January can sometimes be a bit of a boring month. Not when you’re in Helsinki! Since 2009 Helsinki kicks off the month with a five day Lux Helsinki -festival that lights up the city. This year it is on from the 4th till the 8th of January. Most of the artwork is on a 2,5 km route but there are some satellite artworks in other parts of the city and even in Espoo.
My friend from Tampere and I arranged to meet up in the capital to catch up and walk the Lux route. The installations are “open” from five pm till ten pm, so after spending the day together eating, drinking coffee and shopping, we made our way to the starting point at the Senate Square at five.
We were flabbergasted to see the crowd at the square, although having heard that there had been over 80 000 people at the festival the previous day, it should not have come as a surprise. The Helsinki Cathedral was illuminated with different images and colors. This was the SunWind -installation by Austrian light artist Teresa Mar.
We followed the crowds and the yellow Lux arrows to the next stop on the route. As there were so many people there, we had to queue for over ten minutes to see The Bridge in the Topelia courtyard. The installation was a fun, interactive one where you go through a walkway whilst red strings and lights engulf you. Everyone was busy taking photos and untangling themselves from the strings.
We then shuffled on to the Forest House where we had to queue even longer as only a thousand people were permitted in the courtyard at one time. This installation was not recommended for kids and there were warnings that it could be scary. The Color out of Space reminded me of Stranger Things and the upside down! It was about a meteorite that has strange effects on its surroundings.
Next we were caught up in quite a strange scenario when the crowds had to cross the road through three-four traffic lights which kept changing back to red very quickly. A silly way to take the route in my opinion! Again we had to shuffle along with the masses but were welcomed with larger pastures at the Lantern Park in the Kaisaniemi park. This consisted of four hundred different lanterns hanging from the trees. It’s interesting and also environmentally friendly that the lanterns from previous years are used again, as new ones are also added.
Walking through the park, we saw glimpses of the next work of art – the Large Fire Tornado. The fire tornado is created by combining fire with 36 industrial fans. It has to cool down in between “shows” for ten minutes so we had to wait around for a bit. It started getting quite chilly at this point, as we were just standing around.
I was interested to learn that a fire tornado is an actual phenomenon, that can happen during forest fires when a strong gust of wind lifts the hot and dry air upwards. The flame in this installation reaches 16 meters at best. A very current piece of art raising awareness to the horrific bush fires blazing in Australia.
At this point we realized that we would not have time to walk through the whole route because my friend’s train back to Tampere was to leave in thirty minutes. We then started speed walking and had a quick glimpse at a little owl perched on a tree branch called the Mirrorowl on our way to see the Magic Mirror letters illuminated on the water.
We then had to speed walk some more to the train station where my friend grabbed a cup of coffee for the ride and we parted ways. Unfortunately we missed the last two artworks on the route but since we’d managed almost all, we were quite pleased. If I were to go again, I would reserve over two hours to tour the whole thing as the crowds made progressing on the route extremely slow.
Have you been to see Lux Helsinki this year? Do you have a light festival like this in your city? You can read about the light festival I saw in Berlin here.