10 highlights of this year’s Amsterdam Light Festival
Running until 22 January 2017, the fifth edition of the annual Amsterdam Light Festival has once again transformed the historic heart of Amsterdam into a spectacular city of light. Artists from across the world have put the city in the spotlight with 30 exciting light sculptures, based on the theme of ‘View on Amsterdam’. Here’s a guide to 10 of this year’s absolute must-sees!
Photos: Janus van den Eijnden
You’ll find ‘ARCO’ near the NEMO Science Museum: an arch-shaped shroud of light and projections. This work by the Austrian artist Teresa Mar consists of a semi-abstract composition of thoughts and events that all relate to Amsterdam in some way. The panoramic images form a kaleidoscopic film presenting glimpses of happiness, love and daily life in the city. From a distance ‘ARCO’ resembles a huge dome of glittering light, but as you approach, the images become apparent. With the reflection of the digital projection on open water, the work presents an enchanting image.
See it at: Oosterdok, opposite NEMO Science Museum
Location on the map: 3
Once you’ve seen ‘Blueprint’ by Reier Pos, you’ll never look at Het Scheepvaartmuseum in the same way again. The ten-minute light animation envelops the building in a futuristic projection that reveals its internal ‘blueprint’. Standing straight in front of ‘Blueprint’, it seems as if a giant artist is busy sketching and redesigning the building. A wonderful viewpoint to pause for a moment and to watch the skeleton of the façade being painted by laser beams.
See it at: Het Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam
Location on the map: 4
What’s he building in there
This puzzling light installation by Laurent de Wolf is perhaps less grand, but not any less intriguing than the previous ones. ‘What’s he building in there’ comes to life at night, showing an apartment with the silhouette of a man moving behind a window. The projection plays on our insatiable curiosity about other people’s lives, and gives peeping toms an excuse to peep to their heart’s content – and to let their imagination do the rest.
See it at: Herengracht, at Jonas Daniël Meijerplein
Location the map: 7/J
As the title suggests, ‘Rhizome House’ by DP Architects is inspired by the rhizome, which is the botanical name for a subterranean root-like complex. This light-emitting art work isn’t just a magnified representation of such a complex, but also offers a fascinating opportunity to actually crawl through the twisting roots. Those who dare await a pleasant surprise: this interactive installation reacts to the presence of visitors by changing colour.
See it at: Amstel, near Hermitage Amsterdam
Location on the map: 8/C
As a stranger in a city harbouring 180 nationalities, the Hungarian artist Viktor Vicsek wondered what Amsterdam looks like behind the tourist screens. This resulted in the enormous light sculpture ‘Nexus’, which playfully represents the connection between existing and new inhabitants of Amsterdam. This impressive work consists of 200 curved and coloured light tubes gracefully dancing through the air.
See it at: Amstelsluizen
Location the map: 9/D
Sea sparkles are bioluminescent organisms that congregate in summer and light up the Dutch coastline. The interactive installation ‘Lightwaves’ by Jólan van der Wiel and architectural office Benthem Crouwel Architects mimics the behaviour of these organisms. Whenever the wind blows, the 3300 LED lamps are activated and the shroud of light begins to sparkle. Since the art work is responsive to the (always unpredictable) Dutch weather, it presents a different sight each time. So that’s a good excuse to regularly stroll along the Amstel in the weeks ahead!
See it at: Amstel river, on the corner of Herengracht
Location on the map: 11/B
A Window in Time
For ‘A Window in Time’, the Dutch collective Motion Paintings developed special software to bring old photographs to life. The dynamic installation is fitted with LED spot lights and different coloured layers that combine to produce moving images of Amsterdam, throughout the ages. Tip: this visual experience can be enjoyed both day and night; at dusk the image changes, so it presents a surprise each time you pass by!
See it at Stadsarchief Amsterdam – De Bazel
Location on the map: 14
While the countryside around Amsterdam abounds with fields of flowers in spring, in winter there’s barely a flower to be spotted. Fortunately, ‘Flower Strip’ by Aether & Hemera offers some relief. This work consists of a stroke of 198 luminescent coloured flowers, bobbing on the water. The result is a surrealistic scene, straight from some wintertime fairy tale.
See it at: Herengracht, near Ambassade Hotel
Location on the map: 17
The giant light sculpture ‘The Lace’ by Choi+Shine Architects consists of 18 panels woven manually by 9 people. In total, the work consists of 33,000 metres of reflecting cable, weighing 650 kilos in all. This suspended installation depicts the traditional northern Dutch lace cap, to symbolise the cultural melting pot of Amsterdam. It is an impressive sight, both from a street-level and water-level perspective.
See it at: Herengracht, between Raadhuisstraat and Leliegracht
Location on the map: 18
Welcome to my (home)town
Nothing is what it seems; the art work ‘Welcome to my (home)town’ is a case in point. At first sight these houses seem three-dimensional, but as you approach you discover there’s an optical illusion at play. Seen from a different angle, the art work turns out to consist of a two-dimensional plane of illuminated line. It all depends on your perspective!
See it at: Herengracht, between Vijzelstraat and Reguliersgracht
Location on the map: 13
Amsterdam Light Festival map
See below for a guide to the locations of the artworks around the city. Head to the Amsterdam Light Festival website for the full, interactive version of the map.