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ART & DESIGN / AUSTRALIA


QUAY PLAYER


Returning for its fifth year, the VIVID Light festival once again filled Sydney harbourside with glowing art and hoards of spectators. We spoke to festival director Anthony Bastic about the process and purpose of staging a mid-winter light extravaganza.


For Sydney-siders, the sight of the city’s world-famous Opera House ablaze in perfectly keystoned swirls of colour has become a regular feature of the mid-win- ter skyline. For five years now, Ove Arup’s world-famous white sails have provided the canvas for a show-stopping series of nightly projections that form one of the headline acts in the annual VIVID Light festival. Familiar though it may be, the spectacle remains as popular as ever, drawing huge crowds to Circular Quay, where they roam for hours, enjoying the gamut of small- er light art installations that pepper the shoreline.


As well as being a clear crowd-pleaser, the festival has been welcomed across the creative, commercial and administrative spheres. Its benefits have permeated the city in often quite unexpected ways and indeed, since the first event, police have praised organisers for putting families on the quayside during the winter months - di- luting a once dominant drink culture crowd and encouraging a more inclusive use of The Rocks, the immediate hinterland to the Quay and Harbour. VIVID’s success is testament to the event’s dedicated organising team and support from governmental agency, Destination NSW. Since its launch in 2009, VIVID’s lighting element has been driven by Festival Direc- tor Anthony Bastic, an event designer and producer whose credits have included Pub-


lic Programs Manager for the Sydney Opera House and live site event organiser for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


As Bastic explains, a key inspiration came during a trip to the UK where he saw Switched on London, mondo*arc’s own light festival. “I remember we were invited up to the Town Hall council building and I was looking down over the South Bank precinct onto some of the buildings you had illumi- nated and thought, ‘This is really clever’,” says Bastic. “In a city like London where there’s a lot of competing light, I thought what was achieved was pretty phenome- nal. It allowed me to think about what’s possible.”


It was also a stroll through London that in- spired Bastic to seek the involvement of Bri- an Eno as the first festival’s guest curator. He happened upon a light art installation Eno had done for the Selfridges department store and immediately made contact. Eno’s involvement, alongside a timely en- ergy efficiency message that keyed in with


Australia’s banning of the incandescent light bulb, helped consolidate VIVID’s identity, providing a hook that would bring togeth- er the New South Wales government and Sydney Opera House directors to produce a twin music and light art event (a line-up joined this year by the VIVID Ideas series of creative talks and seminars). For that first year, the team had to do a lot of work to elicit proposals from artists and their collaborators, but today they have no such problems; this year over 300 submis- sions flooded in from around the world, showing a huge diversity of ideas and an im- pressive variety of working collaborations. “At first we wanted it to be a low energy light festival using smart technology,” says Bastic. “But what’s interesting is that we don’t even have to mention those words now, because all the light artists say, ‘Well of course, what did you think we were going to do?’”


In recent years the brief has been kept simple and inclusive. “We ask people to


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