Austral Floral Ballet: Vivid 2019

Rebecca Varidel
29th Apr 2019

Vivid Sydney is the largest festival of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere. Celebrating its eleventh anniversary in 2019, Vivid Sydney is continually setting the benchmark for world class events, creativity and innovation and it will transform our city into a colourful creative canvas again from the 24 May to 15 June, 2019.

While there will be many amazing visual displays perhaps anticipation is highest for the transformation of our iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House.

Jørn Utzon’s architectural masterpiece will be transformed into a digital light sculpture with a specially commissioned site-specific artwork Austral Flora Ballet to animate the World-Heritage Sails.

As the centre piece of Vivid 2019, Chinese-American artist Andrew Thomas Huang will transform the Sydney Opera House sails into a kinetic light sculpture. LA based Huang, is known as an experimental filmmaker with a background in puppetry, animation, live action performance and visual effects, and his bridges the gap between video art and film, expanding beyond into installation and alternative modes of storytelling. He has previously collaborated with leading musicians including Björk, Sigur Rós, Thom Yorke and most recently FKA Twigs for her new music video "Cellophane" as well as British director, Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour).

Huang will craft a hypnotic spectacle from five beloved floral gems, New South Wales Waratah, Kangaroo Paw, Hakea Archaeoides, Kingsmillii Eucalyptus and the Red Beard Orchid, all of which have a strong connection for the country, story and dance of First Nations people. He integrates the anatomy of these elegant Australian flowers with motion-captured dance performances in direct response to the architectural form of the Sails.

Huang’s singular artistic vision will see bodies, objects and nature dynamically morph, intertwine and scatter in hallucinogenic fantasies across the iconic Sails, while the Opera House’s venues are taken over by contemporary music for Vivid LIVE, including performances by The Cure, Maggie Rogers, Underworld, Herbie Hancock, Sharon Van Etten and Briggs’ Bad Apples House Party.

“It's an absolute thrill to create an artwork to be projected onto the Opera House Sails, one of the world's most iconic landmarks. I am smitten at the prospect of creating this work with a team of wonderful collaborators, namely the talented animation team at Bemo in Los Angeles, visionary choreographer Toogie Barcelo, dancer Genna Moroni and the incredible Vivid LIVE musician Kelsey Lu who will be composing original music for the piece" say Huang.

Austral Flora Ballet features shapes, colors and textures of native Australian flowers brought to life by kinetic human movement. By drawing connections between dance and native plants, this work underscores the inextricable link between the human body and nature.”

Andrew Thomas Huang’s Austral Flora Ballet is co-curated by the Sydney Opera House and Destination NSW and is both Vivid Sydney and the Opera House’s most significant free event. Austral Flora Ballet will light up the Sails every night at 6pm to 11pm from 24 May to 15 June. For those unable to attend the Lighting of the Sails in person, the Sydney Opera House will once again stream the full broadcast live from the Sydney Opera House Facebook page on Friday 24 May.

Entering its second decade in 2019, Vivid LIVE continues to transform the Opera House inside and out. Curated for the fifth time by the Opera House’s Head of Contemporary Music, Ben Marshall, Vivid LIVE is the annual centrepiece of the Opera House’s year-round Contemporary Music program, and features Australian premieres and exclusives, bespoke music projects and expansive programming.

Since 2009, Vivid LIVE has staged major cultural events including Brian Eno’s 'Pure Scenius' (2009), the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O in ‘Stop The Virgens’ (2012), Kraftwerk’s ‘The Catalogue in 3D’ (2013), St. Vincent (2014), An Evening with Morrissey (2015), Bon Iver’s ‘Cercle’, Max Richter’s ‘Sleep’, performed overnight in the Concert Hall Northern Foyer (both 2016) and Solange’s four night residency in the Concert Hall (2018). The ground-breaking Songlines transformed the sails into an animated canvas of indigenous artwork in 2016 and last year (2018) Jonathan Zawada created Metamathemagical, inspired by Australian motifs across science, nature and culture.