A city of light

by Lindsy Long

In a small residential neighborhood in the quiet city of Eindhoven in southern Netherlands, colourful lights decorate the surface of three residential houses.

The lights are part of the project "Nature & Architecture", a concept created by audio-visual artist Noralie van den Eijnde and executed by children, architects and residents for the city's annual GLOW lights festival.

A light show is nothing new for Hongkongers. Hong Kong is famous for its 13-minute long daily light and sound show "A Symphony of Lights" over Victoria Harbour, recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world's largest of its kind.

This $44 million project organised by Hong Kong Tourism Board has attracted millions of visitors since it started in 2004.

But unlike Hong Kong's mission of attracting tourists, GLOW is wants to achieve something different.

Around 50 light artists are participating in this year's GLOW light in art and architecture festival in Eindhoven, an interactive cultural event that attracted around 730,000 visitors in November this year, according to GLOW's official website.

Over one week, various spots in the city were transformed into a temporary theatre. Like the Nature & Architecture show, residents in the project areas were also invited to participate in the projects.

Artist Ms van den Eijnde specialises in designing multidisciplinary experiences with light, video and sound. This year, she was invited by the GLOW organizers to produce a social project for the neighbourhood themed on the nature and architecture.

Residents used a broad selection of materials such as plants, ribbons, and plastic pieces for residents to make their DIY projects.

"Children seemed to enjoy the preparation work and their parents were very supportive in assisting me to direct the process," Ms van den Eijnde said.

Eugene Franken, one of the participants and owners of the projected houses, said the project was extraordinary and he enjoyed making the neighborhood a beautiful public space.

"It is weary to see an endless stream of people passing by for the whole week, but the reaction of the public is positive and it is also nice to see the project from inside of my house," Mr Franken said.

This year, Glow celebrated its 10th anniversary by providing a platform for new experiments with lights. This year, it emphasized innovative light concepts, new techniques and insights.

Combining light and energy saving, emotion and health becomes the directives of the projects.

"Glow is a fantastic event which not only shows the beauty of Eindhoven but also provides a platform for participation of citizens. It is fun to be creatively involved and see how professional artists work," Jurgen Krikke, another participant said.

Video mapping technique was also used in Noralie's work.

It is usually created by digital 3D models with illusions made by animated fake light or movement.

However, Noralie used real objects and showed people's hands instead of using animation software.

"The projection shows the actual process of people earthing up the seeds, grass growing and tree blossoming.

The projection images perfectly fit with the projected house, making the interaction between animation and real objects a very impressive visual effect," said Tianshu Yue, an exchange student from China who heard about this event from a local friend.

"Eindhoven has always been a city with a prosperous industry. Within the city's cultural programme, GLOW is an event that fades the boundaries between art and technology," said Claudia Hermans, the marketing and hospitality representative of GLOW.

Sponsored by the municipality of Eindhoven, GLOW is just one of the examples of the Netherlands promoting cultural participation.

This year, the Dutch government's spent 733.7 million euro (HK$6.05 billion) on culture, such as art and culture promotion and subsidising entrance fees for exhibitions and museums.

Cultural participation and education is currently a national priority area for development in the Netherlands.

According to a government publication, nearly 90 per cent of the population in the Netherlands attends cultural events, ranking second in Europe.

"Culture is not one-way; you can't spoon-feed people with culture. You need to let them experience it, make them do it by themselves," said Ms Hermans.

(Edited by Yanis Chan)

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