The Only Guide You Need for Vivid Sydney 2015

Vivid Sydney 2015

The days may be get­ting shorter, but Sydney’s turn­ing the lights on to keep the city shin­ing bright dur­ing Vivid Syd­ney 2015.

The Vivid 2015 sea­son has begun here in Syd­ney, bring­ing its biggest pro­gram yet with an abun­dance of fes­ti­val firsts. Over the next 12 days, the fes­ti­val of light, music and ideas will splash the city in colour, spin a lively sound­track and spark the minds of Syd­neysiders and vis­i­tors alike. All will be ablaze with colour­ful light instal­la­tions and pro­jec­tions fea­tured across the city. See the glow­ing Opera House Sails, mor­ph­ing MCA façade, the lumi­nes­cent water the­atre in Dar­ling Har­bour and even the boats that dot the waters sur­round­ing Syd­ney Town. While Syd­ney is illu­mi­nated, its res­i­dents and vis­i­tors will be enlight­ened. The festival’s Vivid LIVE brings a mas­sive pro­gram of con­tem­po­rary music for its sev­enth year in a row, while Vivid Ideas hosts a slew of sem­i­nars to dis­cuss inno­va­tion, chal­lenge think­ing and bring new ideas to the table. And though the fes­ti­val has already begun, there is still a ton on offer to see, hear and do.

Only have a day to dis­cover Vivid Syd­ney 2015? Here’s your one night guide of places and events to hit while you paint the town red (and yel­low and green and brown and scar­let and black and ocher and peach and…)

Vivid Sydney 2015 at Central Park


Sydney’s new ‘urban vil­lage’, Cen­tral Park makes its Vivid debut this year as street art comes to life, mar­kets light up the night and inter­ac­tive enter­tain­ment keeps you com­ing back for more.

5:30pm aMBUSH Gallery, L3 Cen­tral Park, 28 Broad­way, Chippendale

Head up to the aMBUSH gallery space to check out Streets Ahead and immerse your­self in the world of street art and streetwear through a one-off exhibit and Vivid Ideas talks with artists, design­ers and brands at the fore­front of street cul­ture. The exhibit dis­plays works by all of the spe­cially invited inter­na­tional speak­ers includ­ing Tony Arcabas­cio, jeff­stable, Mishka, 123KLAN and L’Amour Supreme.

6pm aMBUSH Gallery, L3 Cen­tral Park, 28 Broad­way, Chippendale

After the exhibit, find your way to the New­town Hotel pop-up bar in the gallery’s event space for a drink and front-row view of the Streets Ahead light show, spark­ing up at 6pm. Watch as works by indige­nous artist, Reko Ren­nie and mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary artist, Beast­man dance across the heritage-listed CUB Brew­ery façade. The pop-up is also host­ing an eclec­tic music pro­gram chock full of DJs and bands from all over the music spec­trum. See the sched­ule here.

Color the Bridge, viewed from North Sydney. Vivid Sydney 2014.


Grab a train from Cen­tral to Cir­cu­lar Quay to the lit­er­ally beat­ing heart of Vivid. Expect crowds, but also expect to be in total awe. Explore your sur­rounds as you step into a vibrant play­ground where light instal­la­tions abound, set to a unique score of musi­cal sound­tracks and excited fes­ti­val­go­ers. Across from the sta­tion, Cus­toms House enchants as its façade blos­soms with Sydney’s flora and fauna, while next door, the New Zealand-Japan made Light Origami cre­ates a kalei­do­scopic world of over 320 origami shapes reflect­ing and refract­ing spec­trums of light through­out a mir­rored dome. But don’t go too far from the wharf though because you’ve got a boat to catch at 8pm.

8pm Vivid Syd­ney Har­bour Tour, Wharf 4, Cir­cu­lar Quay

MCA Façade, Vivid Sydney 2014Grab yet another spec­tac­u­lar front-row view of the lights aboard one of the city’s iconic yel­low and green fer­ries dur­ing a Vivid Syd­ney Har­bour Tour. This fes­ti­val first gives you an exclu­sive, beyond-breathtaking show of Vivid Sydney’s Har­bour Lights precinct set to an orig­i­nal Vivid Music sound­track with com­men­tary pro­vid­ing the behind-the-scenes scoop on the mes­mer­iz­ing light dis­plays to be seen. Start­ing at the Opera House Sails designed this year by Uni­ver­sal Every­thing, and the Museum of Con­tem­po­rary Art’s elec­tric Mer­chan­dised Colour Assem­blage pro­jec­tion, the ferry – only at half-capacity so every­one can expe­ri­ence the dra­matic views – putt-putts along under the daz­zling Har­bour Bridge cov­ered in 100,000 LEDs. Next you’re taken to Antarc­tica on an explo­ration of the Polar Lights as they bounce and reflect atop the Mar­itime Museum’s roof. Con­tin­u­ing on towards Pyr­mont Bay Park, the night is set ablaze with an inter­ac­tive dig­i­tal fire­works dis­play, just one part of this mul­ti­sen­sory urban play­ground. Finally, as the ferry chugs its way back to Cir­cu­lar Quay, you’re taken past the Light Walk from The Rocks to the Walsh Bay Tree of Light for a finale burst­ing with even more colour and glim­mer­ing lights.

The Vivid Syd­ney Har­bour Tours are an absolute must for a totally unique per­spec­tive of the shim­mer­ing har­bour. Find out more and buy your tick­ets to board here.

Robotantic Martin Place, Vivid 2015


As a break­out favourite last year, this busy day­time stomp­ing ground for Sydney’s cor­po­rates trans­forms into an lumi­nous evening precinct, appeal­ing to all five senses. With deli­cious smells waft­ing from some of the city’s tasti­est food joints, inter­ac­tive instal­la­tions to see and hear, plus the chance to bat­tle in out in a game of drones, the Vivid party here car­ries on until midnight.

9:45pm Tran­scen­dence, Mar­tin Place

At this point, I’m sure you’re won­der­ing if any food is involved dur­ing this night out, and of course! I was just mak­ing sure you worked up a good appetite before approach­ing the foodie won­der­land of Tran­scen­dence. This archi­tec­tural media sculp­ture by UK designer Joseph Cross­ley fea­tures mes­mer­iz­ing scenes using new media art from pro­jec­tion map­ping to a computer-coded light show. Every night will see a dif­fer­ent team of hand-selected artists work­ing along­side Cross­ley to cre­ate an ever-changing visual feast. So as the lights daz­zle and dance above, your mouth will begin to water at the treats below. Delight in a selec­tion of Sydney’s trendi­est food and drink hawk­ers. Here’s just a pre­view of the nosh and tip­ples on offer:Rocks Brewing Company at Vivid Sydney 2015

  • Porteño (Argen­tin­ian): Roast pork sand­wiches & Spicy lamb sausages
  • Thiev­ery (Lebanese): Wagyu kebab & Lebanese fried chicken
  • Tsuru (Asian Street Food): Hot & spicy BBQ pork belly buns
  • Cow & The Moon (Award-Winning Gelato & Cof­fee): Affogato
  • Rocks Brew­ing Com­pany (Brew­ery): Local beers & Local spir­its by Sydney’s Archie Rose distillery
til Mid­night Mar­tin Place

After indulging in the menu at Transendence, digest a bit and have a wan­der of the other light shows in Mar­tin Place. Enter inside the 1920s cel­lu­loid film­mak­ing tech­niques and work­ings of a zoetrope at Phase Frames. Remem­ber the impor­tance of switch­ing off your tech­nol­ogy and tun­ing into the world around you with Rob­ot­an­tic’s inter­ac­tive botan­i­cal gar­den of light and sound. Feel the beat Drum Cir­cle by Aus­tralian duo Kate & Marty where the rhythm you drum out con­nects to the chang­ing lights through­out the installation.

Now if you find your­self with more time on your hands to ful­fill your Vivid needs, con­tinue read­ing to dis­cover my quin­ntessen­tial hit list for the fes­ti­val (bar­ring the instal­la­tions already men­tioned above).

You can also check out my themed Vivid trails here.

The Quin­ntessen­tial Vivid Syd­ney 2015 Guide

Vivid Sydney 2015, Alice Gibson

  1. Enti­tle by Amanda Parer, Australia

    Bar­ney & Bligh Reserves, The Rocks – 22 May to 08 July, 6pm ‘til midnight

Aus­tralian artist Amanda Parer, whose Intrude giant glow­ing rab­bits invaded Syd­ney Har­bour at last year’s Vivid, is back again, this year bring­ing to light the Rococo period and all its friv­o­lity and opu­lence. Parer’s illu­mi­nated pig con­structed using tra­di­tional Chi­nese lantern tech­niques and in the 18th–cen­tury art period’s whim­si­cal style, ques­tions the cost of overindul­gence and plays on themes around greed, enti­tle­ment and excess.

  1. The Deep Pur­ple Pool Hall Pop-up Bar by Jeremy Black­more & Alex Dowd

    Opera House Con­cert Hall North­ern Foyer – 22 May to 31 May, 6pm ‘til late

Named after the mem­o­rable pur­ple car­pet­ing in the Opera House’s North­ern Foyer, The Deep Pur­ple Pool Hall has cleared out all stuffi­ness asso­ci­ated with pri­vate func­tions and deca­dent nights at the opera, and set up res­i­dence as a craft-focused bar. The duo behind the bars of Sydney’s The Cliff Dive and Tio’s bring a menu of win­ter warmer cock­tails and Aussie beers, whites and reds to pair per­fectly with a pre– or post-gig night of live DJs and free pool. Just fol­low the neon eight ball lead­ing you to this pop-up bar with a view to boot.Dolly, Vivid Sydney 2015

  1. Dolly by Tina Fox, Australia

    Campbell’s Cove – 22 May to 08 July, 6pm ‘til midnight

Hand­crafted entirely out of cot­ton rope and LED strip-lights, this giant Dolly sits three-meter high wait­ing for vis­i­tors to give her a hug and grab a selfie. The instal­la­tion plays on child­hood mem­o­ries of dolls, night­lights and cud­dly teddy bears, which the artist illu­mi­nates on the grand scale. As an archi­tect and artist, Tina Fox is always on the look out for ways to incor­po­rate craft into sculp­ture. I’m look­ing for­ward to admir­ing her crafts­man­ship, as I have recently taken to knit­ting, cro­chet and all that comes with a good crafter­noon – more on that later.

  1. Etsy Craft Party at Vivid Sydney

    6/8 Ather­den St, The Rocks – 06 June, 10am ‘til 10:30pm

Speak­ing of crafter­noons, Etsy is join­ing up with Vivid Syd­ney to present a day­long cel­e­bra­tion of craft; com­plete with music and mar­kets fea­tur­ing locally made prod­ucts and wares. This is Etsy’s fifth year of host­ing craft par­ties around the world, and first time join­ing up with Vivid. And this year’s col­lab­o­ra­tion is very fit­ting as the global party’s theme is Kalei­do­scope: Paper Tak­ing Shape, per­fectly paired with the many kalei­do­scopic instal­la­tions light­ing up in the sur­round­ing area. The event is free and goes for the entire day with night mar­kets kick­ing off at 6:30pm. Find out more on the event and RSVP here.

  1. Space Fold­ing by Zina Kaye, Australia

    Cor­ner of George St & Alfred St, Cir­cu­lar Quay – 22 May to 08 July, 6pm ‘til midnight

This cylin­dri­cal mor­ph­ing light instal­la­tion takes shape, colour and pat­tern to real-time flight data from Sydney’s air­space. Each sequence of light and sound is aug­mented by the flights embark­ing, land­ing and pass­ing over­head. Put on a head­set to lis­ten to the data-driven sound­track in real-time, and watch as these never repeat­ing, unique sequences appear and change to the music of travel.Opera House Sails, Vivid Sydney 2015

  1. Heart of the City by Anaisa Franco, Germany

    East Cir­cu­lar Quay – 22 May to 08 June, 6pm ‘til midnight

Dis­cover the pulse of the city as this heart-shaped instal­la­tion keeps the Vivid vibes cir­cu­lat­ing, pump­ing out vital red lights to its own heart­beat. Take a seat and illu­mi­nate what’s in your heart-of-hearts as the pulse sen­sor emits your own thump-thump for all to see.

  1. You Are Here by Ham­mer Light­ing, Australia

    Campbell’s Cove – 22 May to 08 June, 6pm ‘til midnight

But first, let me take a selfie… Pre­sent­ing a twist on your typ­i­cal tourist map telling you ‘you are here’, grab the per­fect selfie at this Light Art instal­la­tion set against the ulti­mate Vivid back­drop of the glow­ing Opera House Sails. Don’t for­get to # to share. #vividsyd­ney #HowSelfiesWork

MCA, VIvid Sydney 2015. Image by Silvia Li Photography

  1. MCA Café & Sculp­ture Ter­race Vivid Cocktails

    140 George St, The Rocks – 23 May to 08 June, 6 ‘til 9pm, Thurs­days to Sundays

Drink up all of Vivid’s light and colour, lit­er­ally, at the MCA. The café on top of Sydney’s Museum of Con­tem­po­rary Art has spe­cially crafted two Vivid-inspired cock­tails, The Sap­phire and Ruby Red. Not only are they deli­ciously colour­ful, but rumour has it they also glow just like the lights sur­round­ing you. You’ll also have one of the best van­tage points of the fes­ti­val on the rooftop ter­race with views of the Har­bour Bridge, Opera House and all the bright lights of Cir­cu­lar Quay below.

  1. OPA­Lessence (play.with.colour) by Olivia Deskoski & Amanda Clarke, Australia

    47 George St, cor­ner of George St and Play­fair St – 22 May to 08 June, 6pm ‘til midnight

Australia’s national gem­stone comes to light, sparkling across Syd­ney sand­stone and show­cas­ing the glints and flick­ers that live in opals. See the vibrant play of colour and light in the var­i­ous opal pat­terns with curi­ous names like Chi­nese Writ­ing, Har­le­quin or Broad Flash. These incred­i­ble splashes and swirls of colour par­tic­u­larly pay trib­ute to the mys­te­ri­ous pat­terns found in the rare black opal of Light­ing Ridge, NSW.

DRESSES by Taegon Kim (Korea/France). LUMIERE 2013, produced by Artichoke in Durham. Photo Matthew Andrews.

  1. My Ethe­real Vivid Trail

Out of the themed trails I’ve made for Vivid, the ethe­real list has my favourite stops for a good dose of dreamy, whim­si­cal and oth­er­worldly works.

BONUS: Piano Stairs by Reuben Young, Andrew Hand­mer, Jes­sica Chalker, Annalie Kil­lian & Tim Carr, Aus­tralia
AMP Build­ing, Cir­cu­lar Quay – 22 May to 08 June, 6pm ‘til midnight


Dis­cover more about the fes­ti­val on the Vivid web­site and app.