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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.