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Light Research @ MMU

Multiple you, multiple me: Seeing yourself across the night environment

Another of the key interactive aspects of Sydney’s VIVID festival is the possibility to feature yourself in the drama of the nightscape of the city. Three installations offer the chance for you to see representations of yourself in unfamiliar settings. These techniques project your face and body  at various scales, in particular places and in peculiar forms. Some of these versions take place on screens but some  transcend the two dimensions of photograph and film so that your image appears in three-dimensional space. The first piece, Positive Feedback, takes place in a small room off the street. You face a screen upon which your silhouette appears. Moving around – dancing, waving arms, jumping – reveals images of your body captured by a camera operating a minimal time delay so that flowing patterns feature multiple shadows. This is a pleasingly responsive and somewhat fantastical representation of your moving body that endows it with an unusual grace, engendering an understanding of the traces that your body leaves behind as a vital element within space. Edensor, Positive Feedback

The second work, Graffiti Me, photographs the face of the participant and then projects this image in stencil like form onto a dark, brick wall for minute or so. You resemble a short-lived Andy Warhol portrait. Yet the images lingers a little longer, for each night, all the images taken are turned into a time-lapse film accessible via a website ( This brief virtual presence in public space perhaps heralds future democratic possibilities  where all may have access to  the generation of images across space, updating the graffiti tagger’s desire to mark their existence on the urban fabric. Graffiti Edensor

The final, most dramatic installation is Emergence, which takes the form of a huge head in the  shape of a crystal, the average head rendered gemoetricaly, augmented with patterns of illuminated colour, that emerges out of the pavement of busy city centre thoroughfare, Martin Place. And it is your head, as it is filmed in real time and transferred onto the large structure. It is a an uncanny sensation to see your own likeness staring back at you, like some mythical beast rising up out of the earth to move amongst mortals. You can never have envisaged seeing yourself like this! Emergence might also refer to some of the future possibilities that will arise for designing the built environment using techniques of digital fabrication, three-dimensional scanning and generative design . Edensor's Emergence

Indeed, more generally, the interactive attractions of VIVID signify the future possibilities of a smart, interactive city. They suggest that we are at the threshold of enormous possibilities: of interacting with responsive technologies on a daily basis, by receiving information of all sorts across space, by participating in the design of the city by scanning images of ourselves, ideas, representations and objects that can be projected onto the city’s fabric. We may individually be able to influence the feel and mood of a place through lighting. All this has the potential to expand the mutability and flexibility of the city, allowing the continuous marking of change onto its surfaces and spreading meanings across space. A warning though: it is not difficult to imagine that such technologies may also be deployed to intrude upon our urban existence, disrupting our progress with commercial messages, and saturating the city with targeted digital advertisements, as in the film, Minority Report. Let us hope that progressive, creative outomes emerge from these enticing potentialities.

June 3rd, 2014 - 03:34am

Trees at VIVID: @DrHG on #VividSydney: trees and bushland

 The Qantas air steward said, ‘You must go to Vivid Sydney – the city is all lit up’. So on the first evening I took the train to Circular Quay and the Harbour. Wow. The Opera House, an off-white colour in the daytime, was transformed by reds, greens, blacks, animal prints… I am in Australia researching enthusiasm for trees and I’ve just finished reading a paper by Jodi Frawley (‘Campaigning for street trees, Sydney Botanic Gardens, 1890s–1920s’, Environment and History, 15(3): 303–22) about campaigning for street trees in Sydney Botanic Gardens in the 1890s–1920s. There is a fascinating history of trees in Sydney as a means of claiming space and encouraging settlement. For Frawley, trees were also important “as urban technologies, which added shade and beauty to [the] streets” (2009: 318). Light and shade in the form of trees continue to be central to Sydney’s heritage, and two installations at Vivid Sydney emphasise this.cadman

First, just opposite the Opera House, is Cadman’s Cottage, built in 1816 and one of the few buildings that remain from the first 30 years of the colony. The display is called Mystery of Creation (Fragments of the Seasons) by Heinz Kasper/Robert Faldner, and is described as a ‘poem of light and sound … projecting nature’s changes onto a concrete facade: Flowers blossom, only to wilt; trees wither, only to grow anew. The wind whispers in the tree; its leaves embody alchemy in the transformation of living colour, from green into yellow and red; leaves dance and drop off in a storm; and once again you see a bare tree’.

urban tree project

The second stop was in Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD. A clump of trees growing out of the street scene. This was impressive – watching the trees and animals climb higher and higher. – the Urban Tree Project’, produced by Nicholas Tory, Lucy Keeler, Martin Crouch, Julian Reinhold and Iain Greenhaigh’ covers the MLC building, offering a living tree within the dense urban jungle. The projection hints at Sydney’s bushland heritage.

Text and photographs by Hilary Geoghegan:

June 2nd, 2014 - 06:04am

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

Manipulating the illumination of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Quarter

One of the delights of Sydney’s Vivid light festival is the plenitude of interactive attractions. Two of the most extraordinary are Colour the Bridge and Luminous Nights. Colour the Bridge is facilitated by the touch screen situated on the North side of the harbour which allows you to design the light displayed on the mighty steel arch of the Harbour Bridge. touch screen - designing the harbour bridge lights

Visitors are able to choose colours from a broad spectrum to transform the appearance of four elements that consitute the essential horizontal and vertical lines of the bridge’s design. In addition, certain  lines can be made to pulse with changing colours, so that each design is the unique creation of the operator of the screen.

 designing the lights on the Harbour Bridge

Luminous Nights has been installed in Darling Quarter since 2012 and runs outside the festival. Billed as the world’s biggest interactive permanent light display, the canvas upon which the public can paint with light extends for the 150 metres and four levels of the two sections of the Commonwealth Bank Head Quarters. Deploying advanced LED systems, light is manipulated via two digital touch screens, allowing for a vast array of colours and patterns to instantaneously transform the feel and appearance of the building.Luminous2Luminous1Luminous3

 It is an amazing experience to realise that you are responsible for the appearance of such enormous structures at the touch of a few buttons and the two displays conjures up future possibilities of allowing citizens to shape the mood and appearance of cities

May 30th, 2014 - 02:59am

Janet Echelman

Beautiful flowing light installations byJanet Echelman to create immersive and deeply emotional interventions in space. Notable installations by Echelman include Her Secret is Patience in Phoenix, Arizona and Tsunami 1.26 in Sydney, Australia pictured below:

Thanks to Susan Seitinger for introducing us to this work.


April 13th, 2013 - 18:38pm