Light it Up: Everything Worth Seeing at Vivid Sydney in 2023

Light it Up: Everything Worth Seeing at Vivid Sydney in 2023
Contributor: Stephanie Nuzzo and Lauren Rouse

For the most part, it seems like Australia’s social scene is back in business. This list of bar and restaurant openings, and this list of upcoming festivals seems to suggest as much, at least. One of the events we’re most excited about Sydney side, however, is Vivid 2023.

If you’re planning to take advantage of the stellar event, here’s everything you need to know.

When is Vivid Sydney 2023?

Vivid Sydney 2015, Media Preview at Customs House 21/5/2015. Photo Credit – James Horan/Destination NSW

VIVID 2023 is running over 23 nights from Friday, May 26 to Saturday, June 17.

You’ll have a solid chunk of time to check it all out, so start planning ahead.

What is scheduled for this year?

vivid sydney 2023
Image supplied

Vivid Sydney for 2023 is inspired by all things Mother Nature, the theme is ‘Vivid Sydney, Naturally‘, so expect events to be, well, rooted in environmental themes.

The well-loved pillars of Light, Music and Ideas are back for 2023 but will be joined by a tasty new pillar, Vivid Food.

Jennifer Coolidge & Mike White at Vivid Sydney

Image: HBO

Another recent and major new highlight of the festival that was recently announced is that The White Lotus creator Mike White and star Jennifer Coolidge will be in town.

The duo, who are old friends in real life, will take part in a Vivid Ideas conversation panel which will be moderated by Benjamin Law. They will touch on topics of satire and friendship, and provide insightful and hilarious anecdotes from their time working in Hollywood.

Here are the details you need for the event:

  • Date: June 10 at 7:30 – 8:45 pm
  • Location: Aware Super Theatre, ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour
  • Tickets: On sale now starting from $60

Could we possibly get some hints about The White Lotus Season 3? Here’s hoping.

Here are some of the other highlights from the Vivid program in 2023

Destination NSW shared its picks from the 2023 Vivid Sydney program, which include:

  • The vibrant works of Australian artist, John Olsen, will be brought to life on the Sydney Opera House for Lighting of the Sails: Life Enlivened (2023), a tribute to his illustrious career of more than 60 years.
  • British author and “master of her material” Jeanette Winterson features at Vivid Ideas and will reflect on questions of identity, sexuality, religion and more to unpack the idea of nature in LIFE AND MARS: The Future of Human.
  • Vivid Music will spotlight First Nations and Australian voices and will celebrate the legacy of the late Archie Roach AC, as well as an incredible free Vivid Music Program at Tumbalong Park on the Vivid Sydney Light Walk featuring Yothu Yindi, cult Japanese artist, Cornelius and many more.
  • The Vivid Sydney 2023 drone show Written in the Stars will feature more than 1,000 drones over six shows for what will be the biggest drone show in the Southern Hemisphere to date. Conceptualised by Gill Minervini in collaboration with the Australian Traffic Network, Written in the Stars will be an awe-inspiring journey through the natural world as it explores our solar system, from the Sun to Neptune.

If you’re after a more in-depth look at what events are running in each pillar for Vivid Sydney 2023, here is a complete rundown from Destination NSW.

Below descriptions come via Destination NSW.

Light

Vivid Sydney
Dark Spectrum. Image supplied

When the sun sets, Sydney will transform with more than 50 lustrous light installations, 3D projection artworks and ticketed events for visitors to lose themselves in the hypnotising wonderland of light and colour.

After a beautiful and poignant debut at Vivid Sydney 2022, First Light will return for Vivid Sydney 2023. Curated by Vivid Sydney’s First Nations Advisor Rhoda Roberts AO, First Light will open the festival on Friday 26 May with a Welcome to Country and performances including musical trailblazers Yothu Yindi, the Yolngu supergroup and ARIA Hall of Fame members behind the hit song Treaty.

The Light Walk will expand its footprint in 2023, with a Vivid Sydney takeover of Barangaroo featuring more than 10 light installations and projections along with the Vivid Fire Kitchen. Following its debut in 2022, Vivid House returns – but this year bigger and better at the Cutaway in Barangaroo, activating every night of the festival with 360-degree immersive natural experiences bringing together art, light, sound and video from local and international artists. Vivid Sydney’s largest installation, The Last Ocean by US artist Jen Lewin, will dazzle at Barangaroo Reserve’s Stargazer Lawn, while at Barangaroo Headland visitors will be amazed by the Instagram-worthy installations Dune by Juan Fuentes and Sydney art collective Night Whisper by Amigo & Amigo.

At the Sydney Opera House, Lighting of the Sails will see the vibrant works of one of Australia’s most famed artists, John Olsen, brought to life as a spectacular tribute to his illustrious artistic career of more than 60 years. Through images selected by curator Dr. Deborah Hart (Henry Dalrymple Head Curator, Australian Art, National Gallery of Australia) and animated by creative technologists Curiious, Life Enlivened (2023) celebrates the propulsive power of Olsen’s painterly brush to envision the natural world anew.

The Vivid Sydney 2023 drone show Written in the Stars will feature more than 1,000 drones over six shows for what will be the biggest drone show in the Southern Hemisphere to date. Conceptualised by Gill Minervini in collaboration with the Australian Traffic Network, Written in the Stars will be an awe-inspiring journey through the natural world as it explores our solar system, from the Sun to Neptune.

The latest update in Vivid Light is that the unused Wynyard Station railway runners will be opened for the first time with an activation titled Dark Spectrum.

Secret passageways will be lit, and pulses of electronic dance music will ring out across eight rooms, with each space representing a different human experience and associated colour.

Ideas

The Vivid Ideas program gathers some of the world’s brightest minds and fearless storytellers, with 60 intriguing talks and workshops, exploring community, authenticity, respect, love and lessons learnt from the natural world. 

British author, “master of her material” and “the best living writer in this language” Jeanette Winterson features in the Vivid Ideas program. Renowned for her queer seminal debut Oranges are Not The Only Fruit and landmark novels such as The Passion, Sexing the Cherry and Written on the Body, LIFE AND MARS: The Future of Human will prod, provoke and challenge your ideas of nature, all while making you laugh as you fall in love with her unique and fascinating way of seeing the world.

The Vivid Ideas program features immersive and theatrical workshops, audio-visual guided tours and talk shows that capture Vivid Sydney’s “natural brilliance”. NOCTURNE, from Melbourne-based artists one step at a time like this, takes audiences on a one-of-a-kind-experience with an immersive, sonic journey through the hidden streets and laneways of The Rocks, while Coming to our Senses is a multi-sensory mindfulness workshop in the heart of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. 

The Up Late program also returns in 2023 with free, interactive and immersive sessions at the Powerhouse Museum and Australian Museum at night during the festival. 

Food

Vivid Sydney will premiere its first-ever Food program in 2023 with entry points for everyone, from wholesome street food to luxurious high-end dining experiences.

Vivid Food is all about celebrating those who make the Sydney food scene so special, with a line-up of events all nodding to the natural world.

Following the success of the inaugural Vivid Sydney Dinner in 2022, the popular event will return to The Ivy Ballroom, in partnership with hospitality group Merivale, for a fully immersive and unforgettable night fusing light, music, ideas and cuisine into a special feast for the senses featuring esteemed Sydney chefs Ben Greeno and Danielle Alvarez.  

The Vivid Fire Kitchen at The Cutaway at Barangaroo brings together Sydney’s hottest dining concepts, curated drinks and entertainment for three weeks of flame-fuelled festivities. Expect mouth-watering menus by legendary pitmasters, BBQ heroes and acclaimed local restaurants with something on offer for every taste. Meanwhile, Vivid Residence will be an unmissable new dining experience, bringing one of the world’s most revered chefs to the culinary capital of Australia.

House of Naturalia will take over all floors of Barangaroo House and feature a custom menu by head chef Tara Chua, while day-to-night party HERE NOW will take over basement bar Mary’s Underground and Macquarie Place, mixing masterclasses in food and wine with music and art. 

Vivid Sydney 2023 will see the return of the beloved Carriageworks Night Market, a one-night event showcasing more than 50 of Sydney’s leading restaurants, bars and producers.


There’s all this and much (MUCH) more going on at Vivid Sydney this year. Make sure to head on down and check it out if you can to support our local artists and the city’s culture.

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 


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