Ljubljana holiday lights
Ljubljana holiday lights

Lights On at Ljubljana’s Holiday Light Installation

Ljubljana flicked the on switch for its Happy December festivities last night, the only municipal holiday light exhibit that I know of where sperm are represented alongside atoms, chromosomes, DNA molecules, planetary rings and shooting stars, all part of the installation’s ongoing “cradle of life” motif.

The installation, made up of a tangled web of 64 kilometers of light sculptures and garlands, is an ongoing design by Ljubljana-based artist Zmago Modic, which has been described as “unusual” in many quarters for a Christmas display –even in the city’s official tourism board write-up– but it fits, and overall it works astoundingly well. I’ve liked it from the start, since my arrival here a dozen years ago –and I’m generally pretty cynical about these kinds of things– and have enjoyed watching it grow and expand.

From Visit Ljubljana:

Following his highly acclaimed 1999 exhibition Images of Primeval Memory, Zmago Modic decided to bring his artistic vision of the universe as a cradle of life into a form that would correspond to the sheer hugeness of the theme and find expression in the streets, where everyone could see it.

Urban legend has it that Modic based his first light objects on images of the universe taken by NASA and then elegantly incorporated them in the concept of the city’s Christmas lighting display developed by the architect Karin Košak.

Since those early beginnings, the light objects included in Ljubljana’s Christmas lighting display have been developed in new directions year after year based not only on images of the infinite expanses of the universe, galaxies, planets, moons, and comets, but also on images of microcosms invisible to the naked eye, such as those of atoms, chromosomes, DNA helices, sperms, etc.

As befits the festive season, the stories depicted in Modic’s light objects have a fairy tale-like quality. Some of them revolve around a diverse cast of symbolic characters, from the bearers of light, depicted in sculpture, to the Good Fairy, an installation featuring a live person sitting on a throne in the middle of the Mestni trg square and fulfilling the wishes of the passers-by approaching her.

This year’s theme?

Respect for Life, which Modic said he hopes will “Bring into the lives of everyone – whatever age they are – as much positive energy as possible, so that they could be happy for others and for themselves – which means love in time and space.”

Signalling the official start of the holiday season in the Slovenian capital, the show has become an increasingly popular fixture on the “Christmas Market” circuit in central Europe. I’ll compile some images over the next few weeks and post a longer, more holistic view of the exhibit, sometime next month.

In the meantime, It all conspires to provide as good an excuse as any to head out for some mulled wine. Some stalls’ offerings are better than others; finding the best will require some time for extensive research. Starting right now.


Today’s Pic du Jour, the site’s 1,059th straight, was snapped on 25 November 2016 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.



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