Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

'Something alive' occupies lamppost in amsterdam light festival

AUAS and AHK students collaborate on 'Translucent' artwork

23 Dec 2016 12:12 | Communication

One lamppost in Amsterdam is definitely different from all the others. This lamppost seems to be ‘run’ by a small light accommodated in the post. It also reacts to passers-by. The ‘light’ artwork, called Translucent and located on the Mr. Visserplein square, is one of the last objects along the Amsterdam Light Festival's walking route. Translucent was made by three students from the Breitner Academy (AHK) and two ICT students from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS).

By day, the Translucent lamppost looks like any other lamppost. However, as dusk falls at lighting up time, the moment thousands of lampposts throughout Amsterdam are switched on, this one appears to be stirred and awoken by a small light playing around inside it. This small light slowly rises, giving the impression that it ignites the larger light at the top of the post.


When curious passers-by are attracted closer, this 'living light being' immediately reacts to them. For example if a crowd gathers around the pole, the light will react by shooting here and there. The more attention the light garners during the day, the bigger it becomes. The light will also follow the movements of the person in front of it to create the illusion of being in contact with the viewer.


That’s the story and the way it appears to anyone observing the lamppost. In reality however, there are in excess of 3800 LED lights inside this lamppost reacting to the sensors below. The AUAS ICT students programmed the LED lights to respond to various signals. For example, the program directs the light to appear to float upwards whenever someone approaches closely or for certain colours to display if a particular movement is detected.

"The notion however is that the technological muscle shouldn’t be immediately obvious," observes Verena Hall, Breitner Academy (AHK) student. "Most of all, as artists we hope to sweep people along with the fairy tale, the aesthetic."


Verena explains the 'fairy tale' that the students desire to evoke with Translucent: "In days gone by, appointed lamplighters would go round the city lighting the oil lamps in the lampposts. These days the thousands of lampposts in Amsterdam just come on automatically as it turns dark; hardly anyone notices. By giving the impression something is 'alive' in the pole, we hope people will once again become aware of how special it is when the lights are illuminated."


There is another thought underpinning the Translucent light piece: the notion of investing 'life' into a technological object. A current hot topic: "With artificial intelligence developing, people are sometimes given the impression of being in contact with a robot or device, while no real life actually exists behind the facade. For Translucent we were looking for something that gives the impression of being alive; such as interaction." Translucent therefore skirts the border zone between smart technology and life.

Translucent can be seen in 'Illuminade ', the walking route part of the 5th edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival, which runs from 15 December 2016 to 22 January 2017. The Translucent artwork will remain at the Mr. Visserplein square for four years.


Translucent was created by Teun de Boer, Hanna Betsema and Verena Hall (Breitner Academy) and François Bisschop and Maurice Keetman (AUAS) in cooperation with the ArTechLAB and the Citizen Data Lab at the Amsterdam Creative Industries Network (collaboration between AUAS, AHK and Inholland).

For more information, please contact Verena Hall, Breitner Academy (AHK) student: