The best time to go to Sydney is now! We take you on a journey filled with light, music and ideas as Vivid Sydney 2019 spreads its enchanting wings over the Australian city. By Sumeet Keswani
Every year, from the last week of May to mid-June, Sydney puts on a shimmering garb of light and music that dazzles its residents and visitors alike. Aptly called Vivid Sydney, the three-week event is touted to be the largest festival of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere. It features large scale light installations and projections that come to life after sundown, music concerts and collaborations, and creative workshops and talks—all further establishing Sydney’s reputation as a creative hub of the Asia-Pacific region. Having returned for its 11th edition this year, Vivid Sydney is putting up a spectacular show in the Harbour City since May 24 and will continue to enchant visitors till June 15.
Staying in the charming premises of The Langham, my first venture into the festival is to undertake the Vivid Light Walk, a 2-km route from The Rocks to the Sydney Opera House through the Royal Botanic Gardens that is dotted with some of the most exciting light installations and 3D mapped building projections every year. My first discovery this year is the new face of Sydney’s heritage-listed Argyle Cut in The Rocks. It’s a funny sight to come across people lying supine in the middle of the road, after all. They’re witnessing the journey of Pixar Animation Studios projected on the ceiling of the iconic tunnel, which was cut in the sandstone cliffs that surround the district. From basic hand-drawn artwork of the first few stages to final scenes from iconic movies like Toy Story, the projection tells the story of Pixar’s greatest hits and the creative work behind them.
A little way down the road, the art-deco façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is lit up with a projection called Let Me Down. The vibrant artworks of award-winning Australian-Colombian artist Claudia Nicholson have been re-imagined into an animated projection of love and loss motifs with the help of light specialists Spinifex Group and set to the contemporary sounds of Lonelyspeck. It is mesmerising, if a bit mawkish, and draws spectators of all ages.
Across the Circular Quay, the iconic Sydney Opera House flaunts its annual Lighting of the Sails, this time made by LA-based Chinese-American artist Andrew Thomas Huang who has orchestrated a hypnotising floral ballet dedicated to Australia’s native plants and flowers. At Campbell Cove, meanwhile, I spot the shimmering silhouette of a ballerina lost in an eternal solo performance along the edge of the harbour.
At the Royal Botanic Garden, a 20-minute walk reveals singular collaborations to present exquisite nature-oriented metaphors bathed in vibrant light. A bee hotel called Beetopia lets you interact with gigantic recreations of native bee species, which hum at your touch. It’s a novel way of advocating conservation of indigenous insect populations. A tree called Harmony comes alive with unique light animations as people stand on its six pods–an argument made for inclusiveness and communal living in the most mesmerising fashion. The pièce de résistance at the gardens is the Firefly Field, which simulates a sparkle of fireflies with 500 illuminated points that hover over the ground and dart about in seemingly random choreography.
Everywhere you look in Sydney, light glides and twists and turns, and sometimes dances, to the tunes of Sydney. Sometimes, it interacts with the people. At Barangaroo, the 6-metre-tall spirit puppet, Marri Dyin (Great Woman) embraces visiting children, while at Darling Harbour, ominous-looking giant robots — on land and in the water — crush cars and other industrial debris to sow the seeds of a brighter, greener future for mankind.
While the light installations take the cake with visitors, Vivid Sydney 2019 also features over 200 workshops, music concerts, and public talks, among other things. Sample this for instance: a Vivid Dining in the Dark experience at 12-Micron’s Private Dining Room, where you go through a five-course culinary journey, each course paired with a unique Perrier-Jouët Champagne. For the full list of light installations and schedule of events, visit vividsydney.com.