View on Amsterdam: the Highlights of the Light Festival 2016 of the Capital City

English version: Estelle Roijmans

The canals in Amsterdam appear are filled with lighting objects: a pink dog, giant tulips, a writing exalting love, a rainbow…

Far from being Christmas decorations, they are some of the installations realized by the Amsterdam Light Festival, visible till the 22nd of January 2017.

The fifth edition of this exposition under the stars became an important characteristic of winter in the capital city of the Netherlands.

Like every year, the festival twists and turns through the main canals of the city, proposing a series of artworks created for the event concerning the same theme. This year, festival artistic director Rogier van der Heide has required the artists to create illustrations that are directly related to Amsterdam: the theme View on Amsterdam had inspired more than 500 artists from 45 different Countries, from which a jury had selected the 35 more interesting projects.

The artists have interpreted this theme in different ways: an example is the Russian artist Tatiana Titova, who made a dog-shaped sculpture named Wolfert’s Dog, which was based on a legend of the creation of Amsterdam. It is a story about a Nordic prince that founded the city when  the dog of the Frisian fisherman had led him through a storm… and it was exactly on the mouth of the Amstel river.

Another example of a work about the history of the city, is the installation Blueprint by the artist Reier Pos that touches upon the Scheepvaartmusem with a lighting web that celebrates not just architecture, but also the story of the East Indian Company (VOC) and its lasting bond with Amsterdam, the sea, and the trades.

The artwork of Motion Paintings is also related to the history of the city: symbolically they focus building of the city archive is, the murals A window in Time, which is a jump back between the past and the present of the capital.

Other artists focused more on the most popular symbol of Amsterdam and the Netherlands: the tulip, which was re-interpreted on a monumental scale by the Hungarian Peter Kors, with Bunch of Tulips.

Italian designers Aether&Hemera used images on postcards of tulips lying on the horizon, proposing the poetic version with the artwork Flower Strip, composed by floating lights on the dark water of the canals.

The studio Choi+Shine Architects got inspiration from the traditional lace head covering used by Dutch women, to create an artwork that looks to soar.  The LACE is a delicate artwork, different from the others, because it’s not made by lighting material. This causes the artwork keep the evanescent and variable characteristic of the light.

An interesting thought on these national symbols is the artwork Souvenir by Erik Kessels: facing the mass tourism and the obsession to own an memory-object, the Dutch artist said that “memories are souvenirs too”, exactly between Leidsestraat and the Flower Market where there are many of shops selling magnets and other baubles.

Other artworks are more focused on the tolerant and multicultural image of Amsterdam: the rainbow Bridge of the Rainbow refers to the colours of the LGBTQIA community to praise the open minded policy towards all sexual orientations.

Together is an artwork by Italian artist Luigi Console and Valentina November, that screams in  huge letters “Danger. Love is contagious”. The writing is in 5 different languages, and is connected to the tradition of conceptual art, work and neon. It also makes you think of the multicultural peculiarity of Amsterdam, where more than 180 different nationalities meet: is love the base of living together? Why should that be dangerous? Is it really true that the perception of this writing would be the same in all languages and cultures?

In the end, the most popular symbol of the Dutch city was addressed: the bicycle! 15000 and more by Studio Klus refers to the statistic that estimate the incredible number of 15000 bikes is found every year in the canals. It is also unclear what that means in terms of sustainability, waste management and viability.

Poetry and art are reflected in the city, that is the fil rouge of many artworks presented during the festival. This is possibly because of the peculiarity of this exposition, that asks the artists to create artworks for a specific place: a unique chance to discover or re-discover the city in neon light.


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