Lights!

The Amsterdam lights festival starts tomorrow and some of the exhibits are already set up, I spotted two on my cycle ride along Herengracht today.

Amsterdam Lights festival When I saw this in the distance I thought it was swim lanes which changed colour, even though it’s a little chilly for swimming. The colours change every few seconds and go through the colours of the rainbow. When I got closer I could see that it was rows of floating water lilies.

lights-1In fact it’s called Flower Strip, and on a calm night the reflections will be fabulous.

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This is Bridge of the Rainbow, I guess there’ll be a full rainbow by tomorrow night, but once again the reflections on this are great.

The location of all the artworks is listed on the Amsterdam Light Festival website, they’re all outside so you can wander (or cycle) the route for free. Alternatively there are boat cruises which are worth doing, as a lot of the artworks are oriented for viewing from a boat. There’s also a free walking route in the Hortus Botanicus area and guided tours. It’s one of the cool things in the city – I like finding the sculptures “accidentally”. It’s the perfect way to take advantage of the long winter nights.

Banksy is in Town

There are currently two exhibitions of Banksy’s work in Amsterdam. I went to the one at Beurs van Berlage, which has just been extended to the 7 January. It was great to see some of his most famous works collected together. His works always contain a juxtaposition that is thought provoking; there were one or two I could live with.

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The second exhibition is on at the Moco Museum on Museumplein and is on until the end of the year.

Summer Sculpture at the Rijksmuseum

The gardens of the Rijksmuseum have their own exhibition in summer, this year the sculptures are by Giuseppe Penone, who uses natural elements in unexpected ways – rocks land in trees, gold glints from within a tree, and marble reveals veins.

it’s it’s free to enter and wander around. I arrived before 10 and the garden was fairly empty, there’s a small espresso bar in the old summerhouse if you need some caffeine before going into the museum. Here are my highlights from the garden sculptures. (Scroll down for video).

The water sculpture is called “Hide and See(k)” and it’s by Jeppe Hein, it’s a series of water jets arrayed in a square within a circle and programmed to release water in a sequence. At times you can walk through it, so I did, and took this 360 degree view from within.

World Press Photos 2016

World Press Photo 2016It’s that time of the year – the World Press Photo Exhibition is on. This year’s “Photo of the Year” is, unsurprisingly, related to the refugee crisis. It shows a man passing a baby under a razor fence towards safety. So was it taken in a war zone? No. It was taken in Europe, on the border between Hungary and Serbia after Hungary closed the border to refugees. The image has been titled “Hope for a New Life”, but the image is imbued with desperation and doubt.

The World Press Photo Exhibition is always a review of the year’s tragedies and struggles, and the winning photo wasn’t the only one related to the crisis. There’s an emotional portrayal of the after effects of an airstrike in Douma, taken by Abd Doumany, one of the most heavily bombarded cities in Syria. They are images every politician should see, they are a reminder of the reality of the war in Syria, the real reason people are fleeing, the frightening reality behind those “migrants” in the flimsy boats.

The image that struck me the most of the Syrian images was this one, from Sameer Al-Doumy, who won for his series in the Spot News category. The people in the image are trying to carry family or friends to get medical attention following an airstrike. In a city that has been been bombed unrelentingly for 3 years, and has limited medical and hospital services. Something about their ghost-like appearance sticks with me.

Syrian GhostsNot every image is as searing as this, there were definitely some lighter moments.

In a long series about North Korea, David Guttenfelder chronicles a bleak, grey landscape, high regimentation, and some rather endearing ingenuity including this driving simulator to help new drivers.

driving simulationI’ve visited the exhibition almost every year since moving to the Netherlands and this is the first time that I’ve seen photos in the sports category that appealed to me. Vladimir Pesnya‘s award-winning series on the amateur ice hockey team in the small town of Vetluga is a charming glimpse of a local tradition – they play on a fenced off bit of natural ice. But the series that I really loved was Tara Todras-Whitehill’s third-prize Sports story on the Ebola survivors football team from Sierra Leone. So much joy found despite the sadness and loss the players have gone through.

Ebola Survivor's Football Team

The exhibition is on at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam until the 10 July, and then on tour around the world through to January 2017.

Festival des Métiers – Hermès Comes to Amsterdam

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the Festival des Métiers at the Amsterdam Manege. It’s a display of the craftsmanship that goes into Hermès products, by the artisans themselves. You’ll see how a saddle is stitched, the fine porcelain painting, see what goes into printing a scarf, and the minute hand-stitching used create the famous rolled edges. At each station there is an interpreter translating the explanations in French for Dutch audiences. Even if you don’t speak either of these languages you can still watch and be amazed at the skill, and I’m sure if you had a real question in English the interpreter could help.

I’ll never be able to afford one of their products, but I still felt privileged to see inside the factory as it were, I was in awe of the skill.

It’s open until Monday, and you can see more info online, or on facebook.

 

 

Hermès

The Light Fantastic; Amsterdam Light Festival

Looking for something spectacular to do on a cold dark night? Take a canal trip through the Amsterdam Light Festival, the creations are amazing, some expressing social commentary and some just for fun. It’s a bit of an obstacle course for the boats as well which adds to it. Here’s a highlight video produced for the festival.

I went last week with some colleagues. We managed to pick the worst night to do it, there had been a day of high wind and some of the exhibits had become a little unplugged. However it was still great fun. My photos from the night are below – taken from a rain soaked moving boat so not the best.

My favourites were the ghost ship, which is constructed from lights projecting on panels of water and changes as you move around it, and Tulip Mania, which has submerged tulips that rise up when people on the shore pump bicycle pumps. A special mention for the interactivity of the 178 Bottles 1 Message exhibit, which picks up the nationality of nearby visitors and projects their national flag (it’s based on the “nationality” of their phone).

Amsterdam light festival is on until 18 January, and you can view the exhibits by boat (for about 20 euro) or for free by walking through the city.

I liked it so much I am planning to go again!

The Trapdoor at the Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum designed by Cuypers was built as a “gate” to Amsterdam, as it stands just outside the line of the 18th Century city walls. It balances the Central Station, at the other end of the city, and also designed by Cuypers. It houses some of the most important artifacts of Dutch history and the famous of Dutch art, including the Night Watch. Here’s a view of it showing the gate structure at its centre, the Night Watch is displayed directly over the arch.nt_rijksmuseum2

The Night Watch went back into it’s former position when the Rijksmuseum was re-opened  – one of the few works not to be moved.

It’s considered the most famous painting by Dutch people, it has such cultural significance that it has its own escape hatch at the museum. A guide told me that there’s a trap door just in front of the painting, and the painting can be dropped to safety. The black section here is apparently the outside part of the trapdoor.

nt_rijksmuseum

The trapdoor wasn’t installed for the renovation though, it was installed in the early 1930’s, and used in 1939 to removed the Night Watch before the art-acquisitive Nazis arrived. The painting spent the war in hiding, as did a number of artworks from the Rijksmuseum. The museum could re-open following the war with an almost intact collection.