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15 Hidden Gems At Vivid Sydney

15 Hidden Gems At Vivid Sydney

The nerve-igniting sensory overload that is the Vivid Light, Music, Ideas Festival 2015 is about to kick off. From May 22 – June 8, Sydney will burn with LEDs, light projections, electric sounds and electrifying notions. It’s a big program, and the music is well covered. Here are our top 14 picks of the less-blogged-about parts of the program.

#1 Space Folding

Where: Corner of George St and Alfred St, Circular Quay
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free


The shifting patterns on this towering cylinder of lights are triggered by the flight paths of planes arriving and departing from Sydney airport. Step inside, sit down and watch the flickering data signify a globalised world, constantly moving, with thousands of little souls and millions of little dreams passing through the skies overhead, right in front of your eyes. Sponsored by Qantas.

#2 Piano Stairs

Where: Circular Quay
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free

You know that scene from Big when Tom Hanks plays Heart & Soul on a giant piano? Get ready to live the dream. The steps of the AMP Building in Circular Quay will be transformed for Vivid Light into your very own FAO Schwarz musical kindergym – all you have to do is jump.

#3 Streets Ahead

Where: aMBUSH Gallery at Central Park, 28 Broadway, Chippendale
When: 10am – 8pm, May 26 – May 31
Price: Free exhibition, panels and conferences from $60

Want to know what cutting edge street wear looks like? Check out Streets Ahead, a free exhibition at aMBUSH Gallery that will showcase designs from Brooklyn label Мishka, French graphics firm 123KLAN, footwear guru jeffstaple and ALIFE founder Tony Arcabascio. Presented under the Vivid Ideas banner, Streets Ahead includes a series of panel sessions with these savvy business minds and international icons, going deep on issues of street culture, commerce and creativity.

#4 Transcendence

Where: Martin Place, Sydney
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free

Martin Place_Transcendence - pop-up bar and new media art installation - by Joseph Crossley. Render by Ample Projects

The beating heart of Vivid Light is a pop-up bar-come-art installation called Transcendence. UK artist Joseph Crossley has partnered with Intel to create an immersive space that explores cutting edge lighting technology including projection mapping, computer mapping and computer code. The rig will be commandeered by a different artist each night, working alongside Crossley to produce a unique, soul-stirring sequence.


#5 Junkee Presents How To Survive Without A Real Job

Where: Vivid Ideas Exchange, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, Level 6 Terrace Entrance (Circular Quay West Side)
When: 3pm – 5pm, May 31
Price: From $20

Our sister publication is hosting a panel talk for Vivid Ideas that is vital for kids of a creative bent. Andrew Levins (Halfway Crooks, Two Thousand), Tim Fung (, Kate Hennessy (freelance writer) and workplace researcher Sharni Chan join moderator Benjamin Law (journalist, author) to talk flexibility and self-determination in the employment sector. Whether you’re a tech entrepreneur or a future Booker Prize winner, these guys will help you keep your eye on the prize.

#6 Vivid Laser-Fountain Water Theatre

Where: Darling Harbour, Sydney
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free

Vivid Sydney 2015 Media Preview at Darling Harbour and The Star

It’s like the Bellagio water show, but in the middle of Darling Harbour. Flames, lasers and water jets will shoot 100 metres across the harbour and 30 metres into the air in a totally nuts, undoubtedly gauche and utterly delightful spectacle.

#7 Game On

Where: Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh
When: Friday May 22 – Sunday May 24
Price: From $43 for a day pass

On the opening weekend of Vivid, an online culture convention hits the Australian Technology Park as part of Vivid Ideas. There are a lot of people at Game On, talking about a lot of stuff, but the most interesting have got to be the self-made Youtube stars. Hit Game On to meet Yousef Erakat (FouseyTube) who has racked up tens of millions of views with his provocative social experiment videos, or the crew from Smoosh Games, who post videos of themselves playing video games to a subscriber base of more than six million people.

#8 Karaoke at the Sky Terrace

Where: The Star, Level 3, Harbourside Entry, Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free

The official Vivid Lounge at Sky Terrace has drinks, music and something called a Light-J – “a fusion of DJ mechanics and lighting design” – whatever the hell that may mean. The shiny centrepiece of this hub-with-a-view is the Face-Off karaoke set up, in which your amped up, light-fuelled performance is projected onto the walls of the Star Event Centre.

#9 Universal Everything Exhibition

Where: Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free

The Sydney Opera House by Jack Atley

We all know about the centrepiece of Vivid Light – the Sydney Opera House and the projection mapping triumph they call Lighting the Sails, but what about the people who create the stunning visuals? This year, UK creatives Universal Everything have been selected for the task. The multidisciplinary design company has worked with Radiohead and Warp Records, and created the moving image identity for the 2012 London Olympics. Inside the Opera House, there’s a free Universal Everything exhibition to get you up to speed on their very beautiful work.

#10 Alex Gibney: In Conversation

Where: 483 George Street, Sydney
When: 11am  – 12:30pm, June 7
Price: Talk Only $30, Film + Talk $40

On of the most fearless and provocative documentary filmmakers in the world, Alex Gibney was responsible for Enron: The Smartest Guy in the Room and We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. Gibney is at Vivid to screen and discuss his latest mind-blowing film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

#11 Robowars Sydney 2015

Where: Cargo Hall, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay
When: 3pm – 11pm, May 30
Price: Free

A robot showdown will hit Circular Quay on May 30 as part of Vivid Ideas. I don’t know how a remote control fight to the death constitutes a “vivid idea” but I also don’t care because ROBOT FIGHT.

#12 MCA Zine Fair

Where: MCA, 140 George St, The Rocks
When: 5pm – 9pm, May 22; 10am – 4:30pm, May 23 & 24
Price: Free

(Photo: MCA/Facebook)

Also happening on Vivid’s opening weekend, the Zine Fair at the Museum of Contemporary Art will showcase zine makers and zine distributors from around the country, in all their slightly socially awkward glory.

#13 The Panic Office

Where: Carriageworks, Eveleigh
When: May 21 – June 6
Price: Free

Under the banner of Semi-Permanent and Vivid Ideas, artist Stanley Donwood will present a post-apocalyptic exhibition at Carriageworks called The Panic Office. Donwood has been Radiohead’s artist-in-residence for the past 20 years and The Panic Office features literally thousands of works he produced while developing art for Ok Computer, The King of Limbs and everything in between. The exhibition features a soundtrack specially composed by Thom Yorke.

#14 ‘Upskill To Upcycle’

Where: Vivid Ideas Exchange, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, Level 6 Terrace Entrance (Circular Quay West Side)
When: 12pm – 2pm, May 23
Price: $29

This two hour workshop presented as part of Vivid Ideas is designed to make you think creatively about waste. Because there is a lot of it. Hosted by reps from Circular Economy Australia, the session looks at regenerative design – reusing, repurposing and upcycling – to prevent your unwanted stuff from joining  that big swirling pile of garbage in the North Pacific. It’s a crafty, hands-on program hosted by leaders in the field that will make you feel better about your ability to effect change in the world.

#15 Internal Galaxy

Where: Hickson Road Reserve, The Rocks
When: 6pm – midnight, May 22 – June 8
Price: Free

internal Galaxy

Built inside a six metre shipping container on Hickson Road Reserve, Internal Galaxy is one of the many dazzling interactive art pieces at Vivid Light. All of the internal surfaces of the container are mirrored and the space is festooned with hundreds of rippling LEDs, creating a kaleidoscopic galaxy with you at the centre. Who doesn’t want to be the heart of a galaxy, eh?

(Lead image: James Horan)

Check out Qantas flights to Sydney here.

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