Tag Archives: Frank Maguire

Social Firefly at Wellington Lux

Sydney has Vivid. Wellington has Lux.

My son Liam Ryan and his collaborators Frank Maguire and Jason McDermott, have had installations in Vivid Sydney for three years now. This year they go international: Wellington Lux has invited them to bring their 2011 creation, Social Firefly, across the Tasman. It will be part of the Urban Alive exhibition in Wellington 21–24 June, and they will be speaking at a Symposium on Sunday 23 June. My Kiwi reader, if there is one, has now been given advance notice.


Morphic Mirror at the Vivid Festival

Winter’s coming on in Sydney, with fog and bitter chills (bitter by Sydney standards – probably balmy if you’re from Saskatchewan). The Writers’ Festival is over and the Film Festival is more than a week away. But there’s Vivid to light up our nights.

The Opera House, Customs House and the MCA become screens for brilliant animation at 6 o’clock every night from last Friday to Monday week. I don’t think any of the three is up to the standard set in the last two years, but it’s still worth joining the crowds at Circular Quay each night for the spectacle. There are luminous spectacles along Macquarie Street, in Luna Park, and in Darling Harbour as well – I haven’t seen them yet, but the photos on the Vivid site are very promising.

Those are the big items. But the walk from the Opera House to the Rocks and down to Walsh Bay involves, I don’t know, hundreds of smaller scale light sculptures and installations. There’s an electric graffiti wall in a lane in the Rocks that has butterflies flying through rainforest – but all the foliage wilts and dies when anyone walks too close. There are myriad mirror balls in a Walsh Bay breezeway. There are enough interactive light-projecting set-ups to keep a family happy for hours.

And again this year, my brilliant son Liam and friends are part of it, with their creation, the Morphic Mirror. It’s a responsive funhouse mirror: hold your arms wide and the surface of the mirror contorts so that  your reflection broadens; wave your hands in the air, cross your arms over your body, and your image morphs in response. Like the Social Fireflies and Screaming Rapture of previous years, the Morphic Mirror has an intimate, human-sized feel, and as this video demonstrates is a real crowd pleaser, one person at a time.

Morphic Mirror is created by Frank Maguire, Jason McDermott and Liam Ryan.

There’s more to Vivid than the lights. Evidently there’s music and ideas as well. The lights will do me.

Screaming Rapture at Vivid

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.

Photo by Reuters, downloaded from hungeree.com

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.