Q&A: Vivid director, Anthony Bastic

Published:  May 10, 2012
Ayesha Khara
Q&A: Vivid director, Anthony Bastic

Returning for its fourth year, the Vivid Light Festival will once again transform Sydney into an impressive wonderland of light from 25 May – 11 June. Igniting the city with creativity, the festival boasts interactive light installations, sculptures and projections by acclaimed designers around the world.

From interactive games of TicTacToe and hopscotch, to illuminated sea grass and glowing dandelions, Sydney will not only become the backdrop to over 50 light installations but also music, ideas, and events.

We spoke to Vivid’s festival director, Anthony Bastic about how the event fuels people’s imagination and pushes technological boundaries as it continues to influence culture and creativity in Sydney.

A feature of Vivid 2012 - Flocking Birds by Jon Voss

What was it about the light festival you saw in Belgium that motivated you to pursue creating a similar festival in Australia?
I experienced people enjoying light as an art form and it was the first time I had seen large scale moving light projections on the façade of a building. I found this expression of light art fascinating. A few years later I was introduced to lighting designer MaryAnne Kyriakou, who was keen to develop a light festival for Sydney and the concept grew from there.

How do you think Vivid contributes to Sydney’s innovative culture? Is it having a positive influence on the future of design and events in the city?
This is now the fourth Vivid Light Festival I have worked on and I have had the opportunity to experience first hand how this event stimulates people’s imagination and pushes boundaries in technological advances. Each year we have more and more interest from artists, architects, designers and students in the creative industries who are keen to be involved in Vivid.

Another observation is that Sydneysiders have really embraced Vivid Light and people look forward to checking out the advances in technology and the cool designs artists have created.

With so many amazing lighting designers around the world, how do you go about selecting artworks/installations for the festival?
We actually invite artists from across Australia and around the world to participate in Vivid Light – the event is open to everyone in the creative industries and our main criteria for choosing artworks in first and foremost creativity and secondly innovation in technology.

A feature of Vivid 2012 Tic Tac Toe

A feature of Vivid 2012 - Snake the Planet

Many of the installations and projections aim for minimal energy consumption. How important do you think it is for Vivid and designers in general to encourage people to think about sustainability?
It is very important to encourage designers to think about sustainability and minimal energy use, although, the designers themselves are already thinking along these lines and leading the way forward.

You talk about the event being a ‘true marriage of design and technology’, how much work goes into the unseen technological aspects of these installations?
It is incredible the amount of hard work, depth of thought and trials and retrials that go in to creating the light installations. My team and I are constantly in awe of the artists, designers and students who come in to our office and explain their concept. This festival truly encourages people to think big, think green and think about changing and influencing city atmospheres.

With installations of TicTacToe and Hopscotch, Vivid has been described as a ‘colourful playground of light’, do you think public interaction is key to the success of the festival?
As Vivid falls in the middle of winter and all Sydneysiders and visitors to Sydney are invited to check out this free event, I think it’s important that audiences are able to interact and get up close with the lights. Being able to participate in this event by way of playing hopscotch or TicTacToe, or screaming at one of the installations will present people with a lasting memory of this festival.

Last year I was amazed and delighted when witnessing people’s reactions to some of the more interactive installations. In particular Social Firefly, where people misinterpreted the method of interacting, as the public were asked to shine the torches that were provided onto the installation and it would react. Well, word went round that if you screamed at the lights they would react – audiences enjoyed screaming so much that the same group of artists have created a new entry for this year’s Vivid called Screaming Rapture!

Social Firefly at Vivid 2011

Render of Screaming Rapture by Frank Maguire, Jason McDermott and Liam Ryan

Sinclair Park’s whimsical installation ‘Chromapollination’, a garden with giant glowing dandelions sounds incredible. Can you tell us what project you are most looking forward to this year?
So much thought and creativity goes into the development of each light sculpture. My team and I are fortunate enough to travel with each artist on their journey from the development of an idea to realising a light art installation that tells a story.
Although the individual story differs, the principles are shared. The principles are centred on creating new and beautiful atmospheres in an urban setting.

It’s hard for me to single out any installations as I feel like I’m travelling on the journey with all artists responsible for creating this light festival and I’m just as nervous as they are!

What are you hoping to achieve with Vivid in the years to come?
Vivid Light is fast becoming a winter tradition in Sydney. I hope we can continue the tradition and encourage artists from every part of Australia and around the world to participate in the creativity of light art. That way Vivid can grow to become one of the world’s most creative light festivals and lead the way in design and innovation in technology.

The lighting suppliers and manufacturers are crucial to the success of Vivid Light. It is so encouraging to see the growth in interest and participation of the Lighting Industry to Vivid and I look forward to continuing to grow this participation.

Render of Chromapollination, a feature of Vivid 2012

Do you have a favourite installation from the four years that you’ve been involved in the event?
Brian Eno’s installation on the roof of the Opera House and in the Studio in Vivid’s first year was a brilliant addition and set the tone of the festival. I think starting off the festival with an artist whose work crosses many genres was, in essence, an inspired start to what is now a fantastic creative event.

Vivid Light Festival
runs from 25 May to 11 June at venues around Sydney.

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