HEART OF THE NA­TION

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Daniel Tran By Ross Bi l t on

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?

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