and that our little planet Earth revolves around it. Today, solar science knows a little more about the Sun, but by no means everything. It is made up of the same matter as the Earth, and both probably have the same origin. Momentous cycles of solar activity occur deep inside the Sun, each one lasting around eleven years. These cosmic magnetic fields have a direct impact on our climate and our weather. The Sun is currently half way through its life and is expected to glow for ‘just’ another five billion years. So has the erstwhile protean deity now become a mere physical phenomenon? Can our more accurate understanding of the Sun help us shape our everyday lives with greater certainty about the future or even halt climate change? What findings can we expect from NASA’s mission to the Sun, which launched in August 2018?


This measure is co-financed from public funds based on the budget drawn up by the members of the Saxon State Parliament.