VIVID Sydney ignites the Harbour City

Winter Camp Marri Dyin - courtesy of VIVID SydneyRunning until Saturday 15 June 2019, the largest festival of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere, Vivid Sydney has ignited the Harbour City with an inspiring and star-studded program of events. Australian Arts Review takes a look at twelve events worth checking out:

Austral Flora Ballet
Sydney Opera House
Andrew Thomas Huang’s Austral Flora Ballet is a hypnotic fusion of contemporary dance and motion-capture technology that brings our botanic wonders to life as never seen before. Together with choreographer Toogie Barcelo and the animation design team at Bemo in Los Angeles, Huang crafts a lush spectacle from such beloved floral gems as the New South Wales waratah, kangaroo paws and red beard orchids, all of which have enormous connection for First Nations peoples to their country, story and dance. Australia’s unique native plant species have inspired the animated shapes, colour palette and textures in this magnificent otherworldly opus.

Circular Quay
Along the harbour’s edge, the image of a dancer shimmers as if on a dream. Ballerina conjures the desire of young artists to reach the infinite through their artistry. The work uses a lighting sequence played across 20 silhouettes to represent the hypnotic cycle of a ballet. Stroboscopic effects call to mind a succession of shots from some sort of photographic memory that make up a meaningful yet never completely perceptible vision.

The Concourse, Charswood
The Concourse architecture is transformed by a surreal deconstruction of the building. The 3D mapped projection illuminates visual and metaphorical connections between the building façade and the theme of human coexistence in love, peace and harmony. Hungarian artist collective Limelight were inspired by Chatswood’s diverse culture and history to create Co-existence. With an unusual dramaturgy, the piece is divided into different acts similar to a theatre play. Each act presents different scenarios in which individuals and communities meet, exploring the contrasts of exclusion and integration or acceptance and isolation by four different artists from the Limelight team.

Eora: Broken Spear
The Rocks
Around First Contact, when the men carried their spears for the seasonal time to fish from the rocks and the Gadigal women used their handlines, singing, laughing with the children and rowing their Nawis across the harbour, all came to gather amongst the wisdom keepers. Some young men raised their spears in battle against the invaders, but our men of high degree stepped forward, with a different greeting for the visitors. Our knowledge keeper carried his spear but the tip was broken; the sign of peace and respect. Curated by Rhoda Roberts AO with projection design by The Electric Canvas, EORA: Broken Spear reminds us all to reflect, to call Country, to read Country and listen to Country.

Firefly Field
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Firefly Field is a mesmerising installation of 500 flying light points that simulate the movements these nocturnal lampyridae. Glowing. Darting. Hovering above the ground. The ever-changing bioluminescence of each one is reflected in the grassy slope. Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. On mass, they create a dynamic light scene that triggers visitors’ curiosity and awe.

Lights for the Wild
Taronga Zoo, Mosman
Lights for the Wild begins at Taronga’s heritage-listed main entrance – brought to life with our dazzling and moving animal projection show. Walk through the gates and explore the illuminated trail that winds through the stunning grounds of Taronga Zoo Sydney – showcasing awe-inspiring giant multimedia light sculptures: meet the magnificent Sumatran Tiger and her new gorgeous tiger cubs,  the vividly coloured Marine Turtle, a swarm of tiny buzzing bees and our larger-than-life gorilla family – plus a whole cast of other captivating creatures that will sparkle in the night. Take time out and alight into the Taronga Centenary Theatre to see a multi-award winning animated short film favourite, reimagined as an amazing 270-degree cinema experience.

River of Light
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
River of Light comprises two pools of ‘water’ – formed from clear Perspex, and a 55 metre long cascade up-lit Perspex rods running between them. Pulsing LED lights flow in a wave of fluorescent greens, aquas and blues from top to bottom. Once the lower pool lights up, the process starts again from the top with the water appearing to run down the hillside toward the waters of Sydney Harbour. Positioned in the grounds of Royal Botanic Garden between the CBD edge and the harbour’s edge, River of Light provides views of the skyline and city lights as a backdrop.

Robot Spaceland
Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour
Imagine a not-too-distant future where a new civilisation rises from our post-industrial debris. Over at Cockle Bay, mind-boggling electro-automotive super-bots have been sent to sow the seeds of a brighter, greener tomorrow. Epic in scale, Robot SPACELand takes over Darling Harbour. Its centrepiece is a 16 metre tall mechatronic unit called Ecobot whose primary purpose is to save Earth from extinction and advance a sustainable existence. After assembling itself from crushed cars, Ecobot continues its endless duties crushing and processing old vehicles to extract precious metals and form the building blocks of a new society.

SpaceBalls: Tumbalong Lights
Darling Harbour
is an intergalactic planetary spin on the old favourite, marble run. Turn the wheels and push the buttons to wind the balls up into position, then watch as they roll and tumble their way through outer space! SpaceBalls is a fun and interactive installation for all ages and abilities, and has been produced according to the principles of ‘universal design’. SpaceBalls is equally thrilling whether you’re playing the interactive game or just observing the sound and light show if that’s more your speed.

Under the Harbour
Customs House, Circular Quay
Using the architecture of Customs House as a canvas, award-winning creative studio Spinifex Group presents Under the Harbour, a surreal underwater encounter sure to delight children and adults alike. Through Spinifex’s imaginative and fantastical lens, a hyper-coloured multi-verse splashes across the façade of the historic building. As a rainy twilight gathers across the harbour, a giant octopus bursts out of the water and wraps its tentacles around the sun, dragging it under. This watery world is alive with neon sea creatures, botanical wonderlands, and unclassified oddities. Under the Harbour is a playful, exquisite escape from reality into an extraordinary underwater fantasy certain to inspire audiences and deepen the appreciation of Sydney’s aquatic haven.

Watch Your Chips!
The Rocks
This clever installation examines the collective behaviour of birds. Father and son duo Simon and Anton Grimes have mimicked the way gulls harass humans, following us around, angling to snatch whatever we are eating. Especially, when hot potato chips are involved. They have adapted well, learning where their ‘prey’ is most available and abundant. By the seaside. Where people go on holiday. Wherever we eat outside. These raucous scavengers are everywhere. Gliding and soaring, their wings beat slowly as they scan the waves and ground below for anything to eat. Watch as a flock of gulls drifts gently across the sky, graceful, but always vigilant, looking for food. They seem so peaceful and solitary, until… they spy a bag of chips… suddenly they turn into a screeching mob.

Winter Camp
Exchange Place, Barangaroo
Drawing inspiration from the changing of the seasons, visitors to Winter Camp will experience layers of light, sound and puppetry reflective of the land and water. The magnificent, six-metre tall puppet Marri Dyin (Great Woman) returns, accompanied for the first time by a school of captivating fish puppets. Marri Dyin is not a traditional spirit, but rather a contemporary concept. Her existence seeks to recognise the influence and importance of the First Nations women, including Barangaroo, a Cammeraygal leader of the Eora Nation who lived in Sydney prior to settlement. Marri Dyin represents their strength and spirit, and acknowledges the ways of the First Nations people of this land, as she hunts and gathers the seasonal foods available.

Vivid Sydney 2019 continues until Saturday 15 June – lights on from 6.00pm each evening. For more information and full program, visit: for details.

Image: Marri Dyin at Winter Camp – courtesy of VIVID Sydney