If you’re looking for an early winter warm-up, Vivid Sydney is a festive beacon of seduction, hauling in the crowds like moths to the flame. If you’ve never “done” Vivid, you must. It’s an essential, albeit seasonal, slice of the city’s soul. Gearing up for its 11th year, this rampantly successful festival takes top slot on the cultural calendar. The PR pap now describes it as a “23-day intersection of art, technology and commerce.” Yes, there’s live music and seminars and thought-leaders. The Cure is playing at Sydney Opera House and there’s an audience with Spike Lee. It’s kind of like a Ted-X conflab with Christmas trees.
But truth be told, it’s the lights, the giant projections, the trippy installations, the illuminations that woos millions to this unrivalled spectacle. And in the past few years, the lighting spectacles have fanned out far beyond Circular Quay, with a swag of locations festooned in wonder. There’s also the famous Light Walk, which curates more than 50 radiant works into the largest gallery of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, there’s nine precincts to check out with large-scale installations, including Taronga Zoo. In fact, what is particularly distinctive about this year’s edition of Vivid is the huge family-friendly focus.
Here’s a few examples. Taronga Zoo is staging “Lights for the Wild.” Follow the illuminated trail which winds through the zoo's grounds and meet the giant multimedia light sculptures, from the magnificent Sumatran tiger and her new cubs to a swarm of tiny buzzing bees and the larger-than-life gorilla family. Take a step into a tech-filled wonderland at the Samsung Electric Playground, inspired by the best features of the new Galaxy S10. It’s being billed as tomorrow’s playground, where you control the light patterns.
The Argyle Cut in The Rocks is where to head for the new Pixar Studios Installation, pulsating with 30 years of Pixar characters. Darling Harbour's Tumbalong Park is being transformed into playSPACE, where six space themed installations have been designed to create the sensation of giving you a trip into deep space. It doesn’t often snow in Sydney, so Circular Quay is going to be staging Let it Snow, a fully immersive installation replicating the sensation of walking through a snow blizzard. And alongside the Opera House, one of Vivid’s most popular canvases is Customs House. This year it will be transformed into an underwater wonderland, a deep-dive under the harbour, heaving with neon sea creatures.
And one of my Sydney friends tell me that there’s a lot of buzz about Beetopia. This is going to be installed in the Royal Botanic Gardens, a touch-sensitive, giant glowing bee hotel which emits the smell of honey. Crawling with oversized native bees, the installation is touch sensitive, so when you pat a bee, it will respond with a gentle buzz – a bit like a vibrating phone. Meanwhile, Luna Park is stepping up to the spirit of Vivid. Coinciding with the festival, they are launching Volare, their newest ride, which claims to be Australia's largest and highest wave swinger. It will mimic the sensation of flying above the lights of Vivid.
Also, while you’re at Vivid, check out the massive Star Wars exhibition which has been in Sydney for a few months, but is leaving town in mid-June for Tokyo. Lucas Films has prised open its archives to showcase some of its treasures. 200 original objects used in the making of the Star Wars movies – costumes, props, models, you name, including the original R2-D2 and the Millennium Falcon. That’s on at the Powerhouse Museum until June 10.Vivid Sydney roars into life on Friday week, May 24, running through to June 15. Treat the family to a weekender in Sydney’s warm early winter glow. https://nz.sydney.com/