Ghent, Belgium

The Flashing Streetlights of Ai Nati Oggi

Each time a baby is born in Ghent, these streetlights flash in silent celebration. 

When visiting the Count’s Castle (Gravensteen) in Ghent, one might see the old fashioned-looking streetlights on the nearby Sint-Veerleplein square flash – not rhythmically, just once. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you, and there is no need to alert city electricians: the sudden dimming and surge of light happens for a very special purpose.

In partnership with the Ghent City Council, artist Alberto Garutti conceived of and integrated his work of art entitled Ai Nati Oggi (“For Those Born Today”) directly into the infrastructure of the city. Every time a baby is born in one of Ghent’s maternity wards, the parents are given the option to push a button connected to these street lamps, which in turn causes them to flash. In this way, there is no physical space occupied by the artwork, but the effect produced by it burrows into the collective consciousness of the city’s inhabitants.

The surge of light provides a beautiful way of sharing the new parents’ joy with the entire town, a quiet testament to to the birth that is seen by everyone filling the popular square and pubs nearby. The lights symbolize hope for the future generation, while also changing the future history of the square the streetlights line, as it had been used for executions throughout the Middle Ages.

A small stone in Sint-Veerleplein written in three languages explains the concept of Ai Natti Oggi to non-locals who may stumble on it; but for those unaware, the lights would only seem to flicker for long enough to give pause before continuing on their way, unaware of having just basked in someone else’s all-encompassing joy.

Know Before You Go

At the square right next to the Count's Castle (Gravensteen)

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