‘Levenslicht’ by Daan Roosegaarde memorialises Dutch Holocaust victims

‘Levenslicht’, or ‘Light of Life’, is a new monument in Rotterdam made of 104,000 glowing blue rocks, representing victims and the Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Jan 21, 2020

As humans we often reminisce – we commemorate achievements, we grieve the loss of our loved ones, and we honour our forefathers in our collective conscience, rendered through literature, monuments and paintings. That is how we preserve and recall our history, the good and ugly parts of it, triumphs and fatalities alike.

Observing and remembering the persecuted, deported, and murdered during World War II, Daan Roosegaarde  recently unveiled a temporary Holocaust monument in Rotterdam, called Levenslicht. Translated as ‘Light of Life’, Levenslicht is a radiant blue sculpture comprising 104,000 luminescent memorial stones arranged in a wide circle – representing the 104,000 Dutch victims of the Holocaust. The glowing monument provides a contemplative public space to remember the Holocaust victims and reflect upon the importance of freedom.

  • Levenslicht is a radiant blue sculpture comprising 104,000 bright stones arranged in a wide circle | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
    Levenslicht is a radiant blue monument comprising 104,000 bright stones arranged in a wide circle Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde
  • The blue, luminous memorial stone | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
    The blue, luminous memorial stone Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

January 27, 2020, marks 75 years of liberating the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp, the international Holocaust symbol. To honour this occasion, acclaimed visual artist Daan Roosegaarde was asked to create a national work of art, commissioned by the National Committee 4 and 5 May (a Dutch authority for war monuments and memorials). The monument also observes and ‘raises awareness that the Jews, Roma and Sinti lived throughout the Netherlands and that the people who were persecuted during the Second World War were locals or neighbours’.

  • Levenslicht is an interactive monument – people can gather around it, pick up the stones, and hold them as they emit light | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
    Levenslicht is an interactive monument – people can gather around it, pick up the stones, and hold them as they emit light Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde
  • The stones are specially developed by employing invisible ultraviolet light, with fluorescent pigments | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
    The stones are specially developed by employing invisible ultraviolet light, with fluorescent pigments Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

Levenslicht is an interactive monument – people can gather around it, pick up the stones, and hold them as they emit light, invoking public participation. The stones are specially developed by employing invisible ultraviolet light, with fluorescent pigments, that flicker and extinguish every few seconds, ‘like a breath of light’. Following its unveiling on January 16, 2020, the artwork will be now recreated in 170 Dutch municipalities with a Holocaust history, and people can visit the monument from January 22 to February 2, 2020.

Levenslicht – Overview of main circle and the Netherlands’ 170  municipalities | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
Levenslicht – Overview of main circle and the Netherlands’ 170 municipalities Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde
It is an honour to be asked for this project. Levenslicht is not a traditional static monument in which people are purely observers; it asks social participation. It is a place for everyone where we remember the past, but also think about what the future may look like. Light is life, light is hope: Levenslicht. – Daan Roosegaarde

Studio Roosegaarde drew inspiration from the memorial traditions observed mutually in Jewish, Roma and Sinti culture - the luminescent rocks are symbolic of the custom of placing stones, instead of flowers, on the graves of the deceased, perhaps because they last longer and are representative of the permanence held by the memory of the departed.

The light-emitting rocks are symbolic of the Jewish custom of placing stones on graves – an elder and child at Levenslicht | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
The light-emitting rocks are symbolic of the Jewish custom of placing stones on graves – an elder and child at Levenslicht Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

The bright blue memorial stones light up the banks of river Meuse (Dutch: Maas), where the victims of Rotterdam were collected and deported during the WW II. The monument was inaugurated in front of the secretary of Loods 24 and the Jewish children's monument, Frank van Gelderen; the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, Paul Blokhuis; mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb; and chairman of the National Committee 4 and 5, May Gerdi Verbeet.

Daan Roosegaarde and Gerdi Verbeet at Levenslicht | Levenslicht | Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde| STIRworld
Daan Roosegaarde and Gerdi Verbeet at Levenslicht Image Credit: Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

Commemorating the occasion, Verbeet commented, “75 years of freedom cannot be celebrated without looking back at the blackest page of the Second World War: The Holocaust. This work of art, which can be seen in many Dutch municipalities affected by the Holocaust, makes the emptiness and lack of this large group tangible in those municipalities where compatriots were murdered during the war, purely and simply for who they were."

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