Festival review: Vivid Sydney 2016

Festival review: Vivid Sydney 2016


Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Destination New South Wales,
Facebook | Bridie Doll,
Instagram | @bettygrumble

Vivid Sydney 2016: The opening weekend of one of Australia's biggest festivals saw Aboriginal art on a grander, flashier scale, a play of human interaction and light as well as a seductive throwback to go-go dancing


Your journey to Taronga Zoo's Be The Light For The Wild for Vivid Sydney really begins the moment you step onto the ferry from Circular Quay. Get there by 5 or 5.30pm, where the sky's just short of turning from orange to dark. We did just that — and if you secure the right spot on the ferry (at the back of course, or the right sde), you'll get to see the Sydney Opera House just close enough for that obligatory tourist shot. The crowd at the zoo's soiree is a mixed one: Think young families, couples on an alternative date option and amateur photographers who'll get in your face with their gear. If you're quick to judge this event as just a lantern party (which, admittedly, we were), think again — the light sculptures are truly out of this world, and will bring back the innate sense of wonder you had as a child. Show creator Ample Projects and Taronga Zoo have a bit of heart — all ten animal structures on display are in fact critical species from Australia and Sumatra. Adults will also get a kick from this safari-like light show as lasers flash amid fauna in the night. All you need really, is a psy-trance soundtrack.

Taronga Zoo Vivid Sydney

9pm: Australia's prodigal son of techno returns for a night at Vivid Lounge. Taking on the decks at the rooftop of the iconic Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) at The Rocks, Berlin-based Deepchild (real name: Rick Bull) brought his stripped-back brand of techno home. Part of Vivid Music, the Vivid Lounge is a staple at Vivid Sydney and is another great way to experience the beautiful Art Deco grandeur of MCA. You'll also get views of the Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House from the Harbourside terrace — which we enjoyed as Deepchild closed his set with a Ryuichi Sakamato-inspired aural pleasure. Find out who else is on the line-up at Vivid Lounge till 18 June here.

Deepchild Vivid Lounge 2016


3.30pm: Kicking off Vivid Ideas' Game Changer series (which also features speakers such as Spike Jonze and Jenji Kohan), Margaret Zhang packed a full room in Town Hall. What can you learn from this 23-year-old, the woman behind your Instagram fantasies who's a writer, stylist, photographer, and creative director and has just graduated from a double degree in law and commerce? Quite a lot — here are our top three takeaways:

Margaret Zhang
1. If you're below 25 and someone calls you "adorable" in a business meeting, she's offered to slap him or her in the face

Zhang has admitted that she's been in board meetings where corporate decision-makers take a condescending tone at her age — calling her "adorable" when she's proposed her ideas. "It's difficult for corporations to understand that years of experience does not translate well if they don't update themselves, and if they're not constantly looking at their environment and changing landscape."

2. 100 engaged followers are more valuable than 100,000 followers who say, "Oh, that's pretty", and then move on

It's not just a numbers game. Zhang shared that it's all about brand identity messaging —what's the point of having a Snapchat account if your brand is all about being exclusive, with something like Snapchat giving inside access? Get 100 people who care about your opinion, your creative process and who'll stick with you in 10 years to come.

Blogging isn't a career

"You can't use your blog as the end. That is not your career," states Zhang, saying that a blog is instead a tool to show off your portfolio or skill set — an amplifier of what you do. It's a lifetime commitment where you have to ask the perennial questions: What is your unique point of view? There are two million fashion Instagrams out there, so don't replicate other people — that had worked for them and it won't necessarily work for you.

7pm: "
Shake it hard, shake it hard," yells a middle-aged woman as she shakes herself really hard...along to Taylor Swift's Shake it Off, of course. Dancing among other revellers in the open-air compounds of Central Park, Chippendale's three new temporary occupants bring their DJ expertise from Ultimate Silent Disco to Silent Disco @ Central Park. Plug into a wireless headphone, choose the curated playlist — featuring the likes of Outkast and Bon Jovi, and dance like nobody's listening. Join in the fun every Friday and Saturday from 5.30pm till 18 June.

Vivid Sydney 2016
9pm: We're back at Kings Cross Hotel, it seems we couldn't stay away. This time, Mr. Motherf**cker (also known as curator Terry Serio) introduces the audience to Betty Grumble, a 28-year-old woman whose shock factor is off the charts. Simulating the effects of menstruation and passing motion and baring her all, the performer breaks boundaries and keeps the crowd coming back for her — whether it's her playful choreography of The Pussycat Dolls' Don't Cha or mimicking a Space Invader-themed aerobic workout dance. Look out for her in August when she performs at the Edinburgh fringe. In the meantime, you can still bookmark Vivid Au Go Go's cabaret nights which goes on till 18 June. 

Betty Grumble

6pm: As the sun sets, the crowds start to form along Campbell's Cove, opposite the Sydney Opera House. Just short of 6pm, alarms set off from the iPhones of the camera crew around me as we huddled together in the comforts of the award-winning Quay Restaurant, which holds one of the top vantage points to view Lighting of the Sails. As its name suggests, Sydney Opera House's sails lit up, awash with projections of works from six of Australia's traditional and contemporary Aboriginal artists: Karla Dickens, Djon Mundine, Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi, Reko Rennie, Donny Woolagoodja, and the late Gulumbu Yunupingu. Depictions of birds, lizards, butterflies and snakes scaled their way across the sails, as did the symbols definitive to Aboriginal art.

7pm: As crowds snaked their way around various light installations and food trucks (we spotted ones selling Vietnamese and Japanese, as well as good old fish and chips and sliders) around Circular Quay, the buildings framing the Light Walk lit up thanks to the Dress Circle, controlled by users operating a 3D, touch-sensitive interactive model. The AMP and AXA Australia buildings were awash with neon brights — you'll be glad to know that these LED tubes and LED Colour-Reach architectural lights are also eco-friendly and energy-efficient respectively, so Vivid Sydney 2016 does try its best to be environmentally responsible.

8pm: While other installations might attract a younger, family-friendly crowd (we recommend Light Rocket by Captain Starlight for those with kids), the ones which really caught my attention were The Matter of Painting and I LOVE YOU. The earlier sees the iconic Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) transformed into a huge canvas in a collaboration between Western Sydney artist Huseyin Sami and Paris-based artistic collective Danny Rose. With an aim to explore ideas associated with the material nature of paint and the process of making art, you'll see paint dripping down the six-storey building — all a projection, of course — from the iconic clock tower. Paint splatters, the canvas tears and the art revolves according to the sounds accompanying it, all in Jackson Pollock-esque fashion.

Next to it, you'll hear declarations of love in I LOVE YOU, where couples (friends, siblings and lovers alike) yell as a giant illuminated heart-shaped 'Love-O-Meter' lights up and makes sounds according to how loud their proclamations are. There's never a better time to let someone know how you really feel.

I LOVE YOU Vivid Sydney 2016

9pm: Elsewhere in the nightlife precinct of Kings Cross, the fourth-storey of the Kings Cross Hotel prepares for a night of debauchery with Vivid Au Go Go presents: Avant-Cabaret — all done in a tasteful fashion and light-hearted humour, of course. Host Mr. Motherf**cker, as he lovingly refers himself to plays the role of that creepy uncle you often run into at family gatherings. Looking a bit like Johnny Depp's impersonation of James 'Whitey' Bulger in Black Mass — slicked back hair and all — he scours the crowd and singles individuals out, constantly reminding one or two buggers that they're standing in his light. Oh, and he also tells you to get off your f**king phone, which is much needed in these circumstances. God bless him.

The fun truly begins as Bridie Doll gets on the small stage. All red hair and bright-eyed, her tasseled bra top and skirt is what you'll be gazing at, transfixed by the movements of such fluid things as her hips shimmy and shake about. Oh yes, she's a flirty one, coyly working her body alongside go-go classics of the '60s and a touch of the contemporary. At an intermission, she dances along to France Gall's French classic Laisse tomber les filles, Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walking and The Raveonettes' Love in a Trashcan.

Bridie Doll

If you combine Lana Del Rey, Grimes and add a bit of kink, you'll get Zsa Zsa LaFine. Mr. Motherf**cker describes her as someone who's not easily defined, and we couldn't agree more with him. While she starts her set in depressive seduction (yes, really sad people can be sexy too), she slowly loses facets of herself to embrace new ones — that of a shy, bright-eyed Harajuku-like schoolgirl singing about Mickey Mouse, or mocking clever girls like the stuff of your high school nightmares. Garments lose themselves in the process, and at one point, a raincoat is brought out. All this with a backdrop of two half-metre high cockatoos. Brilliant.

Qantas operates A330 services twice daily from Singapore to Sydney. To make a booking with Qantas, click here.

Once you've arrived at Sydney Airport, travel into the city centre with CityRail. A free shuttle bus operates in the city centre and various modes of public transport will take you to most Vivid Sydney locations including The Rocks, Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour, and Martin Place. You can plan your trip by using the trip planner or app, which helps you plan your travel by train, bus, ferry and light rail.

Check back for daily coverage on the opening weekend of Vivid Sydney 2016, which is held till 18 June. For more information, click here.