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Light Research @ MMU

Interactive Displays at VIVID: The Pool, Ray and Mirror Heart Ball

As the entry below about the Harbour Bridge exemplifies, one of the key elements of VIVID, perhaps the defining characteristic of the festival, is the multitude of ways that installations invite people to interact with them. Three adjacent harbourside attractions encourage visitors to discard self-consciousness and perform in public space in ways they would usually not, adding to the giddy atmosphere. Visitors can move between these attractions, engaging with them through different physical actions that loosen inhibitions and produce an effect not unlike that of a fairground.PoolPool2

First is The Pool, an area fitted with over a hundred concentric circular pads. Visitors leap between pads, producing a burst of colour when you land according to how heavily you land, and they also respond to the volume of participants in the intensity of their colours and the speed with which they change colour. On busy nights, the scene is of a horde of people of all ages, jumping between pads, collectively generating swirling, dynamic patterns of colour, enjoying the tactile engagement with the soft plastic material and the swirling movement of bodies and light.

Ray, by contrast, is activated by visitors when they pull on one of three ropes that charge pods to activate the bright colours of the sculpture, powered by solar power, that shoot up to the top of the sculpture and then surge down its base in in myriad, ever-changing patterns of light. The amount and flow of light depends upon the energy with which the ropes are tugged. The socio-political significance of the display inheres in how it may also be interacted with virtually, on social media, where Ray discusses the quantity of the solar charge he accumulates, with information about how many Australian homes this could power, in comparison to the number of smaller Indian slum dwellings.

Finally, is Mirror Heart BaRayll. The installation, which takes the form of a pulsing ballroom floor of ever changing colours bordered at one end by neon strips formed into a vertical heart shape, is populated with dancing adults and children, enthusiastically to cavort wildly. The display was inspired by the stage version of the popular Australian film, Strictly Ballroom, and served as the centrepiece for the Destination NSW float in Sydney’s celebrated Mardi Gras parade this year, serving as a subtle advertisement for the show. The playful design thus seems to recognise both the expressive quality of Baz Luhrman’s movie and celebrate the cultural significance of Mardi Gras, chiming with the camp, spectacular and expressive qualities of both ballroom culture and Mardi Gras. Here then, the display celebrates Sydney’s liberal qualities, and it is pleasing to see adults and children of all ages and kinds happily dancing upon what has been previously assigned as a stage for the transmission of this year’s Mardi Gras theme ‘kaleidoscope’ to the song, ‘Love is in the Air’. Camp performance seems to have transcended its usual cultural confines? Although the connections between the display and Mardi Gras culture may not be recognised by all visitors, some may argue that this is an easy, ‘acceptable’ way to market and incorporate Sydney’s sexual diversity and the Mardi Gras, and indeed, there is little overt representation of sexual diversity in the display, whereas a more overtly political, challenging representation of sexuality might be more challenging. On the other hand, the attraction seems to demonstrate the protean ways in which popular cultural forms, representations and practices that originate from particular contexts can extend into multiple spaces and be adopted to serve a range of purposes and express a range of identities (thanks to Anna de Jong and Gordon Waitt for their suggestions) Dancers Mirror Ball Heart

June 2nd, 2014 - 05:42am

Stories of Light: Illumination and Darkness in Rural India

Ankit Kumar, a PhD student at Durham University has created a fascinating blog on the inequalities of illumination in rural Indian villages. Often promised illumination by the authorities, electrification has never arrived in these villages due to corruption or a lack of political will. Accordingly, people live without electricity, and in pervasive nocturnal darkness often illuminating their environment with weak kerosene lights that flicker against the surrounding blackness. Ankit also shows how street traders without any lighting find it hard to survive in competition with those who are favourably situated next to street lamps.

Indian street scene



May 3rd, 2013 - 11:52am

India during Diwali

Kavita Ramakrishnan sent this extraordinary satellite image of India during Diwali. Global satellite maps usualy show India as a darkened mass, with the exception of the largest cities, in contrast to the over-illuminated West. During Diwali though, the country is ablaze with light, as vividly captured by this extraordinary image. Thanks to Kavita.

India during Diwali, satellite image

April 30th, 2013 - 12:24pm