Every year Amsterdam is transformed into an illuminated masterpiece of light and art during the Amsterdam Light Festival from November until January.
Since this year’s Light Festival was coming to an end, I couldn’t resist seeing what the event is all about and booked a night time canal cruise during my visit to Amsterdam last week. It was a miserable and rainy day, but I decided not to let the weather spoil my stay. What better way to avoid the rain than on a cosy canal boat with a cup of mulled wine? The boat tour started just outside Amsterdam’s Central Station and a ticket was 20,50€ for a 75 minute canal cruise.
I took a seat at the back of the boat while the captain introduced himself to the mainly Dutch crowd on board. The windows were starting to steam up and it became increasingly difficult to see through them. I noticed a few people heading to what I assumed to be an outside area and decided to follow suit. I peeked outside and knew I had a decision to make. I could stay in the warmth, have my mulled wine and look at the illuminations through the foggy windows or I could stand on the back half of the boat, be rained on and enjoy a breath-taking view of a glowing Amsterdam. I choose the latter and let me tell you, it was worth it.
The Amsterdam Light Festival 2015/2016
This year’s Light Festival was dedicated to “friendship” and featured the artwork of national and international artists. Here are some of my personal favourites of this colourful spectacle.
This hypnotising piece has been created by the Chilean artists Macarena Meza and Daniela Orallana and is based on a mandala, which symbolises unity and harmony between peoples.
This piece by Anita Doornhein was a particular highlight for me, as the boat didn’t just pass the artwork, but drove right through it and gave the observer the feeling of momentarily entering a different world. The artist herself says: ‘When a boat sails in, the sensors are activated, changing the colours of the Lightwave. Visitors see dynamically flowing hues in oxygenated blues, turquoises and silver. Images of water and air bubbles give you the feeling of sailing under water, or underneath an iceberg.’
Bands of Friendship
The Bands of Friendship and their popping colours reminded me of the Olympic rings. The two Indian architects Vikas Patil and Santosh Gujar that have created the piece had something much more simple and moving in mind. They based the piece on the bands of friendship, the bracelets young people often carry on their wrists to symbolise eternal friendship. The bands represent the European Union from an outsider’s perspective. Depending on your point of view, the bands can be separate or be combined to one strong union.
This artwork is truly spectacular. The Hungarian artist Viktor Vicsek has made these “Talking Heads” become alive by using 4000 individually controllable LED lights that communicate via WIFI. The same way humans subconsciously react to each other’s facial expressions; these two react to the movement of each other and visitors. What a clever way to combine technology and art!
Freedom as a Valuable Friend
I found this piece created by artist Erik Sok especially moving as it had a great deal of personal meaning to me. Freedom has always been something I rate very highly and essentially it was freedom that gave me the courage to make me leave my day job and move into travel writing. Freedom really is a valuable friend, this is something I never want to lose sight of again.
Although the Amsterdam Light Festival 2015/2016 has now finished, artists and light architects can apply until the 11th March for their art to be featured in the fifth Amsterdam Light Festival starting in November 2016.