"Northern Lights" by Aleksandra Stratimirovic
Amsterdam Light Festival "Northern Lights" by Aleksandra Stratimirovic

Now celebrating its fourth edition, the Amsterdam Light Festival, which opened on Nov. 28 and runs through Jan. 17, 2016 (walking tours end on Jan. 3), celebrates the city with an array of installations designed by a lineup of emerging local and international artists. A collaborative effort between the city, cultural and academic institutions, and the business community, the festival can be explored via foot and via boat. This year’s festival theme is “Friendship” and the more than 40 art installations showcase Amsterdam’s rich architectural heritage and public spaces.

"Winged Migration" by Judith Hofland & Tessel Schmidt.
Amsterdam Light Festival "Winged Migration" by Judith Hofland & Tessel Schmidt.

Illuminade is a walking tour through Amsterdam's historic city center that features 20 installations. The route can be explored individually with the guide brochure or in groups led by a tour leader. Group tour participants can wear a luminous wristband that uses a wireless connection to link to the tour guide who is outfitted with a specially designed LED suit. This creates an additional light show on the guide's suit, depending on which artwork the tour is passing.

One installation on the Illuminade walk is "Winged Migration," by Dutch theater producer Judith Hofland and filmmaker Tessel Schmidt. Located in Amsterdam's oldest park—Wertheimpark, which opened in 1812—this interactive piece encourages visitors to enter a human-sized birdhouse in order to have a direct view of colorful flying birds projected onto a tree. The more people that enter the house, the more birds that appear to take flight. 

Another installation, "Melody Dots 21," is a multi-sensory sculpture by Berlin-based Japanese artist Yoko Seyama and German composer Dirk Haubrich that employs light, music, and wind to dazzle viewers. "Melody Dots 21" uses two spotlights, which rhythmically react to the music, and reflect the mobile, multicolored discs onto a semi-circular screen.

"Melody Dots" 21 by Dirk Haubrich & Yoko Seyama
Amsterdam Light Festival "Melody Dots" 21 by Dirk Haubrich & Yoko Seyama
"Talking Heads" by Viktor Vicsek.
Amsterdam Lighting Festival "Talking Heads" by Viktor Vicsek.

Water Color, the festival's water route is composed of 21 artworks that visitors can marvel at while enjoying a 75-minute-long canal cruise. The tour features lighting installations such as "Talking Heads" by Hungarian interactive designer Viktor Vicsek. For this installation, the designer has positioned two giant heads across from each other in the canal. Each is illuminated with 4,000 individually-controllable LEDs, and they react to one another as if in conversation, creating various facial expressions. As spectators float by the heads' conversation is interrupted and festival participants can communicate with the glowing faces.

Another installation, "Paths Crossing," by Dutch artist Ralf Westerhof, is created from 16 meters (52.4 feet) of continuous, multicolored string lights that stretch across the canal and form cartoon-like figures engaged in activities that illuminate as visitors float by. 

"Paths Crossing" by Ralf Westerhof.
Amsterdam Light Festival "Paths Crossing" by Ralf Westerhof.

For full details about the installations, visit the festival website