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Lighting the sails at the Sydney Opera House. (Daniel Boud)
e|MERGEnce is an interactive work found at Martin Place. It live captures video of the viewer's face and maps it onto the giant face-shaped sculpture. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Lighting the sails at the Sydney Opera House. (James Horan/Vivid Sydney)
A light show is projected onto water in Sydney Harbour by the Vivid Aquatique Water Theatre. (Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis)
The Pool by Jen Lewin has more than 100 interactive circular platforms and is located at Circular Quay. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
The Pool by Jen Lewin senses how hard and quickly you place your feet and where visitors land. It is located at Circular Quay. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Giant inflatable rabbits are lit from within. (Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis)
The Urban Tree Project on the MLC Building at Martin Place. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
The Urban Tree Project on the MLC Building at Martin Place. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Cellular Tessellation, at Circular Quay, was designed by Chris Knapp, Jonathan Nelson and Michael Parsons. (Lawrence Furzey/Vivid Sydney)
Cellular Tessellation is composed of 'cells' made from recycled milk bottles. The 'cells' contain LED lights and motion sensors that adjust the light based on how many people are inside and how close they are to each other. (Lawrence Furzey/Vivid Sydney)
Performers under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (Lawrence Furzey/Vivid Sydney)
Lighting of the sails at the Sydney Opera House. (Daniel Boud/Vivid Sydney)
Kaleido-Wall 1.0, created by Vin Rathod and Priyanka Rathod, can be found at Circular Quay. (Daniel Boud/Vivid Sydney)
Play Me is an interactive, 3D-mapped projection at the Customs House. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Play Me is an interactive, 3D-mapped projection at the Customs House. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
An interactive installation artwork displays a variety of light bulbs with one large light bulb. (Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis)
Play Me is an interactive, 3D-mapped projection at the Customs House. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Vivid Sydney's opening night at Martin Place. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Gamma World by Jess Johnson and Spinifex is projected on the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
Martin Place is transformed during Vivid Sydney with a display called Beneath the Beams. Lights shine and green and gold lasers are distorted by smoke falling out of sixteen towers. (Brett Hemmings/Vivid Sydney)
The lighting of the sails at the Sydney Opera House. (James Horan/Vivid Sydney)
Luminous Xylophone by Emrah Baki Ulas and Steensen Varming at Circular Quay. (James Horan/Vivid Sydney)
Lighting the sails at the Sydney Opera House. (Daniel Boud/Vivid Sydney)
The light installation on Sydney Harbour Bridge lets visitors customize its 100,000 LED lights from Luna Park. (James Morgan/Vivid Sydney)

Sydney's Spectacular Technicolor Art Festival in Nine Mesmerizing GIFs

3-D digital light projections and interactive sound sculptures transform famous landmarks around Australia's largest city

smithsonian.com

On May 23, Australia's most populous city flipped the switch on Vivid Sydney, an interactive light show that will illuminate buildings and landmarks throughout Sydney through June 9. The annual festival, now in its sixth year, combines lighted installations with musical performances and symposiums on innovation and is expected to draw around one million visitors.

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Perhaps the most recognizable of Sydney's landmarks, the Sydney Opera House has been transformed by Vivid Sydney and 59 Productions, the company that helped conceptualize and produce the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony. For the Opera House's iconic sails, 59 Productions created a projection that takes the iconic building "on a dramatic journey through time – from the birth of architecture and civilization through to the pinnacle of human and technological achievement."

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Over at Sydney's Darling Harbour, the French company Aquatique Show International has combined technological spectacle with artistic elegance to create Vivid Aquatique, a laser and water show. Inspired by Louis XIV’s elaborate 'Water Garden' at Versailles, Vivid Aquatique utilizes four giant screens created by water droplets, large-format video projections, colored lasers and, in some cases, fireworks.

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The 2014 festival marks the first time that Martin Place, a pedestrian area in the middle of city's central business district, features prominently in Vivid Sydney. With a visit to Martin Place, spectators can see the MLC Center, one of architect Harry Seidler's most iconic works, transformed into a tree.

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Also in Martin Place, visitors can experience e|MERGEnce, which serves as another blend of innovation and art. Visitors can have their face mapped by a webcam, then see their likeness projected in real-time onto a 5-foot tall sculpture of a head. The work's creators say the piece "plays on themes of scale, personality and realism" and invites visitors to become part of the art.

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At the Museum of Contemporary Art, light installations transform the exterior of the building into an abstract work worthy of a spot in the museum's halls. Inspired by artist Jess Johnson, expect to see things such as light-projected snakes slither their way across the building's art deco facade. The 3-D projection appears to be continuously reassembling the building's structure.

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Near the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Vivid Sydney's most beautiful treasures: The Pool, created by American sculptor Jen Lewin. The piece fuses technology, art and human interaction, becoming a different piece of art based on an individual's movements—each person that steps on a pad causes that pad to light up and radiate out in ripples, commingling with ripples generated by other people, to create a fluid, dynamic piece of art. The piece has traveled far and wide, spending time in Scottsdale, Arizona, before coming to Sydney.

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To really become a part of the art, visitors can check out "Play Me" at Customs House, a historic Sydney landmark built in 1844 that served as the headquarters of the Customs Service until 1990. During Vivid Sydney, the building is transformed into a lit-up 3-D "musical sculpture" that visitors "play" by moving around a platform, while abstract representations of their "instruments" dance on the building's facade.

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Vivid Sydney is free and open to the public. Tickets to musical performances and idea forums can be purchased online.

Editor's Note, May 28, 2014: This story erroneously referred to Sydney as Australia's capital city; it is Canberra. The story has been edited accordingly.

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