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A walk on the Harbour side

Vivid Sydney is a joyful coming together of light, music and ideas

Photos courtesy: Prudence Upton & David Clare

A LANDMARK Vivid Sydney, which has the Opera House turned into a psychedelic wonderland. (below) Sonny Rollins performs at Vivid Sydney.

I step out of Sydney Airport at 9.30 in the evening feeling very much like Robert Plant's “traveller of both time and space” having set my watch ahead several times — I was listening to Led Zeppelin on the flight. However instead of the sun beating down upon my face, it is bitterly cold and bucketing rain. As I turn my collar to the cold and damp, my eyes are stabbed by several flashes of neon lights — yes I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel too.

The iconic Sydney Opera House, the beyond pretty Circular Quay and the historic Rocks area are cloaked in technicolour raincoats thanks to Vivid Sydney, a winter festival of light, music and ideas developed by Event New South Wales for the NSW Government. With more than 40 light installations, 30 live music acts curated by the Australian music industry legend, Stephen Pavlovic and vibrant forums, Vivid Sydney more than lived up to its name.

Light up

Watching the “sails” of the iconic Opera House transform into a magical space of colourful shapes was mesmerising. I go on a light walk and feel like Alice in a brilliantly psychedelic wonderland. With “Unfamiliar Customs”, the history of Customs House comes alive through 3D digital mapping projections. The building seems to disintegrate, filled with gurgling water, and melt before my gob-smacked eyes.

The Museum of Contemporary Art has this interactive installation where you can spray paint the building with light! As you throw a ball of light, the wall is awash with colour and you have your own personal masterpiece. Also there is the Public Art Pencil where you can doodle with a laser light on a giant sketch pad. I could only manage little squiggles as the “pencil” is pretty heavy and I was maneuvering it single handed holding an umbrella against the rain.

A walk through the other installations including the colourful “Positive Attracts”, “Bright On Time”, where lights synchronise with the train on Circular Quay, “Jell Light” with colourful trailing jelly fish, “Social Firefly” with the coolest LED fireflies strung up on a tree, “Melody” with a blue wave of steel (echoes the Harbour, the sound of the sea and the Opera House) “Hopscotch” on the Moore Stairs and Re-Cycle where you power the lights by pedaling gave a whole new meaning to interactive art. The crowning glory was the Fire Dance where Campbell's Cove became a new age campfire with three-storey high fire jets moving to some cool music.

Think links

At Vivid Creative Sydney, there were a host of interactive forums where the best and brightest from different walks of life including film, fashion, performance, visual arts and technology shared ideas on the Playhouse stage at the Sydney Opera House. Speakers from different companies including FuelVFX (Sydney-based visual effects studio for blockbusters such as “Thor”, “Captain America”), Google and Tigerspike (Sydney digital agency) shared their vision.

Live it up

With Vivid Live, the Opera House was the venue for some super exclusive musical acts. From Spiritualized performing their 1997 album, “Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space” to Bat For Lashes, the hip hop band, Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All from L.A., the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from Chicago and Australian groups Architecture in Helsinki and psychedelic rockers Tame Impala among others rocked the stage.


After the questions of life, the universe and everything had been answered, there remained just one more question. No, not where to go for dinner, but how does one dress for a rock concert at the Opera House? Should it be formal or gothic in nod to The Cure's gloomy, doomy reputation? The Cure Reflections was a presentation of the British band's first three albums with the original band members in a mammoth 180-minute performance. While in the beginning we sat in orderly rows and listened to front man Robert Smith belt out numbers with different sets of band members, by the time it came to the iconic “Boys Don't Cry,” the Opera House erupted into cheers, whistles and thunderous applause and it felt like a full on, all round rocking concert. And yes, outfit wise, I wore black which is formal and Gothic.

When the 80-year-old saxophone colossus, Sonny Rollins took the stage as part of Vivid Live, it was a different kind of magic as I floated on wave upon wave of smooth sax. I tried to catch the seductive velvet notes and thought surely this must be heaven, this must be the sounds that Apollo built the city on with a spot of rock n roll thrown in.

MUSICAL WINTER

Now in its third year, Vivid Sydney is a winter festival of light, music and ideas developed by Event New South Wales for the NSW Government. With the Sydney Opera House at the centre of things, Vivid features interactive light installations, incredible live music acts and inspiring speakers. Vivid is on till June 13.

MINI ANTHIKAD CHIBBER

(The writer was in Sydney on the invitation of Events New South Wales.)

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