The Erottaja Fire Station as you’ve never seen it before during the Lux light festival in Helsinki on January 7, 2018. The tower is 42 meters high and resembles Giotto’s Bell Tower in Florence, Italy. The fire station, designed by Theodor Höijer and built in 1891, is the oldest fire station in Helsinki that is still in use. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The tenth annual Lux Helsinki light festival started on Epiphany, brightening the streets of the capital and extending the Christmas feeling for these long wintry nights. Signs of the festival’s popularity were evident as soon as we entered the terminal of the new western metro and by Tapiola station, there was standing room only in the carriage. At the Helsinki center, Aleksanterinkatu was busy and the Saturday crowds gently flowed towards the start of this year’s festival near the Swedish theater.

The first impressive and colorful architectural light installation was found at the old Erottaja Fire Station.  The large red brick building with high tower changed hues and colors together with choreographed lights from inside the windows. At this point, the crowd came to a snail’s pace and filled the whole street apart from just enough width for a fire engine to go out on call just as we were passing.

It was so busy that we were forced to walk at the slow pace of the crowd but eventually came to the Lanterns in Koulupuistikko Park in front of the Design Museum. Hundreds of unique lanterns created a dreamlike and magical atmosphere. This year’s lanterns were made by students from Aalto University, Aleksis Kivi Primary School, Kallio Upper Secondary School and Helsinki Upper Secondary School of Visual Arts, proving that a lantern can be made of anything, especially recycled materials.

The best installation of the festival was in the courtyard behind the Design Museum. Clever use of moving light and shade changed the appearance of the rear façade of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, so much so it made the building look as though it was moving. Combined with music it certainly had the WOW factor and the 300-second countdown to the next performance tempted the audience to wait for another viewing. Janne Ahola’s installation Time’s Role aimed to break down the physical boundaries of perspective and it certainly did just that. The music for Time’s Role was created by Aki Päivärinne.

A look in Jim Bond’s eye could put you through the wringer. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Going with the flow of the crowd we passed the delightful bright colors of the Ultraviolet Gallery created by six Finnish graffiti artists and then paused in Kasarmintori Square.  Lebanese-Palestinian artist Alaa Minawi’s internationally renowned minimalistic neon light installation My Light is Your Light represents a fleeing refugee family. Appropriately set outside the Finnish Ministry of Defence and alongside the new memorial to Soldiers of the Winter War (1939 – 1940), of which 25,000 gave their lives defending Finland from Soviet aggression; it is moving and topical, the installation reminded us of the consequences of war, the refugees and suffering.

Kalle Mustonen’s ‘The Rabbit and the Moonlight’ can be found in the darkness of the Esplanade Park. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

A few of the installations didn’t work for me. In Rikhardinkatu, the big TV screen in the back of a shipping container and called Subliminal was supposed to be simulated three-dimensional images created by subliminal data flow controlled by artificial intelligence, it was so below my conscious that I didn’t get it. Neither did the crowds who only lingered briefly.  In Sofiankatu I discovered where all the old overhead projectors (OHPs) have disappeared to from the classrooms following the invention of the smart whiteboard. Unfortunately, Sofiankatu is quite narrow and it was difficult to get far enough from the projection to view the installation better and appreciate what it was trying to achieve.

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“’Sugar Cube’ is a celebration of the society of being,” according to its creator Tülay Schakir, a Finnish visual artist and light designer when describing her light art experience on the Espa Stage opposite the Kappeli Restaurant in Esplanade Park. A very cheerful installation with bright, pretty colors and also attractive to watch all those sugary combinations changing non-stop.

László Bordos’ ‘Konstellaatio’ is the last stop on the Lux route. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Finally, in Senate Square, the street lights were switched off and the windows of the surrounding classical buildings gently lit, giving a dramatic setting to the final large installation.  The iconic white Lutheran Cathedral was blue for Independence Day but now with Lux, it was beyond imagination, with effects that made it move and look unreal. An amazing display by László Bordos from Hungary who transformed Helsinki Cathedral into a fantastic projection surface. The installation was inspired by the album Konstellaatio by the Finnish musician, Mika Vainio, who died recently. Bordos and the organizers of Lux have dedicated this light show to the memory of Mika Vainio.

We didn’t manage to see everything because of the crowds of folks but there was certainly something for everyone. Overall a great inspirational and entertaining walk around the district of Kaartinkaupunki.  I may well go and have another round during the week but remember the last night will be Wednesday, January 10.