There’s nothing quite like an elaborate light show to put the spotlight on a city many visitors are familiar with. But I discovered something most intriguing at a recent visit to this year’s Vivid Sydney festival of light, music and ideas, which ends this Saturday (June 17). More illuminating than the instalment of light swings (Freedom of Movement) set along Sydney’s most famous harbour, or the visual spectacle that is the morphing sails of the iconic Opera House that featured a kaleidoscope of imaginary creatures by acclaimed cinematographer and graphic designer Ash Bolland.
The crowd on opening night was expectedly large around the quay. To boot, this was where the record breaking (Guinness world record for the “largest interactive lighting display”) Dreamscape installation was also set, featuring 124,128 lights that link the entire Circular Quay precinct, from the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge.
But that night, I found myself in a bit of a trance, standing in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), watching the constant morphing of a series of images by Australian artist Julia Gorman and Paris-based creative and artistic collective, Danny Rose, flowing seamlessly over the heritage-listed building’s façade to the sounds of inciting electronic music being blasted.
The 10-minute experience was almost immersive—and a little like how I would imagine a person’s vision quest would look like if his or her thoughts were project-mapped onto a building. Dubbed Organic Vibrations, the effect was mesmerising despite the lack of material, visual or otherwise, to explain what visitors were witnessing.
In fact, it wasn’t until a visit to the museum the following afternoon that I learned of the “obvious” connection. The animated series of coloured strata, like the age rings on a tree or the layers of a topographical map, that enthralled me the night before were part of Gorman’s current work, entitled Inside/Out, that is on display in the museum’s Collection Galleries. Here, she had hand-cut the familiar abstracted organic patterns and lines out of self-adhesive vinyl sheets which she then fixed on the floor and the walls in and around the exhibition space—the former Maritime Services Boardroom.
It was an accidental but apt discovery that left a lasting impression on me; affirming just how illuminating Vivid Sydney’s seemingly decorative light show can be.