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17 Pictures to Inspire You to Visit Vivid Sydney 2017

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Sydney is entering winter, the night falls earlier and there’s a chill in the air. But now, Sydney is also graced with the Vivid Festival… A celebration of light, music and ideas, Vivid Sydney seems to be getting bigger ever year. Around the city and the harbour, the night walker is greeted by eerie and colourful creations. Sydney Harbour plays host to a range of wild creatures and thought-provoking installations. As always, the Sydney Opera House is the star of the show, lending its elegant sails to the most incredible creative expression. I walked around the Rocks, the City and the Botanical Gardens on a cold night and marvelled at the colours expressed. Here are my photos to inspire you to visit Vivid Sydney 2017.

Sydney Opera House: Lighting of the Sails

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A great way to approach the Opera House is via Sydney Ferries.

From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Tableaux that evoke the pulsing sea creatures, eye-searing bird-plumage and iridescent plant life of an organo-mechanistic future are projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House — and invite audiences to take a unique dive into an indescribable world of colour and light during Vivid Sydney. Sydney Artist and Art Director Ash Bolland presents the imagery behind Audio Creatures, brought to life by breathtaking soundscapes from Brazil’s legendary sound-wizard and composer Amon Tobin.

This year, Vivid Sydney presents a visceral, visionary work that will transpose the admirers of Utzon’s ineffable ‘sails’ to a parallel universe beneath the Sydney harbour line and beyond the jungle walls of a predatory CBD.


The Bridge

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Dreamscape including The Bridge is the world’s largest interactive lighting display. It links the entire Quay precinct from the Sydney Opera House to the Sydney Harbour Bridge into one cohesive canvas of light.

This expansive and dynamic installation enhances buildings around Circular Quay with colour and texture; sets up a one-kilometre ‘line of light’ along the Cahill Expressway and beams 25 brilliant ‘fingers of light’ into the night sky from the roof of the Overseas Passenger Terminal.

The control hub for the installation is located in a perspex dome at Circular Quay and uses an extraordinary purpose-built 3D interactive model of the city skyline; participants simply touch the model to change the colours and patterns across the canvas of the buildings before them or to add their own sparkle to the eastern face of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This beautiful and inspiring interactive model provides an exciting level of performance to the event, with the resulting display shared by viewers watching from vantage points around the harbour.

Organic Vibrations

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The Museum of Contemporary Art turns into a pulsating and living building.

From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Organic Vibrations is a collaboration between Julia Gorman, an Australian artist whose work is currently on display in the collection galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), and Paris-based creative and artistic collective, Danny Rose. Together, they create a single, coherent artwork from the constant morphing and mutation of a series of images, which flow seamlessly over the façade of the MCA.

The abstract images are drawn from the shapes and colours of the natural world, and are seen as sinuous lines that appear to grow organically until they cover the severe and geometric art deco façade of the Museum. The installation uses projection-mapping techniques to transform the façade with images originally made by the artist in watercolour, oils, marker pen, and painting applications. This flow of handmade images, synthesised with music, creates a multisensory experience as the audience follows a 10-minute animated sequence of colour, movement and emotion.

The animations resolve as a series of coloured strata, like the age rings on a tree or the layers of a topographical map, flowing in successive waves across the façade, hollowing it out in places and inflating it in others. The building is seen as a dynamic entity, always growing and changing — finally cohering into a rhythmic succession of surfaces lit from the inside. The installation is an endless breath, a rhythmic, vibrating sound that shapes and transmutes the façade of the Museum of Contemporary Art into a multitude of organic forms in constant motion.

Ethereal Columns

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Ethereal Columns explores the possibility of a colonnade without solidity, without weight to bear. The work is architectural: bold and imposing, it appears to carry its burden with grandeur. However, as the columns of light dance and flicker, the colonnade reveals itself as a structure without mass — and the columns transition into the ethereal.


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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Portholes captures the viewing experience of explorers as they peer through the windows of their ‘capsule’, to marvel at the furthest reaches of the Earth – and beyond…

For centuries humankind has sought to explore the Earth’s environment. From the ocean depths of the Mariana Trench, to the planetary orbits of NASA’s space program, humans have looked through portholes to marvel at the previously unknown.

This installation creates the illusion of seeing various environments through circular apertures that seem to penetrate a structural façade. With projected imagery that aligns precisely with clusters of mounted portholes, the observer experiences a view into the immense void ‘behind’ the wall.

At any moment, the porthole structures could reveal an aquatic scene, or a stellar one; a vast landscape, or one viewed from the scale of an insect. Representations and abstractions of worlds appear, shifting in colour, light, nature and culture.

The Sunflowers

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

The Sunflowers welcomes each visitor with a bow — and in a most charming way introduces them to the potential of harnessing solar energy for a sustainable future.

This joyous light sculpture assembles a harvest of potted sunflowers along a walkway with an east–west orientation, allowing maximum exposure to the sun. Solar panels harness energy from the sun during the day and store it in batteries embedded in the flowers: at night the stored energy is used to brighten LEDs in the petals and to facilitate the ‘bowing’ movement.

In nature, sunflowers respond directionally to sunlight (this is also called heliotropism):a young flower faces east at dawn and greets the sun, then slowly turns west as the sun moves across the sky; during the night, they gradually turn back to the east to begin the cycle again. Sunflowers are loved by children and adults and are frequently associated with happiness, positivity and adoration: in Oriental cultures, sunflowers signify intelligence, strength, good luck and a long life.


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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Waratah is a unique tribute to an iconic flowering plant. The majestic waratah is native to Australia and is the floral emblem of the state of New South Wales: it is difficult to cultivate and slow to mature, but flowers riotously in its native bushland setting.

To honour this extraordinary plant, the artists have created a huge inflatable light sculpture, rich in colour and beautiful by day; at night it opens out to give visitors a larger-than-life experience of the aesthetics of this magnificent bloom.

Waratah, like all flowers, is sensitive to its immediate environment: it responds to sound and movement, shifting from its ambient resting glow to an explosion of light. Visitors can walk right up to it and make direct contact and it responds playfully, creating integrated wave patterns with light.

The interactivity built into the sculpture is inspired by scientific research that suggests that plants and their flowers are more like us than we think. Just as humans respond emotionally to different types of contact or interaction, some plant specimens appear to respond to physical contact and sound. Different sensations can trigger a cascade of physiological and genetic responses; for example, some plants can ‘hear’ when insects are chewing them and release chemicals to stop the damage.

Plants are also able to sense changes in their environment, and appear to communicate these changes to other plants via a subterranean ‘internet’ of underground fungus.

As they interact with Waratah, visitors not only celebrate the organic design of a marvellous work of nature, but experience a sense of that often-unseen relationship that exists between humans and plants.

Birds of Lumos

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Birds of Lumos introduces us to ‘Rowi’ the kiwi and her baby chick; she wears sight-enhancing goggles — because unlike most nocturnal birds kiwi have very poor eyesight (although a keen sense of hearing and smell). The artists have made these two little birds representative of the rare Rowi species of kiwi, and their work is a comment on the importance of conservation and the protection of wildlife.

As visitors gather around them, Rowi and her chick come to life — glowing and pulsating different colours through their light-globe bodies. If Rowi senses danger, she will go through a ‘charge’ sequence. Her glow will dim for a few seconds to ‘charge up’ and then illuminate in an intense display of light. The Rowi kiwi does well to be wary of intruders because unfortunately 95% of kiwi hatched in the wild are killed by introduced pests and predators.

Spreading Life

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Spreading Life is inspired by that most natural (and magical) of experiences: blowing on a dandelion. This installation captures the delicate moment when a dandelion’s seeds float off and spread through the air; a passage of nature — that shows us that as a flower dies, others are born.

The work offers a unique form of interaction, inviting people to blow on two small light sculptures equipped with sensors and crafted into the form of dandelion flowers. To ensure the message is clear, neon is positioned alongside the flowers and forms the word ‘BLOW’ with moving arrows indicating the appropriate spot.

Visitors who approach and take up the invitation to interact with the small dandelions activate a bright animation in an adjacent group of larger flowers — the seeds light up and begin to glow in space and a sound simulates their floating away through the air. Ultimately this lovely work reminds us that blowing on a dandelion represents hopes, dreams and desires.

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You Lookin’ at Me

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

You lookin’ at me? takes five big glaring eyes, scatters them across a grass verge and invests them with the behaviour of a watchful predator.

When undisturbed, the glowing, bulging eyeballs, complete with colourful irises, stare randomly, appearing a little bored; however, when a pedestrian passes they spark into action, each eyeball closely following the passage of the visitor.

When there is more than one person nearby the eyes have to choose whom to follow or ignore. The general perception for the viewer: it is they who are being watched.

Sometimes, when a visitor comes too close, the eyes become nervous and react by trying to intimidate the intruder with a lot of eyeball-rolling. If this fails to scare them off, the eyes might become bloodshot and angry. They will then start to emit a swelling, sinister sound.

If the eyes still fail to chase the visitor away, they simply give up. In a wink they turn into ‘eyes-wide-shut’, although some eyeballs may go into dignified denial and simply project a blank stare.

Urban Tree 2.0

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From the Vivid Sydney 2017 website:

Urban Tree 2.0 transforms the sculptural form of the Commercial Travellers Association (CTA) building in Martin Place into a giant luminous mushroom-shaped tree teeming with exotic creatures.

The much-loved building, designed by modernist architect Harry Seidler is already a notable contrast to the soaring angular geometry of the surrounding skyscrapers. During Vivid, the organic curves of the building become a canvas for breathtaking projections and animations that take viewers deep within a forested eco system. Rivers flow, plant-life grows and each night a glowing frog succeeds in catching his dinner.

The work is a fresh chapter of the multi-award winning Urban Tree 2.0 that launched Martin Place’s entry as a Vivid Precinct in 2014. The first work explored themes associated with the impact of high density living on the natural environment and the human need for green space.  The 2017 projections extend this theme further by giving viewers a unique glimpse of the interdependent creatures and habitats on our delicate and beautiful Earth.

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At the end of the Botanical Gardens Walk, the Conservatory of Museum swaps colours in an eerie display.

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Tips for Vivid Sydney 2017

There are more installations to see around the City, Darling Harbour, Chatswood and Taronga Zoo. If you want to see everything, you would need to spread your visits over several evenings.

There are plenty of food options along the way, fitting all budgets.

It can be quite cold, wear something warm and don’t forget your gloves !

There are plenty of opportunities for unique photos and videos.

Public transport to get in and out is best.

Vivid Sydney is not only about light and colour, there are plenty of public talks and workshops. Check out the Vivid Sydney website for more information. Vivid Sydney is open until 26th May 2017.

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More on Sydney

The great things about Vivid is that it’s a free activity, like Sculpture by the Sea. You can enjoy harbour views from the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout or choose other outdoor activities.

Other visits around include Middle Head, North Head and South Head.

Sydney for Free

Sculpture by the Sea

Sydney Harbour Photos

For a day time trip further out, check out The Basin, Barrenjoey Headland and West Head Lookout in Sydney’s North.


How was your experience of Vivid Sydney this year? Please share in the comments below !

Save this guide on the Vivid Sydney festival on Pinterest!

The Vivid Sydney Festival is one of the most spectacular ways of visiting the city. These 17 photos will inspire you to visit a magical experience.

40 thoughts on “17 Pictures to Inspire You to Visit Vivid Sydney 2017”

  1. This year my husband and eight year old daughter saw Vivid from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They said it was an unforgettable experience. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pics Delphine.

  2. Wow, I’ve never heard about this Vivid Festival in Sydney before, but it looks like an amazing event! Really impressive light effect and nice photos you took! 🙂

  3. Courtney Livingston

    These photos look incredible! I have always wanted to visit Sydnei. It’s on my bucket list for sure!!

  4. echoesofhervoice

    I’ve always wanted to visit Sydney. Now these pics are making me want to go more. Thanks!

  5. raisingyourpetsnaturally

    I’ve always wanted to visit Sydney. Vivid Sydney looks amazing! My aunt actually lives in Australia, yet I have not made the trip. hmmm Might need to reconsider.

  6. Oh the kiwi birds are breathtaking – I’d seen a lot of similar images around but not of those installations. I would really like to visit Vivid Sydney one year, once the boys are older of course.

    1. Hi Mica, yes the kiwi birds were a really cool installation… It’s not all about the Opera House, there is so much to see! I hope you get to visit Sydney sometime!

  7. I love that each light show has a story behind it. I love the story of the Waratah and the Bird of Lumos. Beautiful pictures!

    1. Hi Leah, I went to NZ recently and saw a little kiwi burrowing in the dark, they are so cute! I’m pleased that you like my photos, I’m quite pleased with them!

  8. Never heard of this festival, it sounds amazing. Sydney is such an amazing city it’s on my bucket list anyway <3

  9. Wow! What a great festival! I’ve never been to Australia and I didn’t know such a great festival! i would love to visit Sydney now!

  10. Hi there! We are also expats but living in Macau. It is our intention to explore Australia, but it’s quite an expensive to go there so we’ve been delaying it like… forever. Do you have any post with tips for cheap travelling in Australia? Cheers!

    1. Ana & Ivan, thank you for dropping by. I agree with you that Australia can be expensive. I don’t have specific cheap travel tips yet but a lot of my posts include activities you can do for free, like coastal walks or free festivals. There are lots of free and outdoor things to do in Australia. I would suggest you look for cheap accommodation options like hostels or Airbnb. As for food, you can easily buy ready made meals in supermarkets and go for a picnic in a park! Keep checking the site as there is more content coming up very soon and don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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