Three young CM+ designers created artworks for Vivid Sydney, the popular annual festival of lights that illuminated the city from May 24 to June 15, 2019.
Destination NSW reports a record year for Vivid visitor numbers; this year’s figure is yet to be released but is expected to surpass the 2018 count of 2.25 million attendees across the 23 nights.
The artists – Jing Li, Lawrence Liang and Rod Tan – reflect on their experience designing, building and installing their immersive pieces, and seeing the public interact with their work.
Rod Tan’s colourful glowing tree, with interactive pressure pads that trigger music and lights, delighted families in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney after dark. Multicultural harmony is symbolised through 6000 LEDs arranged in six streams, spiraling up the trunk and changing colour.
Harmony is inspired by Sydney’s diverse cultures living and working together – particularly in the CM+ office.
I feel privileged to have been part of Vivid Sydney this year. I’m proud not only of the design, but of the team who came together to make it happen. – Rod Tan
“On the last day of bump in we were asked to finish early – we didn’t know why until the media arrived to set up microphones and cameras. Harmony was used as the backdrop for the Vivid media launch by Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres that night. The team worked well to finish the set-up in time to make that happen.”
“I stood in the crowd to hear what people would say about Harmony – it was very rewarding to see wave after wave of visitors enjoying the installation and to hear their thoughts. Both kids and adults were playing with the pressure pads under the tree and looking up at the lights.”
“I also saw a lot of couples kissing – it was apparently a very romantic spot. On Instagram we even saw a video of a proposal under Harmony.”
Jing Li created an immersive snowstorm experience, with thousands of lights on strings moving in a flurry around visitors, suspended from five – 4.5 m snowflake-shaped support structures.
It was important to Li to keep the height elevated, to replicate the experience of snow falling from the sky. This required design solutions to ensure the frame, made from steel and weighing 1277 kg, was as stable as possible.
The installation was completed ahead of schedule, welcoming visitors on opening night to experience the storm of lights, with the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge for backdrops.
Li says she went to observe the installation a number of times, to see people interact with the work.
Kids liked to touch the lights and run in between them, playing. Couples and friends liked to take a lot of selfies together. – Jing Li
“There is one photo on Instagram of a young man with his mother at Let It Snow. I enjoyed seeing it become a bonding experience for families. It was an amazing time. I have kept a string of the lights at home, as a token of memory.”
Let It Snow was included in the ‘11 most exciting things on at this year’s Vivid Sydney’ in Timeout. Li has been interviewed about the Chinese talent in the 2019 program, and by Parisian gallery Singulart, on art and her vision for urban design.
“Just like other creative design fields, urban design requires a lot of imagination and full consideration of the user experience,” she told Singulart.
“It is not only about the big picture – how to shape a city, but also about zooming into details of how to create and define spaces, improving living environments and user experiences.”
Lawrence Liang teamed up with university peers to form the Capto Collaborative. Their work, Nostalgia Above, is an emotive cloudscape floating in Kendall Lane, The Rocks.
Coloured light is projected onto globes that make up the cloud forms, paired with music. Four storylines move from inclement weather to sunny skies, symbolising that there are always brighter days to come.
Between the four narratives, says Liang, the projection cycles through bright colours to invite more viewers to engage.
“We designed the program so that as you walk past the laneway you see the colour, it goes rainbow, so you walk down the lane to take a photo.
“We timed how long it takes to walk from one end to the other. By the time you are under the installation one of the narratives begins. We asked the volunteers to let visitors know it is a seven minute cycle, so they can stay for their photo opportunity.
Ultimately our aim is to captivate people and draw them in enough to make an emotional impact, to inspire them, and to intrigue them enough to read the sign – which expresses our work’s positive message about mental health. – Lawrence Liang
“We received messages in person and via email about people’s response to the work, requests for the music, and it was very popular on Instagram.”
Capto Collaborative hope to bring Nostalgia Above, or works based on a similar concept, to other international light festivals in the coming year.