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Brave the crowds at Vivid Lights for Bangarra's bridge projection


Welcome to the 22nd guest blog post of Time Out Sydney's 52 Weeks of #SydCulture 2017 challenge! June's culture selector is Emily Nicol, a journalist and producer for Koori Radio and NITV, and the guest editor for Time Out Sydney's May 2017 Deadly Sydney issue. Every Wednesday of May, Emily will be telling us what she loved the week before. Think of it as your recommendations for this week, from someone who sees a helluva lot of arts and culture. Over to her.

It’s that time of year when it’s starting to get a bit chilly and we just feel like hibernating, but Vivid comes along and entices us all out of our cosy caves to experience some of the world’s best in music, ideas and light installations. And Vivid really does deliver on all fronts. This year’s programming has packed so many of the city’s venues with arty goodness, intriguing discussions, food and lights. Just to see the city lit up is a beautiful experience in itself – a free show that can thankfully be enjoyed from afar or with the crowds.

This year I decided to circumvent the crowds by focusing on one particular piece: Bangarra Dance Company’s Harbour Bridge South Pylon projection, Eora – Bennelong. It’s the fourth in a series of light projections created by Bangarra for Vivid Lights, exploring the Indigenous spirit of a nation who have lived on the land for thousands of years. To me it’s hugely important to have an engaging and culturally relevant display as part of this festival. While the programming of the festival is diverse in its scope, to tell the story of the local Aboriginal history grounds the experience and gives a sense of place.


'Eora – Bennelong'
Photograph: Keith McInnes (c) Destination NSW






In previous instalments of the Eora series we have seen the story of Patyegarang (2014), Fisherwomen (2015), and the Land itself (2016). The latest focuses on Woollarawarre Bennelong, an important and intriguing figure from the Aboriginal community who was a pioneer in many ways: the first to travel far overseas, the first to be introduced to European culture, and the first Aboriginal author. To have an interpretation of this celebrated life shown on this scale, in the visually captivating way that Bangarra does so well, and with the chance to pause and reflect on who has come before us and whose spirit lives – it amounts to 2.5 minutes very well spent.

For me, Vivid’s Ideas program has usually taken second priority to their music offerings, but this year I have made the time to check out the talks, and I’m so glad that I did. Recently a close friend mentioned the concept of ‘transhumans’, a different kind of human being no longer as dependant on nature, as a result of our tech habits. Quite frankly, as a nature lover and greenie at heart, it freaked me out a little! So I was glad to see several discussions addressing the topic of Mixed Reality and the future of Artificial Intelligence on the Vivid line-up, and went along to The Robots Are Coming: Fact, Fiction and Everything in Between.

A bunch of us, from all different ages and backgrounds, sat in the breathtaking Harbourside Room at the top of the MCA to contemplate and discuss the world that we live in now (so completely different from the world that can be seen projected on the south pylon only a stone’s throw away) and how companies capture personal data to create artificial systems that can predict and anticipate our needs, sometimes better than we ourselves can do. While many of these advances can be life-saving, such as remote medical diagnosis, many innovations are leading us away from face-to-face interaction, and is this a good thing? In the Q&A time, the problem of ethics and corporate responsibility was raised by not one but several audience members and it restored my faith in humanity.

Vivid Sydney runs until Saturday June 17. Bangarra Dance Theatre’s production Bennelong, inspired by the life of Woollarawarre Bennelong, runs June 29-July 22 at Sydney Opera House.

Check out our hit list of the best events at Vivid Sydney, and read more about our 52 Weeks of #SydCulture challenge, and let us know what you're seeing/loving on Instagram via the hashtag #SydCulture.

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