During dark winter months we often miss the sunrays of summer, limiting our exploration of the outside world. Amsterdam Light Festival recently sought to fight this evil, brightening up a city with light installations and adorning it with the best of what contemporary artists have to offer.
A combination of art, water and light, the festival showcased the work of both Dutch and international artists who transformed quaint nooks of Amsterdam into fantastic, open air stages for creativity. The artworks on display were appreciated during walking and boat tours, the latter of which is perhaps one of the most beloved ways to discover the iconic city that continues to draw tourists from all corners of the globe.
This latest version of the festival centred on the theme of ‘friendship’ and showcased some amazing installations such as ‘my light is your light...’ created by Palestinian artist Alaa Minawi. This work consists of six life-sized figures made of neon tubes, their heads bent is distress. They represent the lives of refugees, who “are forced to leave all their possessions behind but also their past and ideas for the future,” explains Minawi. A refugee in Lebanon himself, the artist has chosen to work with neon because it exudes a soft, gentle light, much like the one of someone who has been forced to leave their home. In a city known for its open, tolerant and warm-hearted spirit, Minawi’s ‘my light is your light...’ engages in the current debate of the refugee crisis in Europe in a very conscious way.
Another highlight of the recent festival was Ralf Westerhof’s piece ‘Paths Crossing’, a 160 metre long light installation over the canals that came to life as you sailed beneath it. The work consists of colourful lines, with each colour representing a person, and telling of stories of friendship that begin to unfold in front of viewers' eyes. Some lines intersect, symbolising growing friendships whilst others narrate certain stages of life, such as childhood. The universality of this installation is mirrored in the fact that our paths do cross, sometimes momentarily and others for a lifetime.
‘Today I Love You’ is the contribution of Italian artist Massimo Uberti, strategically located in front of Amsterdam’s central train station to greet everyone arriving in the city. This simple sentence represents the beautiful sensation of being loved, with the use of the word ‘today’ signalling that there is no tomorrow. Uberti’s idea of turning these poetic words into matter using light allows the viewers to feel loved and comforted every single time they see this installation.
Now a private foundation, the festival started as an initiative created by numerous entrepreneurs and finds support amongst the capital’s cultural institutions and light-lovers alike. Though it may be dark outside, we know that there is always light – and some of its beauty radiates from the city of Amsterdam.
Find out more about Amsterdam Light Festival: www.amsterdamlightfestival.com
Words: Astrid Scheuermann