Light is a remarkable medium for artists because it communicates information across several different dimensions: brightness tells audiences where to look, color informs our emotions, and quality can determine a viewer’s affinity. But what happens when the light is the art?
What is the Amsterdam Light Festival?
Amsterdam Light Festival is a public-private collaboration between the municipality, the cultural sector and numerous businesses of Amsterdam that runs throughout the holiday season. For the duration of the festival, (Nov 30th to January 21st, 2018) Amsterdam’s city center is transformed into an open light museum with artworks and installations made by contemporary artists, designers, and architects a water exposition on the city’s canals and a land exposition on the Marineterrein. There are 35 artworks in total, among them is thinline by Ai Weiwei that, in an exceptional feat, connects all the festival's installations throughout Amsterdam.
What is the significance of “thinline?”
Considered to be one of the most important living artists, Ai Weiwei has become a leading figure through his art in the global conversation surrounding the refugee crises and other dissident themes. Thinline is no exception.
Ai Weiwei recognized the unique qualities of the lighted fiber. For someone who has not seen or held this fiber, it’s difficult to describe -- its delicacy and allure. For Ai Weiwei, this was the art. These qualities made it the medium he wanted to use for his piece at the Amsterdam Light Festival.
In addition to its actual meaning, a thin red line, thinline provokes discussions about the meaning and the consequences of boundaries; who decides where the line is drawn and who enforces it? Who has access and who is denied? Whether we are permitted to cross lines like these often depends on your place of birth or residence: are you aware of your physical and mental freedom of movement, something that has such a large influence on your daily existence?
For passersby, the piece evokes a variety of reactions and emotions. For some, the line represents comfort and a sense of security. Other passersby note feeling apprehension and discomfort, almost fear as if to wonder what the barrier is keeping separate and why it’s not more distinctive among such enormous light displays. But for many, after seeing this line wrap for kilometers around the canal, it fades away into the background -- just how Ai Weiwei had envisioned. Perhaps it’s his way of saying: barriers exist whether we’re aware of them or not and it’s up to us to open our eyes.
How did “thinline” come to life?
To create thinline Ai Weiwei needed almost 7 kilometers of uniform lighting for hanging along the canals. The piece was accomplished with 65 meter long segments that were connected by double-sided red lasers and specially made housings that would allow the fiber to be affixed along the canal.
Art installations for the Amsterdam Light Festival must be durable, and water resistant enough to remain outside for two months in damp weather, but temporary so that they can be removed when the show is over. To protect and support the fiber, it was encased in a very light and transparent polycarbonate tube. This combination of fiber and casing helped Ai Weiwei achieve an art piece that was visible, yet invisible simultaneously.
In addition to thinline, the artist created a number of smaller artworks exclusively for Amsterdam Light Festival. The 100 signed pieces, thinline, limited edition, are a semi-circular piece of fiber mounted on a mirror. The structure creates the optical illusion of a full, suspended glowing circle, thanks to the flawless termination of the fiber against the mirror. The illusion is suspended in an elegant acrylic cube. Due to high demand from art collectors around the world, these limited edition pieces sold out in just 3 weeks!
This art installation would not have been possible without our partner Infraconcepts. It was their enthusiasm and hard work that made Ai Weiwei’s vision a reality. And, their support as a sponsor for the for Amsterdam Light Festival has made a tremendous impact within the Netherlands.
Thinline and the Amsterdam Light Festival has been covered in international publications such as The Guardian, ZDF, and The New York Times. Click here to learn more about the Amsterdam Light Festival.