Tripping the light fantastic: a calendar of year-round light-based festivals in Australia | Culture

When Vivid launched in 2009, the concept of an Australian festival focused exclusively on large-scale light installations was a novel concept. A decade and a half later, they are everywhere.

This year’s Vivid festival attracted more than a million visitors, and there is now a year-round calendar of similar festivals, exhibitions, and installations in every state. Illuminate festival in Adelaide launched last year, but co-artistic director, Lee Cumberlidge, says light festivals are nothing new, taking examples from the ancient celebration of Diwali to the Fête des Lumières in Lyon, France, which has hosted more than 100 years. year runs. year.

“But as lighting technology has become more advanced and artists have been able to integrate light into their work, it has become a new art form in its own right,” she says. “That means there is now a lot of room for innovation.”

Vivid may have turned off the lights for 2022, but here’s a calendar of light festivals to keep you glowing all year round.


Although it was launched last year, the reopening of state borders early this year means next month will be Adelaide’s first chance for most of the country. Light up, which focuses on the convergence of art and technology. This year’s festival features an “AI-powered multi-sensory experience”, a 2km sound and light path through the Botanical Garden, created by the Moment Factory team that has designed stage shows for Billie Eilish and Madonna.

Adelaide lights up with ‘2km sound and light trail through the Botanic Garden’ created by a team who designed for Billie Eilish. Photo: Moment Factory

South Australia’s winter also hosts two spectacular shows with natural light. In the rocky shallows off Whyalla, giant squid compete to make mates sparkle with waves of color across their skin, while ghost mushrooms give an eerie glow to the pine plantations around Mount Gambier.


Against the backdrop of the meandering Murray River in NSW, Moama Lights combines storytelling and spectacle in an installation that connects the twin cities of Moama and Echuca. The old red gums of the river overlook a 600m path that explores the rich culture of Yorta Yorta’s traditional owners and the effects of colonization through a multimedia spectacle that illuminates the crisp winter evenings.

On the other side of the country, Perth’s Winter Lights FestivalI take over Brookfield Place’s four heritage buildings with a mix of installations and projections (this year’s program has yet to be released), while Boola Bardip’s Illuminate: Timescapes is a nighttime projection exploring the rich variety of landscapes and cultures in WA.


The spawning of the Great Barrier Reef after a full moon in November is one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles. But if you can’t make that one night experience, Cairns Festival’s Reef Light installation takes a little longer. Intended to recreate the experience of swimming around the world’s largest living structure, it will bathe audiences in waves of color and showcase multi-sensory experiences inspired by aspects of the reef ecosystem, from luminescent algae to hanging neon jellyfish.

Australia weekend


Also known as the Festival of Lights, Divalic (or Deepavali) is a five-day celebration that marks the end of the summer harvest in the Indian subcontinent. The third day of the festival is celebrated with lavish displays of lamps, candles and fireworks that dispel the darkness, and the Hindu Council of Australia organizes large community celebrations across the country.


November is a little light in itself on the old light festivals, but it’s a good time to catch it Light: works from the Tate . collection, an exhibition in which light is both a source of inspiration and a medium for artworks (on display at ACMI in Melbourne until 13 November). Spanning two centuries, from the English Romantic painters to compelling works by contemporary artists such as Yayoi Kusama, the exhibition explores how artists have learned to portray and channel light through painting, photography, video, sculpture and mixed media installations.


The most community-led, unofficial and organic light festival in Australia is the annual tradition of putting on elaborate Christmas light shows at otherwise normal suburban homes. Every city has its own hotspots, but with a history dating back 60 years and tens of thousands of visitors every December, Lights of Lobethal in the Adelaide Hills claims to be the largest of its kind in Australia, complete with an accompanying Christmas market, parade and concert.


Red and blue lights illuminate the Field of Light at sunset near Uluru
50,000 glass orbs come to life in the glowing expanse of Field of Light, which takes place near Uluru annually. Photo: James D Morgan/Getty Images for Huawei

Originally installed for a year in 2016, Bruce Monroe’s fascinating Field of light installation has proved so popular that it has been extended indefinitely and is still fully booked most nights. Each evening, as Uluru glows bright red and then fades into a silhouette, 50,000 fragile glass orbs gradually come to life, gently pulsating color in the soft twilight. It is a profoundly peaceful experience that reduces even the loudest of crowds to a reverent silence.

The installation is busiest in the winter season, but is perhaps even more beautiful on a warm summer evening.


The Beacon casts laser beams into the night sky
Robin Fox’s Beacon casts laser beams into the night sky at Mona Foma 2022. Photo: TS Publicity

Spread between Tasmania’s two main cities, Mona Foma eschews the claustrophobic infatuation of bodies that dominate its winter cousin, but its summer program of music and visual arts is just as captivating. Light installations aren’t the focus, but in recent years Robin Fox’s epic laser shows have taken over Cataract Gorge and lit up the skies over Hobart. The festival is also a rare opportunity to see Ryoji Ikeda’s Spectra, which beams columns of pure white light 15km into the night sky above Mona.

When you reach Tasmania’s most famous museum, book ahead for James Turrell’s hallucinogenic Unseen Seen to take light art to a whole new and unexpectedly visceral level.


The National Library is brightly lit at night with projections and portraits
Canberra’s Enlighten Festival casts its famous buildings – such as the National Library – into projections and works of art. Photo: Lukas Coch / AAP

If you haven’t visited the country’s capital in a while, the Enlighten Festival is the perfect opportunity to see canberra in a new light. While the facades of institutions such as Parliament House, the National Library, National Gallery and Questacon are transformed by colorful projections, a program of events after dark allows visitors to step back and explore areas normally not visible to the eye. are publicly accessible.

Swap late nights for early mornings and you can watch a fleet of hot air balloons take to the skies as part of the nine-day Canberra Balloon Spectacular before the two-and-a-half week festival ends with all the guns on the Fireworks show Skyfire


Albert Namatjira’s paintings of the West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs are some of Australia’s most recognizable works of art, but Parrjima turns the landscape itself into a canvas with 2 km of installations illuminating the ancient slopes. Connecting to the land is central to this epic light show, which outshines many of its urban counterparts and highlights the region’s rich natural beauty and cultural significance.

The festival is free, but it’s worth registering in advance to ensure you have access to the full program of music performances, film screenings, artist talks and cooking demonstrations.

Be able to

Not every light show is man-made, as anyone who has seen the aurora australis can attest. While the Southern Lights can be seen all year round, they are most common when the nights are longer, from May to September. Even during these months they can be elusive – the Aurora Australia Facebook group is an excellent resource for information about upcoming activities.

To give yourself the best chance of seeing a natural light show, head out on a clear new moon night and pick a spot far from the light pollution caused by cities; Cockle Creek at the southern tip of Tasmania is a popular spot, while mainlanders can head to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria.


As the winter chill starts to bite, the biggest light festivals spring into action. Lively Sydney turns the sails of the Sydney Opera House into a giant screen; This year’s version also included an expansive laser installation and an 8km trail from Circular Quay to Central Station, featuring over 60 light installations. All in all, it was enough to draw more than 435,000 people on opening weekend alone.

The Opera House lit up in bright red and green light for Vivid 2022
The lighting of the Opera House’s sails: a key event in Sydney’s sprawling festival of lights, art and music, Vivid. Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

In Melbournethe ambitious one Rising festival has finally launched for the third time this year with a “supernatural forest” of inflatable sculptures, an ice rink lit by environmental projections and a kaleidoscopic mirror maze alongside a packed program of theatre, music and dance. An echo of the festival will be felt every night in July when Ancestral Memory shows a ghost eel swimming through Hamer Hall for regional Victorians to enjoy white night events planned in Shepparton, Bendigo and Geelong this year.

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