Cosmos Archaeology, Exploring the Universe Through Art and Science: Swissnex in China Initiates a New Exhibition Turning Astrophysical Data into Tangible Realities

Swissnex in China has collaborated with EPFL Pavilions from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and the Shanghai Astronomy Museum to launch a unique exhibition that showcases the wonders of the cosmos.

The exhibition will be open to the public from May 18 to September 17, 2024, offering visitors an immersive experience that brings the vastness of astrophysics data into tangible reality. Each installation within the exhibition presents a unique perspective on our understanding of the universe and invites visitors to become cosmic archaeologists, unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos.

The aim of this project is to inspire the general public about space science and facilitate in- depth dialogues and workshops between international experts on the topics of experimental museology and sustainable space.

In 2022, after two years of research, EPFL’s Laboratory for Experimental Museology (eM+), Laboratory of Astrophysics (LASTRO) and EPFL Pavilions created Cosmos Archaeology: Explorations in Time and Space, a five-month exhibition that successfully attracted around 15,000 visitors at EPFL Pavilions. An amplifier for art, science and society, EPFL Pavilions presents exhibitions and programs that blend experimental curatorship and contemporary aesthetics with open science, digital humanism and emerging technologies.

Melding art and science, Cosmos Archaeology reveals the depths of the Universe through physical, perceptual, and sensory interaction. Harnessing technologies of immersive and interactive visualization and the visual arts, the exhibition transforms the most complex astrophysical data into sounds and images that everyone can experience and understand.

The exhibition at Shanghai Astronomy Museum includes many of the original installations as well as a series of new artworks, curated specifically to expand the concept to a Chinese audience. Cosmos Archaeology, Exploring the Universe through Art and Science is the curatorial vision of Professor Sarah Kenderdine, director of eM+ and EPFL Pavilions, Professor Jean-Paul Kneib, director of LASTRO, and independent Chinese curator Iris Long.

Project Background

The initial exhibition of Cosmos Archaeology by EPFL’s Laboratory for Experimental Museology (eM+) and Laboratory of Astrophysics (LASTRO) at EPFL Pavilions broke down the artificial gap between scientific rigor and visual experience to transform imperceptible cosmological data into experiences accessible to human senses. In two years of research, they elaborated a series of customized immersive interfaces specifically for astrophysical data, in the form of interactive data simulation and visualization, immersive projections, 3D film and augmented reality.

Swissnex in China, serving as the bridge connecting Switzerland and China in the frontier fields of science and innovation, initiated the project to showcase the aforementioned exhibition at the Shanghai Astronomy Museum. Swissnex invited Chinese curator, Iris Long, to curate the brand-new exhibition in Shanghai, to complement the existing exhibits and engage in dialogue with the original works. Shanghai Astronomy Museum was chosen for its innovative science and technology exhibits designed for diverse audiences, featuring advanced technology and sophisticated aesthetics.

The primary objective of this initiative, is to serve as a pivotal platform for facilitating collaborations, particularly in the evolving field of experimental museology, which is anticipated to shape the future of museums, and space sustainability which has to be addressed through global cooperation. Moreover, the exhibition aims at giving the local audience a fresh art- science perspective of the universe and a glimpse into the latest advancements in space science research from both Switzerland and China.

Additionally, the exhibition seeks to integrate more Chinese artists and science/research institutions into the global Space-Art community. The exhibition highlights collaborations between artists and prominent astronomical projects, including the MUST Telescope from Tsinghua University and the Chinese SKA Science Projects led by the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Visualization of the Exhibition at the Shanghai Astronomy Museum

Key features of the exhibition

The exhibition follows the trajectory of light from the vast and distant depths of space to the surface of the Earth. In the six chapters ” Edge of the World,” “Deep Space Landscapes,” “Orbital Forests,” “Sky-Gazing Eyes,” “Hidden Pasts of the Cosmos,” and “Cosmos of the

Mind,” each piece weaves a narrative of a certain scale: What is the origin of the universe? How do large astronomical installations gaze into deep space? Can we glimpse our own fate in the cosmos? How are the myths of the sky interpreted in contemporary times? In the exhibition, data and scientific visualizations about the universe are intertwined with cultural imaginations, stories, and philosophical reflections about the universe. They not only translate, reproduce, and interact with the “sky mapping” data drawn from optical sky survey missions such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) but also include perspectives from the humanities or science fiction related to exploring extraterrestrial civilizations, sustainable space development, and astronomical history.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Beijing Yuanzhen Culture Co., Ltd, Presence Switzerland, the Department of Astronomy at Tsinghua University, the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Swissnex in China.


Side events

Alongside the main exhibition, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a series of side events designed to deepen their exploration and engagement.

Opening Symposium of Cosmos Archaeology: Encounters between art, science and the universe
The opening symposium of the exhibition, serving as the prelude to this special exhibition, will feature the three exhibition’s curators, artists, and academic partners to engage in discussions around the intertwining of art and science, fostering international dialogues on astrophysics, artistic expressions, and space sustainability from a broad astronomical perspective.

Computational Museology Workshop
This workshop on computational museology with Professor Sarah Kenderdine, Director and Lead Curator of EPFL Pavilions, provides practical insights from her extensive curatorial experience. It explores the seamless integration and practical application of immersive visualization technologies, visual analytics, aesthetics, and cultural big data.


About Swissnex in China

Swissnex in China advances Swiss-Chinese collaboration in education, research and innovation by leveraging relevant contacts, scouting content and providing context. Swissnex in China’s mission is to support the outreach and active engagement of partners in the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent. We contribute to strengthening Switzerland’s profile as a world-leading hotspot of innovation.

Swissnex is an initiative of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation of Switzerland and is part of the Swiss Confederation’s network abroad managed by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.


Further enquiries

Ms. Cissy Sun, Head of Academia and Arts ([email protected])

Ms. Camille Burki, Head of Communications ([email protected])