A Handy Guide to Vivid Sydney's Light Precincts

A comprehensive overview to help you to effectively traverse the city to find all of the lights, all of the lights.
Tom Clift
Published on May 26, 2017

Vivid Sydney is officially upon us, ready to light up the night for another year. From May 26 through to June 17, the city will be flooded with colour and sound – along with a couple of million punters.

Every bloody year, we're paralysed with indecision as to where the hell to start chasing the Vivid lights. We put together a handy guide to this year's light precincts, from Taronga Zoo to Darling Harbour. Consider it a highlights package. Literally.

By Tom Clift and Jasmine Crittenden.


Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden is taking its Vivid participation to a whole new level this year. For a start, there's Electric Forest, a tableau created by a collaboration between art, design, animation and music students. If you don't get lost there, prepare for the shock of five massive eyeballs staring straight at you and, beyond that, the more joyful Sunflowers, which, unlike the eyeballs, are kind enough to bow when you pass by. You'll also get to meet Rowi, a rare species of kiwi, and her baby, who are made of light globes and wear night-goggles. Yep, this is probably Vivid's whackiest site.


At Taronga Zoo, take a stroll among a bunch of over-sized, illuminated sculptures of animals. Think Jurassic Park, but less scary. You'll be given a wristband that powers interaction: prepare to be eaten by a Port Jackson Shark, get to know a Sumatran Tiger, see life from a turtle's perspective and find yourself surrounded by a swarm of bees. On top of that, a small number of tickets will be sold for the cable car experience. It's pretty awesome at the best of times and takes on a whole new dimension during Vivid. The only catch is that, unlike most of the festival's light events, the zoo's isn't free. Your best bet is to buy a ticket online in advance.


You'll scarcely be able to move in The Rocks this Vivid without stumbling across one installation or another. Visitors can hop, skip and jump their way across an LED hopscotch grid (Electric Hopscotch), peer through mysterious windows into worlds heretofore unknown (Portholes), send a letter to a stranger via a light-up postbox (MailboX), and make beautiful music using a 3D projected keyboard (MUSIC|box). Cap off your night with a visit to MCA, where the façade will come to life courtesy of Organic Vibrations, a major new projection work created by local artist Julia Gorman and French art-collective Danny Rose.


In Chatswood, you'll find yourself wandering through a futuristic city, where Blade Runner meets steampunk. Head to the Interchange to feel small again, staring up at Voxelscape, an epic, spacey installation made up of 9000 glowing spheres, and to let off some steam at Gear Shift, an interactive projection that imitates a 19th century engine. You'll also find yourself looking heavenwards in Chatswood Mall, where a sparkling canopy leads you to Crossword, which sends out mysterious messages. If you're visiting during the day, check out Light Bounce, a refractive forest at Chatswood Chase. Meanwhile, The Concourse is hosting Future City/Smart City, a utopian community that's both airborne and sustainable; and, beneath it, you'll discover Steampunk Waterworld, a kind of industrial Atlantis.


Creative legends Motti+Smith are taking care of Martin Place this year. And, with the help of Stagekings and Paper Moose, they've turned it into DeepForest, an enchanting oasis that combines light with food. Hovering above the whole scene is Atmos, an extraordinary display of ribbons inspired by Aurora Australis. UrbanTree, which was a hit last time, is back with version 2.0, this time promising to carry you into a exotic ecosystem, where you'll meet a massive glowing frog. Lux Populi is a tree of a different kind, assembled out of a kilometre-long piece of neon rope, with branches ten metres above the ground. Meanwhile, expect to see Lloyd Rees Fountain transformed into a glittering, refractive wonder.


Watch where you're walking at Barangaroo this Vivid, lest the earth suddenly open up and swallow you whole. Illusory floor projection Trapdoor 'reveals' a cavernous world beneath Sydney's newest harbourside destination, with animations that pay tribute to the precinct's industrial history. Other standouts include A Day in the Light, a synaesthetic light and sound experience that recreates the various different phases of light that occur over the course of a day, as well as You-niverse, an inverted floating pyramid at Exchange Place where projections correspond to a number of Spotify playlists.


A 60m x 40m wall of water provides the canvas for what will surely be one of the most spectacular projections at Vivid Sydney this year. Devised by Ignatius Jones and Peewee Ferris, Magicians of the Mist incorporates fireballs, lasers, music and LEDs, along with 12 massive pumps throwing 28 tonnes of water per minute into the air above Cockle Bay. At nearby Tumbalong Green, 32 beams of light will paint patterns in the sky, while animated waves crash down on the room of the Australian National Maritime Museum.


Last Vivid, Circular Quay was home to the to the world's largest interactive light display. This year, they're breaking their own record. In Dreamscape, visitors will use a touch-sensitive 3D model to control lights and projections on buildings around the Quay, as well as a one kilometer stretch of the Cahill Expressway and the eastern face of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Then of course there's the Opera House, which this year will be illuminated Audio Creatures, an audio-visual tableaux featuring images of pulsating sea creatures, vibrant bird plumage and iridescent plant-life.

Published on May 26, 2017 by Tom Clift
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