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Amsterdam Light Festival

Issue 83 February / March 2015

Festivals of light are flourishing around the world, adding more meaning to a public area, demonstrating culture and the beauty of simplicity and bringing people together. Amsterdam Light Festival continues to grow in popularity and here’s why.

Now in its third year, the Amsterdam Light Festival ran from November to January for more than 50 days. As one of the largest light festivals - in Europe at least – it aims to complement the city’s historical centre with light sculptures, projections and installations through the help of a number of national and international contemporary artists. 

The festival has grown year on year in terms of popularity both with artists and visitors. There were over 1,000 applicants for the 40 installations available and it is estimated by the organisers that 750,000 people saw the installations either by boat or foot.

The boat route, ‘Water Colors,’ took visitors past artworks along Amsterdam’s canals and the Amstel, while the walking route, ‘Illuminade’ wound through the city centre. During the festival, light played a central role in the city as museums and institutions organised light-related activities introducing visitors to innovations in light art.

The result of a venture between cultural institutions, the municipality, knowledge institutes and businesses in Amsterdam, the festival has year-on-year been sponsored by numerous parties, along with crowd funding playing a significant role in its success. This year Zumtobel became a key partner and also helped realise two projects.

The theme for this year’s festival was ‘A Bright City’ challenging artists to create a tribute to life in the city. The resulting artworks presented a unique take on the modern city of Amsterdam.

Have a read of the installations that took place:

178 bottles, 1 message

ARTISTS: Saskia Hoogendoorn & Lieuwe Martijn Wijnands

There is no other city in the world where you can find as many nationalities as Amsterdam; the city’s 800,000 residents represent 178 nationalities. They are the beating heart of the city and now this image has been visualised for all to see. A heart shines in the centre of Amsterdam where the water of the Amstel and the Zwanenburgwal meet.

178 Bottles, 1 Message consists of 178 bottles containing LED lights that can be controlled by the festival’s visitors. The duo Saskia Hoogendoorn and Lieuwe Martijn Wijnands of creative agency Tijdmakers collaborated with light specialists Rivolta, Triple It, Robert Overweg and Jasper Kloosterboer for the execution of the artwork, inspired by the famous words of former city councillor, Floor Wibaut (1859-1936) whose statue can be seen standing around the corner from the City Hall.



ARTIST: Vasili Popov

The Re(bi)cycle Dome has been constructed using 300 bicycle rims from discarded bicycles. The light source of the artwork is fed with energy by way of an old-fashioned water pump controlled by the general public.

Popov first built the Re(bi)cycle Dome with the help of a computer program that used special algorithms, written by the architect himself. These made sure that the recycled wheels would be distributed equally. Another challenge was linking the wheels to ensure stability of the structure as a whole. The links are made of metal and have been designed to secure the wheels instead of what they are usually meant to do. In short, the Re(bi)cycle Dome is a state-of-the-art dome, designed and crafted down to the smallest details.



ARTISTS: Merav Eitan & Gaston Zahr of OGE Creative Group

House of Cards consists of twelve light boxes in the form of playing cards that in turn - or all at once - appear according to a preconfigured choreography. Architects Merav Eitan and Gaston Zahr of OGE Creative Group, an agency from Israel that specialises in architecture, street art projects and light design in the public space, are responsible for the House of Cards design, which stands at almost six-metres high. With several layers to the structure, the idea stems from childhood memories and the artists’ games with their children. Portraying the city in various ways, House of Cards has literally been built up like a large building, layer by layer so the structure takes the form of a house. It also refers to a less tangible but equally important structure in society - made up of people and their relationships.



ARTIST: alaa minawi

The six life-sized figures made of curved neon tubes stand on a dock as though they have just arrived from far away. Refugees, conceived by artist alaa minawi - a Palestinian refugee himself, living in Lebanon. Working with neon lights to represent a soft, gentle glow exuded by the refugees forced to leave their home, alaa’s sculptures are made of white neon tubes that distribute an extremely delicate and almost silky substance, especially in the evenings. 



ARTISTS: Aether & Hemera

The Wertheimpark bathes in the glow of a radiant cloud of butterflies, hundreds of which hover above the ground in continuous, upward flight. On the Wings of Freedom is an interactive artwork conceived by Italian design studio Aether & Hemera. The butterfly as a symbol for a quick transformation is twofold for this installation. On the Wings of Freedom is about the way in which the pervasiveness of technology is changing our society and how little we realise it. At the same time, it is about the transformation of the city - a place where people can continuously be inspired, not only culturally but also socially; a place for ongoing change and progress.




Lightbridge is an ode to Amsterdam’s bridges, and much like an actual bridge, functions as a connector itself. The artwork not only draws on bridging our experiences of the city from the street and the water but attempts to connect the 17th Century architecture of Amsterdam’s canals to the newest developments along the shores of the IJ. Tjep. refers playfully to Amsterdam’s most iconic lights: the ones that line the arches of Amsterdam’s bridges. The lights used by Tjep. in Lightbridge react to movements, from both the street and the water, and respond with computer-controlled lighting effects. 




Amsterdam and the maritime history of the Netherlands is a golden combination according to the creatives behind Ghost Ship. VisualSKIN specialises in the creation of additional dimensions in existing locations by using spectacular lighting designs and projections. Their ghost ship is not only a nocturnal mirage but also a retro-futuristic hologram turning to water curtains and old-fashioned stage lights. VisualSKIN has created the illusion of a 3D object with two intersecting planar projections. The wind plays an important role in achieving the desired ghostly and dreamy effect – when it picks up and blows against the streams of water, the image shakes and it’s almost like you are looking at a magnetic field. The use of the water jets reflects the fountain that once stood on this exact location. The mythological fountain, designed by sculptor Albert P. Termote, was constructed in 1956 in honour of the centenary of the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij (KNSM), or Royal Dutch Steamship Company.



ARTIST: Hagar Elazari

Triangolini’s design is simple, with the artwork consisting of nothing more than a flat source of light that has been covered with layers of semi-transparent triangular stickers. When a sticker is peeled off and moved elsewhere, the pattern changes. Light disappears and reappears in continuously changing geometric constellations. Visitors are encouraged to finish what Hagar Elazari has started and interact with the installation.



ARTIST: Géraud Périole

You can see just about anything in the light circles hovering above Amsterdam’s Herengracht, the realisation of French artist Géraud Périole, who entitled his artwork Effervescence, meaning (the) bubbling, fizzing and foaming. The artist likes to use uncomplicated and recognisable forms that he continually repeats. The rings are compiled in an ingenious system of cables that have been attached to the trees lining the canals and which can’t be seen in the dark. The luminous circles appear to hang effortlessly in the air and it’s up to the imagination of the viewer to ‘finish’ the artwork when standing on the edge of the canal, or better yet, inside a boat.


Intrepid, the paper boat

ARTIST: Katja Galyuk, City + Light

The illuminated paper boat, about 60 times the size of a folded origami boat, has been named Intrepid, meaning ‘brave’, or better yet, ‘audacious’. With her simple approach, Galyuk highlights what the city stands for through this artwork: safety and security, a place with beacons and landmarks that have become a part of the daily lives of the city’s residents. In this way, the paper boat is an everyday object that, as the result of a slight transformation, can have a great effect.




This winter, a spectacular, futuristic-looking landscape arose from the Herengracht. Arborescence looks like a crossing between a system of advanced streetlights and the porous stems of a mystical mangrove forest, teeming with fireflies and glowworms. The elements float on pontoons on the water’s surface and are illuminated from below by way of sensor-equipped LED lights that react to the movements of the water. Arborescence is the visualisation of an idea, the application of new technological possibilities in regards to energy use, packaged in a setting of trees.




ARTIST: Rob van Houten

Circle of Life is a Möbius strip, or a loop with only one surface and one side. The artwork is about eternity, about the endless stream of water in the canals and the rush of people to the city. The colours of the ring also play an important role in this scene. It starts off in a milky white colour, depicting an empty city needing to be filled with life. When someone crosses the Melkmeisjesbrug, the intense light flows in both directions and blends together to form new colours.



ARTISTS: LIKEarchitects 

The red arches are plastic tubes are lit from within using LED lights that further accentuate their colour. The simple architectural elements can be adjusted to the specifics of the environment in which they are placed. Sometimes the arches appear almost royal, other times they refer to Amsterdam’s beautifully lit bridges or, as a result of their distinctive red colour, to the infamous Red Light District.

What Constell.ation manages to do in every location, is give visitors the impression that upon passing through the arches, they are entering into a physical space - a space in which everything appears to be different and where time seems to stand still.



ARTISTS: Wilmhelmusvlug 

Near the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam-based artist and designer Wilmhelmusvlug presents Camp-Fire: an oversized, archetypal scouts fire. Wilhelmusvlug sees the campfire as the first human meeting point, a landmark, a safe haven for those who want to leave the busy schedule of the everyday behind, or for those who just want to stare into the fire or start up a good conversation. The city, too, can be seen as a large campfire. It’s a source of warmth and light that has attracted people for centuries.



ARTIST: Angus Muir

Several spherical buoys float on the water’s surface and are illuminated in a rainbow of colours. The buoys exude an un- complicated sense of joy. Muir celebrates the public space with his light designs, almost bringing it back to life. Water Fun floats effortlessly through the visual violence.


Pics: Janus van den Eijnden


Water Fun


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