Light Up: Why Sydney’s Currently Trippier Than Ever

Sculptures and interactive art paint the Australian port city in neon.
Sydney Opera House Vivid Sydney Festival
For the Vivid Sydney lighting festival, indigenous Australian artists and musicians created the 15-minute artwork "Songlines", projected in a loop on Sydney Opera House. Songlines are the mythical and historical archives of the Aborigines recorded in stories, song, dance and painting. Photo courtesy Destination NSW

At Circular Quay in Sydney, a giant heart installation glows brighter depending on how loud a couple hollers “I love you”. Trees at the 200-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens are bathed in 3D projections, and at the Museum of Sydney, visitors can poke and pluck at an ethereal dome of light, called the Electric Jellyfish, to create music.

These are all installations at Vivid Sydney, a hugely popular outdoor lighting festival now in its eighth edition. For nearly a month, the city district and harbourside are awash with illuminated pieces and video art projected on buildings. The fest also has music gigs by the likes of Bjork (who also has a virtual reality exhibition) and talks by people like filmmaker Spike Jonze.

But the centrepiece of this winter festival has always been the ever-changing tapestry of light projected on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. This year’s installation, titled “Songlines”, features the work of six indigenous artists from 6-11p.m. until June 18, 2016. Like “Songlines” celebrates the indigenous culture and community, a few other festival works too reflect on man’s relationship with nature. One such interactive piece is “Exterminia” in Walsh Bay; a large, curvy seat meant to resemble a sea creature. The illumination on the seat dims the longer that a person sits on it, as a comment on our influence on climate change and coral bleaching. The piece is a direct response to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

Events are both family-friendly and playful. Visitors can attend the free Light Walk past over 60 installations, or sign up for an orchestral performance of dance anthems from the 1990s onwards, and sleepovers at the opera house to a live presentation of composer Max Richter’s eight-hour album Sleep.

Watch the video below, and scroll down for pictures from the festival.

Vivid Sydney events run across the city from May 27-18 June. See the website for details.

A photo posted by Alan Bolzan (@alanbolzan) on




    Saumya Ancheri is Assistant Web Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves places by the sea, and travels to shift her own boundaries. She tweets as @Saumya_Ancheri.

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