You can enjoy the art of light in Amsterdam between 30 November, 2017, and 21 January, 2018. As darkness falls on these winter evenings, Amsterdam will transform into an open-air museum of light for the sixth year running. A city of light! Every shining light tells a story, just like those you see beneath you on a clear night as you come in to land at Schiphol. Or the fall of light in Rembrandt’s paintings in the Rijksmuseum.
Amsterdam Light Festival is a must, for tourists (native and foreign) and Amsterdammers. Under the patronage of Amsterdam’s recently deceased mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, the festival has evolved into something wonderful, attracting almost a million visitors in 2016! You’ll love it, I promise. Here’s six reasons why:
#1 The best of the best
The theme this year is existentialism. You have to imagine that, out of 1800 people who showed an interest, 900 international talents submitted proposals this year. From this number, 35 artworks and installations by international contemporary artists, designers and architects were chosen, which will illuminate the city centre. As you sail or stroll past the best light art in the world, you’ll definitely feel extremely existential ;-).
#2 Love the light: by boat, by bike, by foot
Check out the Amsterdam Light Festival website to find all the options. The water exhibition is, of course, along the Amsterdam canals and is lit until 23:00 hours everyday. The land exhibition is at the Marineterrein, walking distance from Amsterdam central Station. This is lit until 22:00 hours daily from 14 December, 2017, to 7 January, 2018. The water exhibition lasts a fortnight longer.
NB: The lights will be illuminated until 20:00 hours only on New Year’s Eve.
#3 The city inspires
Okay, without diving into too many history books, you do need to know a little about the history of light and art. Its origins lie in the centuries-old art of painting. The earliest light art began to flourish in the 1960s, when artists like Robert Irwin, James Turrell and Dan Flavin broke away from the confines of the museum.
The city became the ultimate source of inspiration, with light at its heart. Billboards, traffic lights and flashing neon signs, all screaming for attention, present the greatest challenge to light artists. Today’s technologies, such as LED and sophisticated projections, enable artists to say whatever they want to wherever they want to. They speak an international language.
#4 Ai Weiwei, my discovery of the year
The Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, has been the subject of international attention for many years, although I have to confess I have only recently discovered him myself. He is making his Light Festival debut in Amsterdam with the work “Thin Line”. With this 6.5 km-long line of light, Ai Weiwei questions the meaning of borders. Just imagine: a long, symbolic, border of light.
Ai Weiwei is also making a limited edition artwork for the Amsterdam Light Festival. The 100 signed works are made in the same material as the large one. I’ve been told that Weiwei has no truck with commercialism, but that he has made an exception this time, because the smaller piece will subsidise the making of the large installation. The 100 fans who have already bought his limited edition are thrilled!
2012 photo credit Ai Weiwei Studio
#5 Recycle en social responsibility
I can hear you thinking, “All that light and energy. And so much of it. How can you make these two things sustainable?” The Amsterdam Light Festival organisation has thought very hard about this. Over the years, 200 light installations have been recycled a number of times. Pearls of light travelling the world to Beijing, Tokyo, Shenzhen, Manchester, Singapore, and the Swedish city of Norrköpping, to name just a few.
#6 Time to reflect?
I’m going to admire the lights again this year with my family. Cycling along the canals is always something to look forward to anyway. And this year I will take the festival’s theme to heart. With Existential, the curators hope to stimulate visitors to think about what unites people and what role light might play in this. Just the topic to discuss with my own little 5- and 7-year old rays of light.
It’s always good to take time to reflect, every once in a while, I find. Just think about how light brings us closer together – it can’t hurt. KLM is one of the partners on this beautiful festival. It’s a pity that the artists are selected independently. I quite fancy the idea of a “Plane of Light” in the heart of Amsterdam;-). Who knows, perhaps Ai Weiwei will get an idea… If you’re reading this, Ai Weiwei, something with an aeroplane please… in blue light if you can!
The photos in this blog show some of the highlights of the Amsterdam Light Festival over the last few years. This year’s light art is, of course, still a surprise. You can go and see the light festival for yourself from 30 November, 2017. For more information go to: amsterdamlightfestival.com/en. And if you feel festive, this edition of iFly Magazine is all about Amsterdam.