In Style + Design

Vivid 2019: Must-See Events According To Light Curator Lucy Keeler

Light is much more than just a tool to help us see in the dark – it’s also an instrument of wonder, of self-expression, and creativity which brings us together regardless of age, race or gender. To that end, it’s the perfect medium for Vivid Sydney 2019, the annual festival of light, music and ideas.

Celebrating its 11th year, the hotly anticipated 2019 event will transform the streets of inner Sydney and surrounds from May 24 to June 15 with an eclectic program of light-based projections and installations, interactive art exhibits, musical performances, and inspirational talks.

Visitors will be waiting with bated breath for the lights to be switched on, but none more so than Vivid Light Curator Lucy Keeler, who is tasked with seeking out talented artists from Australia and around the world to transform Sydney into an urban wonderland.

Lucy Keeler is Vivid Light Curator. Image: Vivid / supplied

After months of careful planning and preparation, Keeler and her team will at last have a chance to see their vision for the year’s festival fully realised – burning bright in the night.

One of the many festival favourites will be the Vivid Light Walk, a dazzling, three-kilometre-long sensory journey snaking from The Rocks around Circular Quay to the Royal Botanic Garden. This year, half of the Light Walk artworks are by emerging and established Australian artists.

Keeler says to keep an eye out for ‘Ocean Sentinels’ by Small Ocean Collaboration: a series of South Pacific totems 3D printed from 100 per cent recycled plastic filament, which aim to shine a light on plastic pollution and the threat of rising tides due to human-induced climate change.

‘EcoBot’: a 16m mechatronic at the heart of ‘Robot SPACELand’ in Darling Harbour; and Let Me Down’: a romantic homage to Sydney-based artist Claudia Nicholson’s birth country of Colombia, beamed onto the Museum of Contemporary Art, are also ones to watch.

‘Ballerina’ by Italian artist Angelo Bonnello is a featured international piece. Image: Vivid / supplied

Complementing the amazing local pieces, there will also be a kaleidoscope of international artworks including the charming ‘Ballerina’ by Italian artist Angelo Bonello, ‘Co-Existence’ by Hungarian art collective LimeLight, and the dazzling ‘Firefly Field’ by Dutch duo Toer.

“Personally, I’m also excited to be featuring a custom work by Pixar Animation Studios (USA), as Pixar invented the 3D animation methodology which underpins 3D architectural projection mapping world-wide,” Keeler says.

“We are very lucky to be able to display behind-the-scenes sketch storyboards and concept art from the world most influential animation studio on The Argyle Cut, one of Sydney’s most beloved heritage sites.”

As canvases go, there are few more iconic than the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

For Keeler and the Vivid team, the challenge is to not only select an artist who embodies the Vivid spirit but one who also treats the building with the passion and reverence it deserves.

“We approach the ‘The Lighting of the Sails’ on the Sydney Opera House as custodians of an icon belonging to the people of Sydney,” she says. “For the team behind the project, we hope to give people an opportunity to see a global architectural icon with fresh eyes.”

This year, the honour of lighting the sails goes to US artist Andrew Thomas Huang and the animation design team BEMO, with their hypnotic artwork ‘Austral Floral Ballet’ a fusion of contemporary dance, motion-capture technology, and the native plant life of Australia.

In addition to the handcrafting of custom electronics in art studios across the globe, Keeler says there are many elements people won’t see but are vital to the event’s success.

Andrew Thomas Huang will light the Sydney Opera House’s sails. Image: Vivid / supplied

“Vivid Sydney finds extraordinary artists in extraordinary places. This year’s festival will include mechatronics specialists, architects, electronic engineers, animators, academics, lighting designers, musicians and scientists.

“If everything runs smoothly no one will have any knowledge of the crowd-flow algorithms, the complex traffic management planning, city-wide power distribution, structure and wind engineering, the coordination of shipping schedules and over 100 truck movements – all before the artworks get to site.

“Then there is a painstaking installation process involving overnight multi-projector ‘line ups’ on Sydney’s architectural icons, cable distribution timed to the May king tide in the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the inevitable last-minute additional waterproofing.”

Though we often think of light as just a simple flick of a switch, Keeler says light-based art is the most technologically complex artform to make, yet also the most basic to experience.

“Light affects all human beings on a fundamental level,” Keeler says.

“Outdoor light art festivals are rapidly spreading across the globe, and it’s no surprise when the great success of this form of art is in its ability to reach beyond socio economics. Light art is breaking down the white cube by taking the art off the wall, out the door (into the rain…) and giving art back to the wider population.”

Visitors can experience Vivid Sydney in eight precincts across the city including Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, Chatswood and Taronga Zoo, with lights on from 6pm to 11pm.

(Lead images: ‘Austral Floral Ballet’ by Andrew Thomas Huang & Co-Existence – LimeLight)

Published 26 April, 2019