As part of a massive growth for the eighth annual Vivid Sydney, the now world famous festival of lights, music, and ideas has been expanded to 23 nights throughout May and June, and it all kicked off last night. Beginning with the traditional lighting of the sails, which this year features Songlines by six renowned Indigenous artists, Vivid once again sprung to life with the assistance of a massive crowd descending upon Circular Quay and exploring the area’s surrounds, which includes seven other precincts across Sydney.
Now with the festival reaching all the way to Chatswood, Vivid’s footprint is as big as it’s ever been, showcasing more than 150 artists across 23 countries who have each created the light installations and projections that will attracts crowds to precincts like Chatswood, The Royal Botanical Gardens, The Galeries, and even Taronga Zoo.
In addition, Vivid Live and Vivid Music will feature around 195 live music events spread across the 23 nights, and there are more than 500 speakers tapped to inspire over a range of topics for Vivid Ideas. If we’re playing the “Vivid by Numbers” game, then where the festival stands in 2016 is nothing short of impressive. Just last year, the festival attracted 1.7 million visitors, which is an increase of 19 per cent from the 1.43 million who attended in 2014. In it’s first year, 2008, Vivid Sydney attracted around 220,000 people.
The growth was also reflected in how many international travel packages were sold last year: over 26,000, with China accounting for 11,000 of those packages alone.
It’s certainly going to help that the anticipated Customs House projection, often one of the most popular features of Circular Quay’s Light Walk, features perhaps its work greatest yet. Australian artist Jason French’s magnificent light projection is themed towards “Sydney’s Hidden Stories” told through following a playful blue-tongued lizard through a bright and often mechanical world of witches, dragons, and garden gnomes (three things that may or may not actually be part of Sydney’s rich history). The awesome display is bolstered by free-to-use tablets and smartphones which have been programming with the latest augmented reality systems for greater interactivity, something Vivid Sydney seems to be upping every year.
Just close by, beside the AMP ‘Sydney Cove’ Building is a large screen where photos are projected into a mosaic of those who have been affected by breast cancer, a collaboration with the McGrath Foundation that is made up of thousands of photos and messages of support from people across Australia.
Nearby is the equally dazzling display on The Museum of Contemporary Art which is this year handled by Western Sydney artist Huseyin Sami. Sami’s interest in the material qualities of paint have brought a very focused projection to the MCA, highlighting splashes of acrylic and oil paints which flow down the building, dry, strip, change, and flourish in several stages. It seems longer than previous projections, but the wow factor is undeniable.
Just beside the MCA, in First Fleet Park is where one will find the imposing Light Rocket, which is a glowing old-style rocket ship 15 metres high with it’s own bright red light tower, welcoming visitors into the base with a kaleidoscopic blend of lights, mirrors, and sounds. There’s also the interactive I Love You, which is a giant heart on a stage where couples, friends, and lovers can shout “I Love You” into a stand, pumping up the “Love-O-Metre” until the heart responds with pulses of light and sound.
Indeed, there’s a lot for locals and visitors to wrap around this year and everything that is featured during the festival can be found HERE. For those planning on heading along, remember to plan your trip carefully (because transport and Vivid don’t mix very well).
You can also check our comprehensive Eat & Drink guide to Vivid Sydney HERE, which features special deals, pop ups, and more happening during the festival.
Sydney Opera House x Songlines image supplied credited to James Horan for Destination NSW. All other photos by Nathan Atkins for the AU review.