Sydney is drenched in light for awe-inspiring 23-day festival

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Sydney, Australia, sure wants you to have things to do this winter. The city is in the middle of a 23-day festival of light, music and ideas called Vivid. It’s enough culture to distract you from the cold chill.

Sydney has been drenched in light from mega animal lanterns at Taronga Zoo through to Indigenous art beaming down from the iconic Opera House. The festival has seen the city come to a standstill as hundreds of thousands of people descend on the area to check out the wild exhibitions.

Vivid Sydney.

The entrance to Vivid at Taronga Zoo.

Image: JAMES HORAN/DESTINATION NSW

The creative director of Vivid, Ignatius Jones, took Mashable Australia on a first look through the impressive works at the zoo on Thursday, which he labelled as “insane, amazing.” It is a hyperactive wonderland of light, lasers and design. 

“It is everything we were trying to achieve and more,” he said. “Vivid is about shining a new light on Sydney, which is such an amazing city from so many different points of view. It just gave us such a great opportunity to do completely new things.”

Doing something completely new is what drives the creative team at Sydney startup Ample Projects, who are behind the zoo’s oversized lanterns of endangered animals and the maze of light that are part of an exhibition called “don’t let their lights go out,” which hopes to draw attention to 10 endangered creatures around the world.

The real animals living at the zoo are protected from the light show, with the zoo advising Mashable Australia that its “first concern is always the welfare of the remarkable animals in our care.”

“The locations of the lanterns and light sculptures for Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo have been carefully chosen to focus on public areas rather than animal exhibits,” a spokesperson for the zoo said. “Taronga’s animals also have access to the comfort and shelter of their night dens and inside areas, but it’s not uncommon for certain animals to choose to remain outside during night events.”

So, keep your eyes peeled for the curious giraffes. 

Vivid Sydney

The Asian elephant is one of 10 endangered animal lanterns in Vivid Sydney.

Image: JAMES HORAN/DESTINATION NSW

The LED-based silk and steel lanterns feature animals include the marine turtle, platypus, greater bilby, corroboree frog, regent honeyeater, sun bear, Asian elephant, Sumatran rhino, Sumatran tiger and pangolin. They are joined by a host of other animals — including one the size of a real-life captured crocodile — to make it feel like you are walking through a fantasy zoo. 

“We could elevate the whole idea by bringing in some new lantern technology,” Jones said. “These are Chinese lanterns but they are about as different from a Chinese lantern as a T-Model Ford from an F-111. They are incredibly technologically advanced, they have so many layers of tech and innovation built into them, they are incredibly beautiful.”

Vivid SYdney.

An echidna joined a host of other animals to light up Taronga Zoo.

Image: JAMES HORAN/DESTINATION NSW

Ample’s art director, Lucy Keeler, told Mashable Australia the project took 15 months to come to fruition and is the largest integrated project the team has done. They were also responsible for last year’s hugely popular Urban Tree Project at Vivid. 

“It’s been a wild journey … It is a terrific thrill, it is quite emotional actually, watching people interact with it for the first time,” Keeler said, while walking under dripping and strobing blue and green lights. “This site, with all the animals and the investment of so many people for such an important reason, there isn’t a project like this.”

Vivid Sydney.

Pygmy Tarsiers in lantern form at Taronga Zoo.

Image: James HORAN / DESTINATION NSW

Ample’s creative director, Nicholas Tory, said it was a “cultural collaboration” between Ample and Sichuan Tianyu Cultural Transmission, which make traditional Chinese lanterns. “So the cultural collaboration is us, with our multiple layers of digital lighting and realistic creature designs, and them, with their spectacular artisanal skills in building illuminated creatures,” he explained. 

The best part about this work though, is that it can draw attention to the plight of animals while people are enjoying the entertainment of the zoo at night.

“Taronga Zoo is pledging to save 10 endangered animals over 10 years. What better opportunity than to create an artwork that speaks to people and includes creatures that everyone loves and wants to save?” Tory asked. “Let’s face it, we haven’t done the best things to this world and we should all be doing better things.”

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney 2016, Opera House.

Image: James Horan/Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

Vivid Sydney 2016, Opera House.

Image: James Horan/Destination NSW

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Synthesis at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

Image: Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

Harbour lights at the opening night of Vivid Sydney.

Image:  James Horan/Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney

A spectacular sight on Sydney Harbour.

Image:  James Horan/Destination NSW

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The buildings at Central Park light up.

Image:  James Horan/Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

Artist Karla Dickens work on the Opera House.

Image: James Horan/Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

Customs House lights up with Sydney’s Hidden Stories.

Image: James Horan / Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music glows.

Image: James Horan / Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

The harbour comes alive.

Image: James HORAN / Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

The opening night at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Image: James Horan/Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney.

Gondwana Light Lab at Chatswood.

Image: James Horan / Destination NSW

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