Six-year-old Vivid Sydney is a cold-season event. May in central Australia is parallel to November in the Northern Hemisphere but rather mild in this great city where some residents complain about frequent and unpredictable rain. But Ruth, John, Trish, and I didn’t even have to hoist umbrellas or wear coats to enjoy this nightly light show that goes on for more than 2 weeks, in 2014 from May 23rd to June 9. Free and, indeed, extraordinarily vivid, displays of light illuminate various buildings like Sydney’s world-famous Opera House and one-side of the nearby bridge, the Old Coathanger that crosses to North Sydney over the most beautiful harbor in the world.
Thousands are drawn downtown between 6 pm and midnight to enjoy the truly spectacular lights often accompanied by music, but it doesn’t seem all that crowded because the lit-up subjects are spread out. And speaking of music, The Sydney Opera House offers specially designed programs during Vivid that draw on performers like Florence and the Machine and, this year, Giorgio Moroder. Vivid Music will also be heard in performances at other venues around the city. There are 200 planned events and 300 guest speakers presenting Vivid Ideas about animation, digital media, etc. as VS continues to grow in scope and reputation.
This year’s Vivid Sydney planners commissioned international artists to design 59 productions to be projected on the Opera House alone, and you would think that a spectrum of 3D mapped lights dancing on its massive white sails would be the main attraction. They were created by the agency that designed the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games in London last summer. But for me they took 2nd place to the bizarre figures projected on the Contemporary Art Museum across Circular Quay from the SOH. Freakish and imaginative, they caused me to ooooh the most and take far too many pictures; 3rd best was the old Customs House across the street from the Quay where arriving and departing ferries were also covered with LED and dancing lights.
Other participating venues included The Rocks, the oldest part of this immigrant city, Martin Place, a tilted pedestrian walkway rising from George Street to Parliament House, and Darling Harbor. The smaller, more individualistic light productions up and down Martin were especially note-worthy, my favorite being a fountain that dripped readable words. Ruth would probably say that Darling Harbor, which has installed a fountain show that rivals Las Vegas’ Bellagio, was her favorite. It was fashioned by Aquatique. Where magazine called its design staff “French Pioneers of dancing fountains”.
Perhaps our most vivid experience was sitting on the rooftop-deck of the Contemporary Art Museum waiting for the rain to stop, sipping wine, and watching odd cartoon figures move across Sydney from skyscraper to skyscraper.
Named Australia’s Event of the Year in 2013 for good reason, Vivid Sydney is cause enough to plan your trip to Australia to coincide with it. Watch vividsydney.com for 2015 dates.