Vivid Sydney

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Emma Joyce from Time Out Sydney and Mark Tjhung pick out the highlights of Vivid Sydney, the largest light, music and ideas festival in the Southern Hemisphere

For the last five years, Vivid Sydney has transformed Australia's biggest city into a colourful playground of light projections, illuminations and art. In 2012, the festival attracted half a million people to 30 spectacularly illuminated landmarks dotted across Sydney's foreshore – including iconic Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House and The Rocks. This year, however, the truly unique festival isn't resting on its laurels.

From May 24 to June 10, Vivid Sydney returns with an expanded music line-up under the Vivid Live banner and inspirational talks and workshops in the series Vivid Ideas.

If you happen to be down under in the next few weeks, here is a round-up of the highlights of the lights, sounds and notions that Vivid Sydney is throwing up this year.

Vivid Light
This is the centrepiece of the Vivid Sydney festival. And this year, the spectacular light show is finally taking over one of the city's most iconic landmarks.

For the first time ever, the Sydney Harbour Bridge takes part in the illuminations, with 100,800 LED lights installed on the western side of the towering structure. Intriguingly, it also includes an interactive element, with the lighting display being controlled from an interactive touch screen by the public.

Over the festival's history, the Sydney Opera House has been the focus. This year, local Sydney creatives Spinifex light up the sails in a newly commissioned AV spectacle. Listening posts dotted around the foreshore broadcast a soundtrack for the 3D mapped projection on to the opera house.

There's also be the longest light walk along the foreshore, illuminating buildings like Cadman's Cottage – one of the city's oldest residential buildings, in the historic district of The Rocks – and the Museum of Contemporary Art on Circular Quay. Look out for the dancefloor-powered projection onto Customs House, the spooky 'real-time theatre' of Walsh Bay Whispers, (an interactive sensory installation), Frank Maguire's shape-shifting Morphic Mirror and a garden of fibre optic grass.

Vivid Ideas
For the festival's 18 days, the Museum of Contemporary Art (140 George St, The Rocks, +61 2 9245 2400, mca.com.au) hosts a line-up of talented, inspirational and globally-renowned speakers for one of the world's top ideas festivals. There are more than 100 public and industry events from fashion and design to gaming, architecture, publishing, theatre and film.

One of this year's highlights is Johnny Cupcakes: Co-create the Experience (MCA, Wed May 29), a keynote from America's #1 Young Entrepreneur (as voted by Business Week), Johnny 'I make T-shirts with cupcakes on them' Cupcakes. The street wear brand owner shares the philosophy behind his retail experience that took him from the boot of his car to brand entrepreneur.

One of the world's biggest creative conferences, Semi Permanent, returns, bringing together artists from different industries for a dynamic programme of talks and presentations. Speakers this year include artists Brian Roettinger and Aaron Rose, photographer Max Doyle and film director Steve Ayson (MCA, Fri May 24).

David Shrigley's appearance (MCA, Sun May 26) at Vivid Sydney also promises to be a highlight. The British artist's dark sense of humour and strangely simple design aesthetic have brought him something of a cult following and at Vivid Ideas, he discusses his own interpretation-slash-exploration into the self-help industry.

For something particularly relevant to Hong Kong, you have the Transform Your City talk (MCA, Thu Jun 6). It has been predicted that within the next 40 years, 80 percent of the world's population will reside in cities. But is this feasible? Where will we all live? In this discussion, a leading architect, filmmaker and a panel of urban visionaries share their insights into creating a future urban community.

In addition to the MCA series, talks and master classes pop up all over Sydney – at venues such as the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Overseas Passenger Terminal, the Seymour Centre and Ultimo's Powerhouse Museum – including the foodie's delight, the Late Night Lounge: Eat the Collection (Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris St, Ultimo, +61 2 9217 0111, powerhousemuseum.org, Thu May 30). Exploring the relationship between design, technology and food, chocolatiers work with to recreate some of the Powerhouse Museum's collection in chocolate.

Vivid Live
With its position as the centrepiece of Vivid Sydney, it's only appropriate that the Opera House should also pack in a huge line-up of music into the festival mix. There's more than two dozen concerts packed into the series' two weeks.

Kraftwerk: The Catalogue (May 24-27) has to be one of the highlights. They've just visited Hong Kong, they've just done this full catalogue in the UK and now they're doing it as one of the key events of Vivid Live with eight shows in four days, each one containing an entire album. They're starting with 1974's Autobahn and finishing with 2003's Tour de France. A must for all Kraftwerk obsessives.

The Opera House's Playhouse transforms daily in Bish Bosch Ambisymphonic (May 24 to Jun 2), an audio-visual installation from UK artists Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard. The installation takes the form of a sound box in which participants experience a remixed version of Scott Walker's 2012 masterpiece Bish Bosch.

In Vangelis, Music from Blade Runner (May 26), the genre-bending Heritage Orchestra – which has collaborated with artists such as Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin and Tim Minchin – plays the score to Ridley Scott's acclaimed Blade Runner, composed by Vangelis, who also composed the score for Chariots of Fire. If you like your concerts dystopian and with the potential for much awesomeness, be there.

Legendary R&B master Bobby Womack (May 24-25) also graces the festival. With his 13-piece band, he pumps out classics from his five-decade career, from being signed by Sam Cooke up to last year's The Bravest Man in the Universe.

And for one of the most anticipated musical elements of Vivid Sydney, electropop stars Empire of the Sun (May 30-31) launch their new album, Ice on the Dune – which we never thought we'd actually see, given Nick Littlemore's vanishing act in 2010 and all. The show promises be a massive psychedelic spectacular. Consider yourself warned.

Vivid Sydney May 24-June 10 vividsydney.com


Get packing

Getting there
Virgin Atlantic flies direct from Hong Kong to Sydney from $3,370 return (excl taxes and charges). virgin-atlantic.com.

Where to stay
If you're keen on checking out a lot of events at Vivid Sydney, stay at the Quay West Suites. Located in The Rocks, this five-star property contains 96 chic and modern suites just around the corner from where all the action of the festival is. Many of the rooms also look out over the harbour, meaning you'll get to see the Harbour Bridge in all its illuminated glory every night. 98 Gloucester St, The Rocks, +61 2 9240 6000, accorhotels.com.

While you're there
Don't forget to pick up Time Out Sydney for all the best events, restaurants and more while you're in town. au.timeout.com/sydney.

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