By Beckett Mufson — Feb 25 2015
Without dams to hold back the North Sea, the Netherlands could be dozens of feet under water, a tragic scenario simulated by light art in Daan Roosegaarde's exhibition, Waterlicht. A literal sea of lasers ripples in the air beside the dyke that dams the Dutch River IJssel like the aurora borealis, projected by highly-focused, motorized LEDs. "Walking on the dyke the light lines are perceived as high water, once in the flood channel you find yourself in an underwater world," Roosegaarde explains. "By adding—aside from the latest LED-technology—experience and perception, we create a virtual flood."
Roosegaarde created Waterlicht in partnership with the Dutch water board Rhine and IJssel to promote awareness of the upkeep required to keep the Netherlands from becoming an actual, rather than illusory, underwater world. His projects often reflect his commitment to both the environment and stunning visuals, from energy-efficient smart highways and bike paths that glow in the dark to glittering jewelry made from actual Chinese smog. Waterlicht serves as a reminder that nature is something to be protected, but also—as in the case of his simulated dyke-less Netherlands—something to be feared.