A night walk

Stream here ︎︎︎

(and existential

Open the Night is a sound walk in public space using geospatial audio technology via the mobile app Echoes. This technology enables sounds to become activated when a device using GPS (a mobile phone held by you, the visitor) enters a specific zone.

For hearing people, this means you will need a smartphone or iPhone, as well as headphones, to participate in this artwork. Follow the link above or search for Open the Night in the Echoes app to begin streaming.

Simply put on your headphones and explore the area to discover what moths have to say about light.

Also available in German and in German Sign Language (DGS).

Upcoming events︎︎︎

Open the Night returns as a workshop during two evening events this summer in the context of Kiezlabor’s 2024 tour of Berlin districts:

    1. Rotraut-Richter-Platz in Gropiusstadt
    29.05.2024, 20:00 - 21:30
    Sign up here

    2. HTW Campus in Lichtenberg *Postponed
    05.06.2024, 20:30 - 22:00
    Sign up here

Workshop spaces are free but limited.

What can you expect?

An introduction to light pollution and urban ecologies by Jeremy Knowles (in English with German translation). A site-specific, multi-channel sound walk lasting around 20-40mins, depending upon your engagement. An open discussion and sharing round at the end with snacks and refreshments.

The future looks bright, but at what cost?

Moths play a vital role in our Berlin ecosystem as nocturnal plant pollinators.

Like many other night-active insects, they use the light of stars and the moon as navigational tools to find nectar-producing plants to feed upon, and partners to mate with. Moths simply keep a fixed bearing, with their wings trained at a constant angle relative to the moon, and then fly out into the darkness until their desires are met.

However, the more artificial light that humans introduce to urban spaces, the less moths are able to pollinate and reproduce. This is because street lamps compete for the attention of moths and, all too often, cause them to die. On average, a street lamp in Berlin causes 200 insect deaths per night in the summer. And with more and more street lamps being erected each year to illuminate the paths of Berlin’s growing population, the number of insects affected will surely rise.

Can our immense human capacity for care no longer extend to moths?

In Paiute culture, Great Basin, one traditional story tells of Moth, the dancer, whose flirtation with the campfire, night after night, finally exceeds his otherwise masterful and mesmerising skills on the dancefloor.

‘The people would watch him as he danced and the young women would laugh as he dove and fluttered and circled. They would try to catch him and dance with him, but he would always escape them.’ (Bruchac, 1994)

Although cautioned many times by his father not to dance too close to the flames, Moth’s desire to impress the humans with his daring aerial manourvers finally proves too great. One night, as he is mid-dance, Moth is caught by the roaring campfire. Assumed to have perished, engulfed in flame, Moth is then mourned by the Paiute people. The loss of his enigmatic nightly performances that had once so entertained them was felt deeply.

‘Throughout the winter, the people talked in their lodges about Moth, the dancer. The young women were sad as they thought of how he had been killed by the flames. They would miss his dancing around their fires at night. They would miss playing with him as he dove and circled.’ (Bruchac, 1994)

The story concludes with Moth’s return through spiritual reincarnation. Yet, although returned to the Paiute people, who sit around their fire once more in the summer, Moth is forever changed. His wings, once black, become saturated in a pattern of luminous red, as if painted by the very flames that had once burned him, and thick grey, like the blanket wrapped around Moth by his father to soothe his singed body.

‘"We can no longer just call him Moth," the people said. "He must have a new name. We will call him The Fire Dancer." And that has been his name to this day.’ (Bruchac, 1994)

Learning from moths, ancient and contemporary...

Tales such as Moth, The Fire Dancer engender the symbolism of moths as not only mystical but, importantly, transformative beings. But have we already pushed them too far?

A ground-breaking study published in Open Access by Entomoligischer Verein Krefeld in 2017 found that the number of flying insects in parts of Germany had fallen by more than 75% in just four years. (Tagespeigel, 2018) More recently, a study conducted by Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health concluded that the global loss of pollinators is already causing around half a million early human death a year due to the reduced supply of healthy foods it has generated. (Guardian, 2023)

Any lasting symbiosis between moths and humans in cities of the future must require of humans that we re-evaluate our relationship with darkness, just as moths are adapting their relationship with artificial light by becoming steadily less light-sensitive.

We must reclaim our wildness. 

Yet, for humans to embrace darkness is in itself for us to act against our inner mechanisms. Our survival throughout evolutionary history has been marked by our ability to hunt during the day and, conversely, avoid being eaten after sunset. It is here in our evolutionary journey that the binary opposites of day and night, predator and prey, safe and unsafe, seen and unseen, became firmly imprinted upon us. And it is these same instincts that we must now confront if we are to survive.

The sombre experience of moths around street lamps night after night in cities should be a wake-up call for humans. We must act to defend our dusty moth brothers and sisters.

We can surely no longer condemn moths to death by all-night raves around street lamps. Our immense human capacity for care must extend to them. The survival of moths, and therefore of ourselves as a species wholly reliant upon the vital role that moths play as nocturnal pollinators, hinges upon our ability to re-think our relationship with the night.

Moths have taken one step closer to our diurnal experience of the night in desensitising their attraction to light. What will be our next evolutionary move, I wonder?


What can I expect?

A site specific, multi-channel sound walk lasting around 20-40mins, depending upon your engagement.

The walk is available in English, German, and in German Sign Language (DGS).

Is the content of the walk appropriate for children?


Open the Night is suitable for all ages.

Do I have
to pay to

Nope, there is no fee for participation.

Echoes is a free-to-download app and Open the Night is a free-to-stream walk.

Who is Jeremy Knowles?

Jeremy Knowles (he/him) is a British artist whose practice is rooted in sensing and recording the urban environment, often by walking. He grew up on a farm in Hertfordshire, far away from the glow of street lamps.

Sources & References

Bogard, Paul ‘The End of Night – Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light’, 2013

Bruchac, Joseph and Michael J. Caduto, ‘Keepers of the Night’, 1994

Eklöf, Johan ‘The Darkness Manifesto – How Light Pollution Threatens the Ancient Rhythms of Life’, 2022

Gandy, Matthew ‘Moth’, 2016

GfÖ Ecological Society of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, ‘Impact of light pollution on moth morphology. A 137-yearstudy in Germany’, 2021. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/352014115_Impact_of_light_pollution_on_moth_morphology-A_137-year_study_in_Germany

Guardian, ‘Global pollinator losses causing 500,000 early deaths a year – study’, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/09/global-pollinator-losses-causing-500000-early-deaths-a-year-study

Hunt, Will ‘Underground – A Human History of the World Beneath our Feet’, 2018

Royal Society, ‘Reduced flight-to-light behaviour of moth populations exposed to long-term urban light pollution’, 2016. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0111

Schivelbusch, Wolfgang ‘Disenchanted Night’, 1983

Tagesspiegel, ‘Insektensterben: Tödliches Schwirren’, 2018.