Exquisite art installation shows Amsterdam flooded with water made from light (video)

Studio Roosegaarde Waterlicht
© Studio Roosegaarde

Twenty-six percent of the Netherlands is below sea level; for centuries man has been holding back the tides to keep the country from flooding. Dikes, dams, pumps and other defenses have kept the area from a watery fate, but would happen if those interventions weren’t there?

This is what Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde and his team at Studio Roosegaarde have envisioned in Waterlicht, a temporary art installation in Amsterdam's 8-acre Museumplein square. Known for their beautiful, interactive designs and environments, for Waterlicht they created a surreal landscape to swim within that speaks to the power and poetry of water.

"Waterlicht shows how the Netherlands would look without waterworks; a virtual flood," says Roosegaarde. "Innovation is seen throughout our landscape, pushed by the waterworks and our history, but yet we almost seem to have forgotten this."
"Water awareness is crucial, without all our waterworks, the Rijksmuseum for instance could be under water. That is why we support this initiative," says Gerhard van den Top of the local waterboard.

And in fact, it was the recent acquisition by the Rijksmuseum of the 17th century painting by Jan Asselijn of the Amsterdam flood in 1651 that prompted the Waterlicht exhibition. Wim Pijbes, general director of the Rijksmuseum, says, "The painting explains clearly the dutch situation: we have always lived under the sea-level.” The painting and installation are a natural marriage, both reflecting on the water history of the Netherlands and the interaction between man and nature.

Along with LED lighting, lenses and software, the effect relies on steam machines to produce mist that captures the light. The movement of the lights coupled with the undulating steam creates waves and currents made of mist and illumination. And as the local conditions change, so does the nature of the virtual water; wind pushes and pulls the “waves” … a watery world where viewers can float in a dream and imagine how the city would be if nature reclaimed its place.

Exquisite art installation shows Amsterdam flooded with water made from light (video)
Artist Daan Roosegaarde creates a surreal dreamscape of what the city would look like without flood control.

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