VIVID Sydney is a celebration of everything that makes a city vibrant – food, music, art and above all, light. Like many public events that bring people together face-to-face for an experience, the annual event was paused at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In developing our installation for the return of VIVID as a live event in 2022, as a team we came together virtually to workshop what we wished our light installation to convey.

Across our different regions, certain things were common experiences – a new appreciation for our local area, the importance of family in helping us maintain our social fabric, and the value of connecting in both the virtual and physical worlds. Emotions were the recurring theme, so we sought to find a way to express feelings in sculpture and light.

Research has identified 27 human emotions, and during lockdowns these were a shared and an individual experience. From hope and desire to grief and fear, we were all touched by the many shades of human heart. We lived in our emotions as a way of being in the world and feeling belonging to the wider society at a time when so much else was closed to us.

As we sketched concepts and ideation by hand, we were led to explore the capacity of digital engineering to give a more creative form to the ideas. We drew inspiration from natural patterns in the earth, fractals, cellular networks and organic structures.

The Voronoi pattern at the heart of cellular structures resonated most strongly for the creation of intricate pillars embodying our three keywords – FAMILY, LOCAL and CONNECT. Each letter was converted to an ASCII Code to form a unique 3D printed form separated by a black band.

Each individual pillar harmonises and has relationship in form and materiality with the others, just as the three concepts FAMILY, LOCAL and CONNECT inter-relate, forming a whole that is the bedrock of our human experience. We all belong to others we call our family; we all belong to a place where we feel local; and we all reach out to others and connect to forge bonds of belonging.

The base of each pillar features the names of the 27 human emotions. To bring these to life, we collaborated with Litesource + Controls to create a shifting, prismatic lighting display that foregrounds the intricate organic construction of the pillars and invites people to step into the space.

Glowing from within and radiating light, the pillars have a stately yet comforting presence. They invite the close gaze, the touch of hands and quiet contemplation. Seeing all our feelings celebrated and honoured through the ambient glow of light, even those we may try to suppress such as disgust, is both cathartic and affirming. We honour grief, celebrate survival and we recognise our ability as humans to retain our sense of wonder, revive our joy and respect the personal and collective lessons of the pandemic as our cities come back to life.

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