Sam Winston – Darkness Visible

An Immersive Participatory Installation

National Poetry Library until 25th February 2018


Darkness Visible is the latest work by acclaimed artist Sam Winston – an immersive, participatory venture exploring the creative impact of darkness.

Emerging as an artist through typography, he expresses language as a visual form as well as a message. He sculpts sentences into shape and movement with meticulous craftsmanship and challenges his audience to read the written word differently, by leafing and skimming.

Here, Sam explores his art without his ‘primary sense’, living and working in total darkness for seven days and nights, and inviting three poets, Kayo Chingonyi, Emily Berry and George Szirtes, to participate. He explains how the body’s biology changes without sunlight, gradually releasing melatonin which slows and relaxes, and losing its sense of time and place. He also refers to the heightened perception of exterior and interior stimuli – dreams, thought processes, traffic, voices, sirens.  He comments that the idea and sensation of darkness varies depending on the underlying intention; an artist who uses it to create will approach it as inspiration, whereas to an audience it is curiosity.

A specially commissioned dark room has been constructed in the National Poetry Library to recreate the conditions so that the public can experience the impact.  Of the two contrasting drawings he produced during those dark hours, one used a pin for orientation and breath to measure length of line; the other is entirely free-flowing pencil script. Both are striking in their individuality. The installation is covered with the text that he wrote subsequently and which maps his mind’s journey throughout the experiment. This text represents the variety of his responses to the darkness via legible thoughts and illegible, but evocative, impressions. Audio recordings of the darkness-inspired works from the guest poets, each in their own style, are played, interspersed by periods of silence.

The intimacy and darkness of the space detaches one from even the quiet brightness of the library and, leaving the dark room, one is aware of the bombardment of information in everyday life. Each session allows time for contemplation but it is a small, fascinating exhibition and well worth visiting at off-peak hours to fully absorb the calm and stillness.


Article by Joanna Hetherington







by Sam Winston 

Immersive Participatory Installation


18th November 2017 – 25th February 2018



National Poetry Library,

Level 5, Blue side, Royal Festival Hall

Entry is Free but ticketed



by Sam Winston 

Screening and Event

Sam’s project extends further into a 90 minute live, immersive cinematic event exploring darkness, the written word and poetic narratives. As the event unfolds traditional cinematic forms break down into soundscape, photography and spoken word. The evening also incorporates periods of complete blackout and silence – a collage of poetry, photography and soundscapes.

Thursday 11th January 2018 – 7.00 pm


Whitechapel Gallery

77-78 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX

£9.50 / concessions £7.50