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Lighting of the Sails, 'Metamathemagical' by Jonathan Zawada. Sydney Opera House, 2018
Jonathan Zawada's 'Metamathemagical' for Lighting of the Sails, Vivid LIVE 2018 at the Sydney Opera House. Image: Daniel Boud

Watch all Lighting of the Sails from the past decade

Take a look back at our sails up in lights and the creative forces behind them

Sydney Opera House

2019: Andrew Thomas Huang

‘Austral Flora Ballet’

Chinese-American artist and filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang created a lush and visceral projected artwork of dancing digital sculptures inspired by Australia’s native flora.

Combining motion-captured dance performances choreographed in direct response to the sculptural and architectural forms of the Sails and integrating the anatomy of elegant Australian native flowers, Huang’s work intersects nature and the human body.

Watch ‘Austral Flora Ballet’ by Andrew Thomas Huang for Vivid LIVE, Sydney Opera House

Watch ‘Austral Flora Ballet’ by Andrew Thomas Huang

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2018: Jonathan Zawada


Zawada’s concept for the installation explores metaphysical themes using imagery inspired by the Australian environment. “I really wanted to take a big picture view of both what Vivid is about, but more importantly, how I feel about Australia as this kind of elemental, timeless place that is also completely new and full of energy.”

Watch ‘Metamathemagical’ by Jonathan Zawada

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2017: Ash Bolland

‘Audio Creatures’

“Essentially the idea is taking the Opera House and making the whole building turn into something that produces audio and is organic. I’ve always been interested in nature and its relation to what’s made by humankind. How do we meet in the middle? What destruction occurs between the two?”

Watch an interview and short documentary with Ash Bolland

Watch ‘Audio Creatures’ by Ash Bolland

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2016: Songlines

“It's an oral archive of our history and mapping of country”, said Rhoda Roberts, Head of First Nations Programming. Celebrating First Nations' spirituality and culture through the songlines of our land and sky,  Rhoda Roberts and the director of 2016's Lighting of the Sails, tells the story of songlines and why this ancient knowledge is at the core of Indigenous and Australian identity.

Narration and Creative Direction by Rhoda Roberts
Art Direction and Animation by Eddy Herringson
Music Composed and Designed by Rhoda Roberts and Damien Robinson featuring songmen Djakapurra Munyarryun and Cecil McLeod  

2015: Universal Everything

‘Living Mural’ 

From the creators: “This commission to light the Sails of Sydney Opera House epitomises the spirit of our studio—inventing new forms of moving image for emerging display technologies. Our long term passions of architecture, graphics, moving image and sound converge on this iconic building.

“Although embracing emerging technologies, our process always starts from drawing. The hand drawn techniques seen in this film are akin to the early pioneers of animation Len Lye, Norman McLaren and Walt Disney.

“Using these timeless techniques mean this film could have existed in 1920, albeit with a 21st century twist—bringing our influences of global pop culture, modernist graphics and physics simulations into a playful exploration of this iconic building.”

Watch ‘Living Mural’ by Universal Everything

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2014: 59 Productions

59 Productions took the iconic building on a dramatic journey through time—from the birth of architecture and civilization through to the pinnacle of human and technological achievement.

Thronging audiences gathered across the city saw the Opera House born again, from its conception and design through the extraordinary construction process, before experimenting with an extraordinarily diverse range of surface finishes, colours and textures. Projecting the building into an imaginary future, it was then subjected to extremes of natural forces and reached a point of near-destruction, before undergoing a triumphant apotheosis, and beginning its cosmic journey once again.

Watch Lighting of the Sails by 59 Productions

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2013: The Spinifex Group

From Richard Lindsay, former Spinifex creative director:

“The Sydney Opera House is undoubtedly one of the world's greatest projection canvases, and it's been a real privilege for our creative team to tackle this project on our home turf. From an animation perspective, there were some obvious challenges associated with the geometry and curvature of the iconic facade. We wanted to ensure that what we created translated well from the many and varied viewing angles, which meant 'painting on the surface' of the building rather than designing from a single point of view, which typifies most building projections.
“We see this as a show, to move beyond just an art installation with a big sound presence and an evolving journey evoking the audiences thoughts and opinions. As a team, we strive to keep pushing the boundaries of 3D projection mapping; adding interactive elements, projecting on unusual surfaces and incorporating multi-dimensional elements, such as live action.”

Watch Lighting of the Sails by the Spinifex Group

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Watch Lighting of the Sails by URBANSCREEN

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2011: Superbien

‘La Macular’

Watching Superbien’s Lighting the Sails at Vivid LIVE 2011

Watch ‘La Macular’ by Superbien

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