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DISRUPT : Amsterdam Light Festival 2019/20

A little note to start... With everything that is currently going on I think now is a good time to take a look back on some of the light festivals, a time to collect ourselves and appreciate the good times we have had in the last few months or even years.

There are so many different resources that have been made available so that you can still access art from the comfort of your own home. I will aim to upload another blog post soon with some useful links that will still let you get your art-fill.


Utilising the canal network and characteristic terrace houses the Amsterdam light festival transforms the landscape. Reflections bounce off the illuminated waterways, bridges are reinvented through lines of light and the compact building architecture allows for suspended light art to seemingly scribble in the sky.

Finding my field within the art world

“Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.” —James Turrell

The first time I visited the Amsterdam Light Festival it was in January 2019 for edition no.7. My art practice at this time lacked a strong focal point and although I was enjoying the freedom, during my second year of undergraduate study, I wanted to find the area of art that truly inspired me. When I visited the Amsterdam Light Festival in 2019 I found something that inspired me on another level, this became my passion and till this day it has been the focus of my work.

Comparative overview of Edition 7 and Edition 8

In January 2019 7th Edition I experienced the Light Festival only by canal cruise, the recommended form of transport to view the works. In January 2020 for the 8th Edition I initially saw the artworks by cruise and then returned to a few specific pieces by foot to get a more in depth view. The primary difference between the two editions of festival was the route size, Edition 7 involved 29 individual artworks whereas Edition 8 had only 20 displayed along a slightly different and shorter route than the previous year. The theme also changes each year with Edition 7 entitled ‘The Medium is the Message’ and Edition 8 ‘DISRUPT!’.

EDITION#7: 29.11.18 - 20.01.19 "THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE"

EDITION #8: 29.11.19 -19.01.20 "DISRUPT!"

DISRUPT! The theme, the works, the message

This past year the festival focused on how light can express the disruption within the world, offering a contemplation on how humans are directly disrupting nature. While disruptions can sometimes have a detrimental effect they can sometimes provide a positive change. The festival this year aimed to spark up discussions with the 20 artists selected for exhibition all interpreting the concept of disruption uniquely.

One linking idea that appears in association with the concept of disruption is humanity’s disruptive effect on nature and our climate. The need for balance between the natural world and humanity has created unease, for example climate change causing a rise in sea levels expressed through Surface Tension.

The continual adaptable world we live in expressed through Order/Disorder where light and kinetic movement combine to express the rapidly evolving world we live in. The movement creating order and aesthetic serenity one moment and disorder and chaos the next.

How about now we consider a more personal interpretation of disruption. Nothing Holding Us uses suspended neon tubes to create a visual explosion effect designed to reflect on how a moment in our lives can so fundamental change us. A life-changing experience changes us and the artist calls for you to consider how your life may never be the same again.

Left to right: Surface Tension - Tom Biddulph & Barbara Ryan, Order/Disorder - Lambert Kamps, Nothing Holding Us - Ben Zamora


Although the festival route was shorter this year there was still a variety of artworks to see and appreciate. The transformation of the canals is stunning and by situating a light festival along the canal network Amsterdam works well as a home to these light artworks. The way the water reflects the light adds to the impact of the pieces featured above water while the organisers ensure to also incorporate the artworks into their city, some pieces and semi-submerged like the cars in Surface Tension while some work incorporates the architecture of pre-existing structures like Nacht Tekening’s bridge illumination.

Amsterdam itself is abundant in cultural gems with galleries such as: Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk museum, Van Gogh museum, Moco museum ect. While these museums offer wonderful exhibitions on work from various eras I appreciate Amsterdam’s effort to develop with the evolving art world, creating public sphere work accessible to all which invites people to consider art as more than just a painting hung on a gallery wall.

Research resources:

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