Light installation by Matthias Oostrik in Assen

Matthias Oostrik,

Gert Jan van Rooij,



Using the “De Maten” railway underpass in the Dutch city of Assen is a unique experience. The light installation called Een Spoor van Water—A Trail of Water—by the artist Matthias Oostrik lights up every time a train passes overhead and symbolically connects to the city’s waterways. An artistic expression that helps to pre-empt the atmosphere of a non-place often associated with these infrastructures.

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Light installation by Matthias Oostrik in Assen The city of Assen has invested heavily in infrastructures through the FlorijnAs, which aims to boost accessibility in and around the city. As part of the project, the Assen railway station was completely refurbished. A few months ago, on Floornature, we discussed this makeover by the architecture firms, Powerhouse Company and De Zwarte Hond, which features a bold urban sign: its triangular wooden roof (link news Agnese). FlorijnAs also encompasses an avenue in the city, several different tunnels and a new navigation route. These elements combine to form a connecting axis that links the most significant places in Assen, known in particular to motorcycle fans for its racing circuit that has hosted MotoGP since its inception. 
For this project, Dutch artist Matthias Oostrik created the “De Assen van Assen” light installation in the Vredeveldsetunnel, now joined by his second work, Een Spoor van Water, or “A Trail of Water”, presented this week.
Matthias Oostrik works at the crossroads of digital art, installation art, and architecture. He collaborates with technical specialists, renowned neuro-scientists, performance artists, and his audience, who often form an integral part of his award-winning work.
In his installation in the underpass in Assen, trains are the leading players, but he also references the presence of water in the city. The artwork has been embedded in the embankment of the railway underpass and extends along the green bank on either side. When a train crosses the bridge, 500 luminous stones come alive to create a dynamic flow of light. This artistic expression underscores the function of the connection and refers to the birth of the city of Assen in what is now the valley of the Drentsche Aa river. With the construction of this new underpass, two ancient waterways—the Nijlandsloop and the Stadsbroekloop—flowing into the Drentsche Aa river have come to light once more to see and to enjoy.
A Trail of Water improves the user experience as they pass under the overhead railway line. Whether you’re in a car, on foot or riding a bike, the installation always puts on a great show. Even people on the trains can see the trail of light. This artwork is a worthy conclusion to the series of art contributions connected to the FlorijnAs project. A great example of the power of art when it comes to our perception of urban spaces. Because what we have here is a classic non-place, as described by Marc Augé, in other words, a place designed to be crossed or consumed, rather than a place that we earmark for our pleasure. Thanks to the light installation by Matthias Oostrik our interaction with this underpass becomes apparent, it leaves its mark, as fleeting as that may be, a trace of our commitment to it, earning itself the right not just as a place on a city map but as something that stays in our mind.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Matthias Oostrik
Location: Assen, The Netherlands
Year: 2020
Images: Gert Jan van Rooij