»Breaking Waves« by DRIFT / Illustration

Drift: Spectacular light installations in Hamburg

To mark the Elbphilharmonie’s fifth anniversary, the Dutch designer duo brings breathtaking light sculptures to the city on the Elbe.

Surrounded by water on three sides, the Elbphilharmonie offers a complete experience made up of music, architecture and nature. To mark the fifth anniversary of Hamburg’s new emblem, the Dutch designer duo DRIFT from Amsterdam lights up the city with its internationally acclaimed light and kinetic sculptures. An exhibition devoted to DRIFT’s work is running in Hamburg’s Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Arts & Crafts Museum) from 7 January to 8 May 2022. And on 28 April 2022, the façade of the Elbphilharmonie will be lit up by a light installation specially created to celebrate the concert hall’s fifth anniversary.

  • The artists’ duo DRIFT

    Founded in 2007 by Lonneke Gordijn (b. 1980) and Ralph Nauta (b. 1978), DRIFT uses technology to make natural phenomena and secret properties of nature visible. »The world itself is one big exhibition« – thus Gordijn’s description of the philosopher behind their fragile art. »You just have to look closely. At Studio Drift we want to depict the wonders that surround us in nature.«

Exhibition: Moments of Connection :7 January – 8 May 2022 | Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe

With its most extensive presentation in Germany to date, the artists’ duo DRIFT turns 350 square metres of the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (MK&G) into a realm of sensory experience. Three spectacular kinetic sculptures demonstrate Man’s deep connection with nature: shining dandelion seeds, magnificent silk flowers that gracefully open and close, and a spatial installation that imitates birds in flight

Three walk-in sculptures

The »Fragile Future« series that can be seen in the Arts & Crafts Museum MK&G combines high-technology with poetic imagery. Studio DRIFT picked real dandelion seeds by hand, arranged them one after the other around individual LED lamps and connected them to copper circuits. With this labour-intensive process, Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta also speak out against mass production and today’s throwaway culture. They ask whether the rapid technological developments of our time are really any more progressive than the evolution of nature.

The spacious main staircase of the museum welcomes visitors with a mobile still-life depicting development and decay: the touching choreography of the light sculpture »Shylight« imitates the unfolding and closing of flowers using many layers of wafer-thin silk. Gordijn und Nauta of DRIFT were fascinated by the ability that some plants have to close at night in order to protect themselves and conserve their resources. This process, the artists say, reminded them of human beings and their emotional balance.

»In 20 Steps« is a tribute to the dream of flight – Man’s longing to cast off his earthly fetters. DRIFT translates this persistent wish into a spatial sculpture of immense impact: 20 delicate pairs of glass wings beat above the visitor’s head like the wings of a bird – artificially reproduced by weights that glide to and from inside tubes.

Lonneke Gordijn of the artists’ duo DRIFT talks to Tulga Beyerle, director of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe.

»Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) »Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) »20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) »Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) »Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) »20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) © Juuke Schoori
»Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) »Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) »Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge

Elbphilharmonie: Breaking Waves :28 April 2022 | Light sculpture on the façade of the Elbphilharmonie

DRIFT has also created a work of art especially for the Elbphilharmonie that will make the outside of the building shine in a new light. The installation reflects the Elbphilharmonie’s surroundings and its interior: water and music. The interaction between the movements of the river water and those inside the building form the key element of »Breaking Waves«. »We humans are subject to many kinds of wave movements, and we can merge with the undulating motion,« Lonneke Gordijn explains.

Owing to the pandemic, the premiere of »Breaking Waves« has been postponed to 28 April, the day when the 2022 Hamburg International Music Festival opens. Hamburg people and visitors will be able to observe the installation live from the areas around the docks as it swirls around the west, south and north sides of the building. Hundreds of illuminated drones will bring the concert hall’s façade to life, choreographed to go with the second movement of the Piano Concerto by Thomas Adès, which has been performed in the Elbphilharmonie’s fifth anniversary concert on 11 January 2022. Further performances will be given on 29 and 30 April and on 1 May. The music will also be available to stream on the website www.elbphilharmonie.de.

»The Elbphilharmonie unites architecture and music in a particularly inspiring fashion. ›Breaking Waves‹ transfers this fascination out on to the façade, and is our birthday present to the people of Hamburg. Even though the installation loses its direct connection with the anniversary concert owing to the postponement until April, there is also a positive side to the change of date: the warmer weather means there is a good chance that more people will be able to enjoy the project.«

Christoph Lieben-Seutter, General & Artistic Director of Elbphilharmonie und Laeiszhalle Hamburg

»Breaking Waves« by DRIFT / Illustration
»Breaking Waves« by DRIFT / Illustration © moka-studio

The sculpture emphasises DRIFT’s mission to take art into the public space so that it finds a larger and more varied audience. DRIFT wants its public to be able to experience the installations with all five senses.

»Art should be accessible to as many people as possible. That’s why we designed our installation for the public space. When we started working with the Elbphilharmonie, we both immediately agreed that we need to bring what’s happening indoors to the outside, where people can see it.«

Ralph Nauta


The installation is being sponsored by the Friends of the Elbphilharmonie + Laeiszhalle, and realised in close cooperation with the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, which is giving Drift its biggest solo show in Germany to date, from 7 January to 8 May 2022.

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