Hugo Vrijdag about his project Bixie | GLOW Special

We are meeting Hugo Vrijdag to talk about his projects Bixie and Escape from the machine, the light projects in the Artistic Light category with which he is participating in GLOW Eindhoven this year. Location of our get together: 'his' Ontdekfabriek at Strijp-S.

Sister city of Eindhoven

Hugo Vrijdag is a visual artist, studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and is one of the founding fathers of De Ontdekfabriek, Het Ontdekstation (Tilburg) and De Uitvindfabriek (Breda), together with Chris Voets. He has often designed light installations, but never before did he undertake two light projects as extensive as these. The Bixie is a dragon lion, symbol of the Chinese city of Nanjing, a sister city of Eindhoven. GLOW Eindhoven and the Qinhuai Lantern Festival in Nanjing have started a multi-year collaboration. Not only do the light festivals exchange light artworks, they also share knowledge and experience and jointly build new works. One of these joint projects is Bixie, a figure that, according to Eastern mythology, drives out evil.

"The ultimate result is a piece of art that is even better than you had hoped for."

Hugo Vrijdag


What is striking about the whole process is that the designer and the makers have not yet met each other. Vrijdag made a concept, built the model of cardboard, put the components in a box and sent it to Nanjing. There, craftsmen, under the guidance of a famous lantern artist, built the dragon lion and shipped it back to the Netherlands. Hugo Vrijdag looks pretty relaxed. He occasionally receives a photo from China, but there is not a lot of contact. 'I would have liked to go to Nanjing myself to join the makers and learn from their skills, but there is also something magical about it this way. I have worked together with others on artworks before. The ultimate result is a piece of art that is even better than you had hoped for.’ One of the things he is most curious about is how the tradition of light art from Nanjing is reflected in this project.

Across the world

Not meeting each other also means Vrijdag had no idea how the Chinese would appreciate his design. ‘Imagine someone else would tell us what our Dutch lion should look like.' But during the process Vrijdag received a message that the craftsmen of Nanjing enjoyed his version of their lion dragon. The creature will be about four meters high, an impressive monster that is pushed by the mass during GLOW while its wings flip up and down. Every night it will depart from the Media Markt in the direction of the Chinese lantern festival in the Victoriapark. The Chinese dragon of Eindhoven origin will also appear at the light festival in Nanjing in 2019.

Smalle Haven

In addition to Bixie, there is another project of Hugo Vrijdag this year. A bird flies above the Smalle Haven, occasionally showing itself to the public. The bird is created by illuminating fibreglass strands hanging above the street. One by one the wires light up. This happens so quickly and in consecutive order that the light lines suggest movement. The artwork is called Escape from the machine, inspired by the eponymous painting that his father Geert Vrijdag once made. There are several meanings to give to the title: escape from the machinery of daily life or even fly away from life itself. 'Because of the stop-motion effect, the artwork is actually very mechanical, giving it the impression that the technique is also transcending from the machinery.'