HEART OF THE NATION
Light moves us in mysterious ways. The great cathedral builders of medieval Europe knew it; photographers and painters and set designers, too. And the people at Vivid Sydney definitely know it. The switch was flicked last night on the “festival of light, music and ideas”, transforming the harbourfront into a megawatt wonderland. “Vivid Sydney takes art off the walls and on to the streets,” says Ignatius Jones, creative director of this 10th anniversary event. “We want visitors to be amazed, delighted, surprised, and their minds to be stimulated with new ideas and concepts.”
Pictured is one of the crowd favourites from the 2016 Vivid – Cathedral of Light, a 65m-long illuminated vault in the Royal Botanic Garden, near the Opera House. It was conceived by Richard Neville, whose firm, Mandylights, is heavily involved in this year’s festival. “There’s beauty in simplicity,” he says of the work, which has also wowed crowds at Canberra’s Floriade and in Dubai. “While it looks big and complex, it’s actually one of the simplest artworks we’ve ever made – it’s just 100,000 lightbulbs, turned on.” Picking the exact tone of the warm white LED bulbs was the hardest bit, he says. “We wanted to create a communal, contemplative space – like a church – that was also warm and inviting.” He adds, with a laugh: “Because it’s usually bitterly cold during Vivid.”
Neville’s firm, founded in a Sydney bar in 2006, does the lights for all sorts of things, from touring stage shows to corporate and architectural gigs. Vivid is a chance to cut loose with out-of-the-box ideas – and the satisfaction of seeing the audience’s emotional reaction, close up. Its creations for this year’s festival include a huge colour-changing T-Rex hidden in the back lanes of the Rocks and a 6m-tall animatronic puppet lumbering around Barangaroo. There’s another simple yet brilliant idea in the Botanic Garden, too: a 35m-long installation that consists of 2500 light bulbs spelling out the question, How many lightbulbs does it take to change a person?