Each year, in the dark of the Finnish mid-winter, a festival of light art (i.e. art installations primarily using light) is organized by the city of Helsinki. This year we took a walk from Senaatintori to the Olympic stadium to see what local and international artists had created. Despite the cold it was an enjoyable way to spend an evening, although I do hope they have some warmer weather for the remaining days!

Helsinki central railway station's stone men wearing a different colour - Saturday night's stop for the Pink Caravan installation.

Helsinki central railway station’s stone men wearing a different colour – Saturday night’s stop for the Pink Caravan installation.

Of the 12 installations (details on the festival’s homepage), we had a few favourites… I enjoyed seeing the central railway’s Kivimiehet (the four stone men flanking the main entrance) dressed in pink. This was part of the Pink Caravan (by Ainu-Eliina Palmu) which is illuminating different Helsinki landmarks each evening of the festival. The light show projected onto the Tuomiokirkko was also impressive, and was well complemented by a booming soundtrack (you can see a video of it courtesy of Ralf Holm on Youtube). Jenni Kääriäinen’s Sodium Sun installation also matched lights with music, and was a really interesting piece, despite initially seeming quite plain (located between the Kiasma and the Musiikkitalo). The installation is meant to mimic the sun, and are turned on and off with the setting and rising of the sun. The sodium lamps used in the piece were originally used on the Helsinki-Tampere highway – they are very energy efficient lights because the only emit a narrow range of yellow light (so not useful for indoor lighting)… which also made for really interesting lighting of all the visitors to the installation too!

Jenni Kääriäinen’s Sodium Sun used old sodium lamps which only give off a narrow spectrum of yellow light...

Jenni Kääriäinen’s Sodium Sun used old sodium lamps which only give off a narrow spectrum of yellow light…

Only a 100 meters from Sodium Sun was a temporary stage where four fire-dancers were performing (the well-named Etna troupe). They were a pleasure to watch and the specially composed music had a fun and fresh sound. But standing still in a breezy spot was not a good idea for us (despite being well dressed for the cold), so we headed off before their performance was quite done. We took brief refuge in the rather beautiful Musiikkitalo to warm up, before visiting the grounds of the Hakasalmen huvila (one of the city’s museums) to see Twinsen Ho’s Little Spirits. It was a really fun installation, with pulses of different colours of light climbing up and around trees, before meeting on the villa’s lawn.

Light racing through the trees and along the lawn outside Hakasalmi Villa

Light racing through the trees and along the lawn outside Hakasalmi Villa

We then walked north, through Hesperianpuisto, following a trail of lanterns (made chiefly by art and design students from Aalto University, Theatre Academy Helsinki and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences) to Philippe Morvan’s Cosmogole. This was a great way to end the evening – a short show combining three types of lights with music – it was quite mesmerizing! You can find videos of the installation online (for example here on Youtube you can see a previous version).

Lanterns in the Töölö Bay park

Lanterns in the Töölö Bay park

Catching the 8 Tram home we glimpsed the Olympic Tower all lit up – if we’d been warmer it would have been fun to see it from closer… And it also turns out that we missed on an interactive light installation in Baana and a specially decorated tram – there’s lots to see, and we can recommend that you brave the winter dark to see it all!

 

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