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Canberra is currently drenched in light projections

Written by
Gilbert Walden
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Sure, we’ve got Vivid. And Melbourne has White Night. And the Northern Territory has Parrtjima. But you know who did it first? Canberra. Yep. Canberra. On right now, Enlighten sees many of Canberra's most famous buildings  lit up with spectacular projections for its tenth year running. There are also live performances and a number of light-based pieces around the city.

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Though there’s programming across Canberra, the centre of Enlighten is the Parliamentary Triangle. Here, visitors can wander between eight buildings (Parliament House; Old Parliament House; Questacon; the National Portrait Gallery; the National Library of Australia; the National Archives; the High Court and the NGA) with ease. Starting at Old Parliament House and walking clockwise around the park will give you the opportunity to witness some of the smaller installations like ‘For Heaven's Sake’ – a greenly lit perspex box, filled with angels in faux-pontiff outfits miming their way through a performance. We aren't entirely sure what is happening, but the onlooking children seem to love it.

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

The show stopper for us is ‘CLOUD’ by Canadian artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett – 6,000 repurposed light bulbs arranged in the shape of a three-dimensional cartoon cloud, with several pull-chain switches hanging underneath. The cloud rumbles with light, reminiscent of lightning bouncing around a storm, reacting as people pull on the various cords, which switch the lights on and off.

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Electric Canvas, the company responsible for the curation of projections at Enlighten along with Melbourne's White Night and Sydney's Vivid Festival, liaised with the different institutions in order to make the work relevant to the respective buildings. Canberra's science museum Questacon, for example, is wrapped with four separate science-related storylines, most notably the history of flight and the aeroplane.

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Visitors to the National Portrait Gallery are rewarded with the opportunity to get their image cast on the wall. Fetch up and you’ll be invited to use the photo booth on site, then you can watch your picture roll along on a steampunk style conveyor belt. For us regular folks it’s a rare opportunity to get our portrait in (ok, on) the Portrait Gallery.

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Photograph: Gilbert Walden

Enlighten festival coincides with Canberra's Night Noodle Markets, with big hitters like Melbourne's Hoy Pinoy and Sydney's Gelato Messina and Black Star Pastry setting up shop in the capital. Snack on some Filipino barbecued pork as you admire the light refracting off Lake Burley Griffin – or you can hop on over to the middle of the Parliamentary Triangle where performers, from local bands to pyrotechnic circus acts are hitting the stage.

The event continues until this Sunday March 12.

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