I’ve been having trouble getting to the blogging desk this week, but I can’t let any more time go past without saying what a great time I had visiting Vivid down at the Quay last Friday night.
Vivid is billed as a Festival of Light, Music and Ideas. All I’ve seen is the light. I was at a lecture on contemporary art recently where a stooped and grey-bearded gentleman decried the ascendancy of spectacularism in contemporary art exhibitions. He may have said something about bread and circuses, and he certainly did say that somehow spectacle serves the agendas of governments. So I’m uneasily aware that I may be contributing to the end of civilisation as we know it if I recommend the multi-faceted spectacle of Circular Quay just now. However, recommend it I will.
The lighting of the Opera House Sails is fabulous: the moment when they started to flutter was heartstopping. The sails, the Customs House trompe l’oeil and the gigantic Socialist Realist animation on the MCA are the Really Big Items, with the sunflowers and roses in the Argyle Cut not far behind. But there are any number of smaller works, many of them interactive, to enrich a stroll around the quay from now until 11 June.
In some ways the most restrained exhibit of all is Screaming Rapture. In contrast to the bright colours everywhere else, it’s a relatively small, stark black structure with a white light inside it. All it does is respond to sound – different ones of its black louvres open in response to different frequencies, volumes and durations. As we arrived from the Rocks, we could hear rhythmic clapping, which turned out to be someone playing with it. In my brief time in front of it, a small child sang and just the top row of louvres flickered. A man shouted basso profondo and just the bottom rows stood open. I sang ‘My love is like a red red rose’, and it moved prettily. Later we heard prolonged screaming and saw the whole rectangle show bright white.
There’s a nice piece on the SMH site where one of the creators, Frank Maguire, talks about it. My son Liam Ryan is another of the brains (and late night labourers) who brought it into being. It’s not just paternal warmth that makes me think that amid all the awe-inspiring (I mistyped that as aww-inspiring, and I guess that’s accurate as well) spectacle, this piece speaks of a world where technology is at our beck and call, doing the bidding of even the smallest child.