January 15, 2019

Amsterdam Light Festival #7

As regular travellers to Amsterdam, we know its little gems are usually hidden away off the beaten track. Not so for Amsterdam Light Festival Edition #7, however, which opened in November 2018 and runs to January 20 2019. The city centre exhibition consists of 29 light artworks, illuminated daily from 5-11 pm.

The festival website suggests that artworks ‘can be admired by boat, by bike or on foot.’ Many of the exhibits are on Herengracht so we took a boat – it was a perfect choice. Viewing light art from the water was quite magical, as we floated gently beneath them on our silent electric sightseeing boat, tucked up warmly under blankets fuelled by gluhwein and snacks!

Our favourites? We liked Strangers In The Light, the two six-metre pieces by Dutch duo Victor Engbers & Ina Smits, which pays homage to another major European city. Their concept – that the green and red Amplemen, essential components of Berlin’s pedestrian crossings, never get to see each other. But now they’ve escaped their black box and can finally communicate, what next? As the artists say: ‘Who knows, they might become friends or even fall in love…’


Canals connect all of central Amsterdam – and connections are at the heart of this next artwork A. N. N.. Its dynamic pulsing made it feel like a living and breathing organism! Which is exactly what its Hungarian creators Péter Koros, an engineer and furniture designer and Réka Magyar, a recent fashion designer graduate from Budapest art academy set out to achieve – they use moving light here to visualise brain activity.

The Netherlands is known as one of the leading advocates of sustainability and the circular economy – the idea of reuse rather than recycling. The festival encourages this kind of thinking in its artists. We loved Natuurlijk Licht by Meke Vrienten, which features over 40 upcycled and repurposed everyday domestic objects including fridges and microwaves, none of which were ever intended to be sources of public illumination. Together they form a tower of light next to the dark water of the Schippersgracht.

Referencing that most famous Dutch painter of all, Starry Night is a homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s work painted in 1889, based on the view from his asylum window at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. This work mimics the patterns made by the revolutionary Post Impressionist, updating them from his original medium of oil on canvas to LED with striking effect.

Finally, a big shout out to Gali May Lucas, a British artist and designer at Design Bridge, whose Absorbed By Light sculpture makes a subtly elegant statement about our other constant companions, our smartphones. Three figures sit together on a bench, their faces illuminated by their devices. Checking in with family and friends? Checking social media feeds? They may be in close proximity but their minds are elsewhere.

Related Links – Map – Strangers in the Light – Ann – Natuurlijk Licht – Starry Night – Absorbed by Light

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