Vivid Sydney’s presents its most kaleidoscopic program ever
By Tahney Fosdike
In the greyness of winter, we always have Vivid Sydney to brighten up our nights.
It’s the literal light at the beginning of the dark season’s tunnel: Australia’s most extensive lineup of light-based art and cultural events featuring leading talent from the Asia Pacific’s cultural industries.
“We are truly proud of this year’s program,” says Vivid Director, Gill Minervini. “[It’s] a celebration of authenticity, an invitation to connect, and a chance to create.”
Vivid 2023 has promised its most impactful program yet as it strides in its second decade of operation. This year’s theme, ‘Vivid Sydney, Naturally,’ recalls inspiration from Mother Nature, ‘the master of all creators,’ and is realised across 300+ community-orientated activations and events.
“We have come through dark days together; we have reconnected, re-energised and rediscovered. We have walked into the light and found joy, happiness and each other,” Vivid’s website explains. “Through nature, we connect with our inner selves and find kindred souls. We gain an understanding of our place in the world and the importance of protecting it. Through nature, we discover creativity, inspiration and understanding.”
The festival has announced the premiere of its first-ever food program, Vivid Food, which aims to celebrate the uniqueness of Sydney’s culinary scene and its reliance on the natural world.
The festival also presents Vivid Ideas, a collection of 60 talks and workshops exploring community and lessons from the natural world. Fans of the hit series White Lotus will be excited by its show creator Mike White and star Jennifer Coolidge coming together for an exclusive event to talk about their decades of Hollywood experience.
“Vivid Ideas 2023 challenges our ‘natural’ ways of thinking,” says its curator Tory Loudon, “whether by shining a spotlight on underrepresented communities, offering cultural counterpoints to the mainstream, or creating one-of-a-kind immersive experiences.”
Alongside food and talks, the festival offers Vivid Music, with a spotlight on First Nations artists, including a tribute to the late Archie Roach AC. Additionally, Vivid Music has programmed the unticketed event Tumbalong Nights – 12 nights of free live music at Tumbalong Park.
But, of course, illumination remains the focus of the festival that turns Sydney into a “wonderland of light and colour.” Each night after sunset, you can explore the free 8.5km Light Walk across 60 light installations. The Light Walk expands into Barangaroo, where visitors can also find Vivid’s largest installation, The Last Ocean by Jen Lewin, and the return of Vivid House with its 360-degree immersive natural experiences art, light, sound, and video created by local and international artists.
“I am incredibly proud to bring back Vivid Sydney’s Light Walk,” says Minervini, “This year, all works featured are inspired by nature, driven by innovation and delivered with creativity.”
The diverse range of events happening between 26 May and 17 June are spread across Sydney’s centre and Lower North Shore, including Circular Quay, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Central Station, Tumbalong Park, Carriageworks, Pitt Street and Royal Botanical Gardens.
Every part of the 23-day program looks unmissable. By making the simple choice to travel into one of Vivid’s key locations, you will step into a transformed cityscape that will make for an immersive experience, wherever the night takes you. Though, the limitless program might still send even the most devoted art lovers into a head spin. To navigate all these choices, we have created a map of the best of Vivid 2023 to guide your adventure of this citywide celebration of creativity, innovation and technology.
Start your night with Barerarerungar, a light show in collaboration with the Electric Canvas at the Museum of Contemporary Art created by Maree Clarke, a Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, BoonWurrung/Wemba Wemba artist and designer. Take in her work as it transforms the MCA façade and surrounds into a space of communal reflection that pays tribute to Country.
Find Vivid’s largest-ever installation at Stargazer Lawn. The Last Ocean by US artist Jen Lewin is a massive ‘ice sheet’ that allows one to step into Antarctica. Indulge in your fascination with this ecosystem. At night, watch the artwork change shape and colour under your feet; by day, return to see it change form in new ways.
With an original soundtrack and effects - including 80-metre water shooters, flames, projection and pyrotechnics - Elemental offers an awe-inspiring ode to our planet’s force that has given life over billions of years. The astounding work will grip you in the urgency to restore balance to the natural world.
It’s not just about light at Vivid. Awaken your senses with sound at Tumbalong Nights. At the heart of the Light Walk, find (and dance to) 12 nights of free live music each Thursday to Saturday – as well as a bonus night on Sunday 11 June.
Dark Spectrum takes you into abandoned railway tunnels never before open to the public. Go beneath to reimagine your city across eight monochromatic rooms that inspire movement and euphoria. Note that the entrance and box office is located in Wynyard Park between York Street and Carrington Street, and you will exit via Cumberland Street in The Rocks.
Experience the Botanical Gardens anew in the internationally-acclaimed sensation Lightscape. The after-dark event invites you to immerse yourself in a curated sensory journey of the Garden’s horticultural collections through the wonder of lightworks and soundscapes. Note that this experience requires bookings.