a dazzling kick-off for the Countryside Metropolis


At 20:17 on the 13th January, 2017, after a giant countdown, the region bursts into light!

Sustaining the momentum of an intense six month build-up, Sønderborg, Sønderjylland and Schleswig celebrate the Opening Night of the 2017 European Capital of Cultural with a massive, dazzling spectacle called ‘Lightmarks’ – an international festival with outdoor light installations, multimedia projections, glowing airships in the sky... illumination from every corner of the region.

As well as special S2017 lights in the windows of thousands and thousands of homes across the region, 15-20 artists contribute large-scale, sculptural or conceptual light installations – from celebrated artists such as James Turrell and Bill Viola (USA), to up – and coming European and international artists.

The various lightshows and installations are provocative, thought-provoking, or just beautiful to look at – they set the scene for Sønderborg2017, and invite the citizens and visitors of the region to Connect, Confront and Celebrate. Special attention is given to the ceremonial aspect of the opening, where the anthem, flag and other symbols of the EU are presented, stressing the importance for everyone that this is a European project at its heart. This part is closely organized together with the ECoC teams in Wroclaw and San Sebastian, as well as with the team in Cyprus.

The grand spectacle of light has great publicity value, and draws much attention to the whole Countryside Metropolis ECoC programme in the national and international media.

Lightmarks extend the ‘opening hours’ of parts of the region into the night-time, expanding possibilities and literally casting a whole new light on the use, appearance and dimensions of both urban and rural spaces. From darkness to light… they reinvent and create new views.

Pieces display on Sønderborg’s harbour front, with its promenade, architecture, bridges and lighthouses, and at imaginative spots in the municipalities. One work will be placed in each of the main cities – Aabenraa, Haderslev, Tønder, Flensburg, Schleswig and North Friesland. After this opening night, one of the installations will also remain as a beacon for the whole of 2017.

Through experimental workshops, knowledge-sharing seminars and multidisciplinary collaboration, this festival facilitates future international cooperation between lighting artists and experts – curators, artists, designers, engineers and more. Local citizens co-create some of the works, to create a sense of ownership and community pride in the installations and the region. The programme is developed with the help of communities, is four years in the planning, and involves land owners, the 18 municipalities, schools & universities, local artists and art groups.

Sustainability is a strong issue in the Lightmark Festival - energy consumption and light sources in all of the installations are as low as possible without diminishing the spectacle. Light from sustainable energy – Lightmarks cooperates with ProjectZero.

Also at 20:17, Green Sky Symphony takes to the air. Two modern, low-emission, glowing Zeppelins take off from Sønderborg Airport. One has percussion players on board – the other woodwind players. Both airships are fitted with loudspeakers and sound engineers. The musicians perform a brand new piece by Danish composer Bo Gunge, as they pass over the greater Countryside Metropolis area, blazing music over the celebrations and shining searchlights below. They circle over Sønderborg, and gradually spiral in parallel ellipses over Flensburg and Aabenraa towards Tønder, where they end their spectacular flight at the brand new Zeppelin Exhibition Centre – a former WW1 Zeppelin base. The musical Zeppelins are exhibited for a week, as exciting examples of new, viable models for freight and transportation. Visitors can buy sightseeing trips in the Zeppelins, and see the 2017 European Capital of Culture from the air.

Participants from the S2017 projects ‘Design for Change’ and ‘Design for a Countryside Metropolis’ submit proposals for a lamp design as of 2014 – read more in ‘Connect’. 1.5 million copies of the winning lamp are produced in 2016, and people in the region light them in their windows to mark the beginning of Opening Night, and dazzle the Countryside Metropolis.