Vivid Sydney is back from May 25 to June 16. There will be luminous light installations every night from 6-11pm, stretching from the Botanic Gardens to Darling Harbour. Luna Park joins in this year, lighting up from its grinning gates to the Coney Island façade and up the Ferris wheel. Head out to Chatswood, for all kinds of interactive displays, like chairs that'll happily have a chat. Because of course. Find our top picks of the Vivid Ideas program.
10 Vivid Light installations to seek out
Battling evil Banksia Men and frolicing among the gumtrees, these pint-sized adventurers have charmed generations of Australian children. It’s been 100 years since author May Gibbs brought these two to life (haven’t they aged well?) and animation collective Ample Projects is getting these gumnut babies moving on the façade of Sydney’s heritage-listed Customs House. You can watch Gibbs’ original illustrations of their outback adventures unfold each night.
Australia’s leading Indigenous dance company Bangarra will paint the Harbour Bridge’s southern pylon in light for a fifth year, showcasing another beautiful and moving dance film. Dark Emu will take spectators back in time to understand the interdependent relationship between Indigenous people and their land, long before colonisation. Stephen Page and Jacob Nash have created stunning visuals through the Bangarra dancers to represent the connection between earth and sky.
It’s hard to look past Vivid’s most iconic site: the Sydney Opera House sails. This year, Australian artist Jonathan Zawada will construct digital sculptures inspired by Australian flora that morph and dissolve in a constant stream of hyperrealistic images. Bold neon colours will create a striking contrast to the timeless elements of Australia’s natural elements. Watching these three-dimensional sculptures mutate, you might be reminded of Zawanda’s work on high profile album covers like Flume’s 2016 album, Skin.
The grinning entrance at Luna Park is getting an LED facelift as this famous funhouse lights up for Vivid for the first time this year. The ferris wheel will turn up the twinklers each night to match the toothy face at the gate, and a large-scale projection called the Spirit of Fun will colour the Coney Island façade. Characters and artworks will wander along the walls, bringing its history to life and perhaps give audiences a glimpse into a more colourful future.
It’s all about the good vibes at this playground carousel that's been illuminated to represent a Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels. Visitors can take a spin on the brightly coloured “wheel of positive energy” to send a collective wish for peace out to the universe. It will also project an image of a Buddhist mandala – a sign of enlightenment and protection – onto the carousel.
You won’t have to go far to see this sky-high light show play every half an hour after dark. For two minutes, dazzling beams of light will reach for the heavens from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay to the edge of the Harbour. A custom-built laser will crown the Bridge for the first time this year, fulfilling the vision of the Bridge’s main engineer, Dr John Bradfield, who envisaged national celebrations being marked by a beacon-lighting ceremony. Laser beams positioned on Circular Quay skyscrapers and pillars of light above the airport’s overseas terminal will add to the spectacle.
Instagrammers are out in hordes come Vivid time and the Bloom presents another perfect photo-op in the Royal Botanic Gardens. You can climb up into the centre of this giant metallic flower and get that movie-star lighting for your shoot, with 1,000 lights refracting off the mirrored spirals covering the petal structures. Your snaps are sure to stand out from the crowd as the flower’s lighting constantly shifts from serene blends of colour to wild patterns racing across the petals.
Our great dry land knows heat too well. One tiny burning ember can spark destructive bushfires that ravage natural landscapes and our own homes and towns. This 30-metre long installation evokes the sinister beauty of this dangerous element. Red, yellow and orange LED lights are placed within recycled polypropylene underground modular water tanks, so visitors can climb over the structure and sit among the embers.
There’s always a bit of meaning behind the colourful madness of Vivid. Revive the Reef is an interactive experience highlighting how individuals can help preserve our natural environment. It asks audience members to work together (you’ll have to check it out yourselves to learn the steps) to bring this underwater light show to life, complete with whale songs and real underwater reef sounds. This is a celebration of the Great Barrier Reef, but also a caution against unsustainable lifestyles.
Have you ever looked at an inanimate object and thought: I wonder how you feel about the state of Australian politics? Well, someone did, and they created motion-sensor chairs that tell you how they’re feeling. Visit Chatswood Mall and take a seat on one of these emotional benches – with lit-up robot faces they’re hard to miss – and you can have a chat with a chair. Dream come true, right?