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Glorious psychedelic cacophony for starters

16 Jun

AS an array of colours and shapes bounced off the roof of the Sydney Opera House after the opening of Vivid Sydney on Friday night, inside at the Opera Theatre English space rock ensemble Spiritualized was employing its own kind of light show to colour its creations.

Spiritualized was there to perform its third and most critically acclaimed album, Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space, a landmark in post Britpop psychedelia released in 1997. It’s an album that is by turn delicate, mournful, hypnotic and, in terms of creating a really intense racket, quite beautiful.

Main man Jason Pierce prefers the enigmatic approach to stage performance.

He sat down for the entire show, off to one side with his music stand, a microphone and an electric guitar.

For this gig he had plenty of collaborators to help him recreate his best work, including an eight-piece choir (in appropriate smocks), a similarly sized string section and six horn players, most of whom were recruited in Sydney.

That was in addition to the rock nucleus of bass, drums, two guitarists, a percussionist and a keyboards player. You felt it might be loud. And so it was.

Initially, as they launched into the title song as an opener, it was hard to tell if the guitar feedback was a technical fault or part of the set, but as the show progressed it became clear that every dynamic shift and nuance, even the severest barrage of white noise, was deliberate.

Pierce’s songs often have a dirge-like repetitiveness, either in the sense of stripped-back melancholy or in the way the instrumentation builds slowly around one theme until it becomes a ball of static directed straight at your eardrums.

These attacks were the best parts of this performance, even if the decibel level did have some unsuspecting festivalgoers stuffing bits of paper into their ears by the end of the fifth song, Stay with Me.

The highlight was the closing, 17-minute psychedelic groove of Cop Shoot Cop. This glorious cacophony featured the entire ensemble. The combination of heavy percussive rumble with strings, horns and guitars going full tilt and the strobe lighting used to illuminate it made it as thrillingly intense as a fairground ride you never want to get off.

Quieter moments such as the gospel-tinged Come Together and Broken Heart allowed the subtleties being played by the strings and horns to push through. Elsewhere they were contributing to the whole without being distinct.

With the album done, they came back on for Out of Sight, a standout from Spiritualized’s first album Let it Come Down.

Its more restrained, poppy groove was a comedown, but pleasantly so after the onslaught before it. You’d want an act to open your festival that lived up to the title Vivid Live. Spiritualized did that with ease.


400,000 attend the biggest ever Vivid Sydney


NSW Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner, has declared Vivid Sydney 2011 a record success, with sell-out music concerts, huge crowds experiencing over 40 light installations and packed creative ideas sessions.

Vivid Sydney cemented its popularity, as over 400,000 attendees from Sydney, Australia and the rest of the world experienced events around Circular Quay from the Sydney Opera House to The Rocks. From jets of flame shooting out of Campbells Cove at FireDance to world exclusive concert performances by artists, including The Cure at Sydney Opera House and events for creative industry professionals, the festival offered something for everyone. Vivid Sydney catered for families, young people, seniors, creatives, tourists and everyone in between.

Vivid Sydney is a ground breaking event model. The spectacular festival not only provided entertainment for the public and attracted visitors, but also proved to be an excellent platform for creative industry events. There is no doubt the international spotlight was shining on Sydney over the past 18 nights, that showcased our creative industries credentials to the world.

Vivid Sydney executive producer, Ignatius Jones, said the success of the 2011 festival was a credit to the passion and talent of the creative teams involved in the event. Reminiscing the dazzling display of sound and lights Jones added, “it’s been a fantastic journey this year and an absolute pleasure to work with Events NSW who have a strong vision to create a festival that puts Sydney on the map globally as the creative hub of the Asia Pacific. Events NSW estimate Vivid Sydney will generate up to $10 million in economic benefit for the State.

“We knew this year’s festival would be popular, but we were blown away at seeing such huge crowds down at the festival, night after night enjoying colourful jellyfish swimming across the Sydney Opera House sails, painting digital light graffiti on the Museum of Contemporary Art and watching the awe inspiring 3D projections on Customs House” said Jones.

Vivid LIVE at Sydney Opera House and the Vivid Sydney music program, featured over 30 ticketed events, including a number of Sydney and world exclusive performances from artists such as The Cure, Bat for Lashes, Cut Copy and Spiritualized. Over 35,000 tickets were sold, in addition to 4,500 tickets to interstate and overseas visitors, which generated a $2.34 million gross box office. This makes it the most successful Vivid LIVE yet for Sydney Opera House. As an astonishing achievement, around 59 per cent of the tickets were sold to a new audience.



Happy New Year Sydney Style

1 Jan

Sydney greets 2011 with firework heaven
2011-01-01 02:30:00

Sydney, Jan 1 (DPA) The thousands who camped overnight on Sydney’s foreshore to bag the best places to watch the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve fireworks display declared their vigil well worth it.

‘This has got to be the best place in the world to be tonight,’ said Sydney resident Marc Wilson, one of an estimated 1.5 million who stayed up for what organizers said was the greatest firework show on earth.

Seven tonnes of pyrotechnics went up in blazes of colourful smoke on and around the Harbour Bridge.

The weather was warm and the skies clear for what firework fans said was the best show since the close of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

More than 6,000 had queued for 24 hours to be at the water’s edge when the clock ticked to a new day and a new year.

Taiwanese student Chen Wei Ting, who had waited since Thursday, was first through the gates of the Botanic Gardens to stake his claim to a prime position beside the Opera House.

‘As a foreign student, we think the Australian New Year is very fascinating,’ Chen said.

People around the globe think so too, with a television audience of over one billion expected to tune in for the for the $5-million show.

‘We’re probably the envy of most fireworks people around the world,’ said Fortunato Foti, who is directing a display he said took eight months to prepare and which featured new tricks.

Rather than the customary curtain of golden fire streaming from the bridge, this year Foti managed a chessboard of red and white tumbling lights.

Police warned revelers of alcohol-free zones and that the drunk and disorderly would be in court on the first day of 2011.


Pics- SMH

Ode to a Sydney brick: how cult of renovation is destroying our past

10 Jul

July 10, 2010`SMH

In the quickie renovation, especially one with an eye to the rental market, there is one interior improvement considered so acutely necessary than it comes even before the replacement of brass fittings with stainless steel ones or the stripping of carpets: getting rid of the bricks.

The war against bricks has now expanded beyond the exposed brick feature wall to postwar bricks of all sorts, interior and exterior. In the worst blocks in the best suburbs, bodies corporate are banding together to render away the recent daggy past.

Brick blocks of blazing orange, dirty-dog yellow and mud-pie brown are smoothed over with concrete in a range of shades all the way from grey to beige.

As for freestanding houses, online renovation forums are full of advice for hiding the earthen offerings of the 1970s. Renderers make big promises about the profits to be gained from smoothing away all those rough edges and explosions of glaze. Even the display home villages have entered a post-neo-Federation phase, with smoothly iced exteriors dominating.

Concern about the mottled terracotta tones of our city began long ago. The theme was taken up in the 1960s in an essay by the writer Charmian Clift, entitled On Painting Bricks White, first published in the Herald and the Age.

Clift was writing with the fresh eyes of a woman who had not long ago returned to Sydney after living on the Greek island of Hydra with her husband, the novelist George Johnston, and their children. One thing she saw with those fresh eyes was the cacophony of brick which so offends us now.

”How in all the world do Australian brick manufacturers manage so many variations on such a painful chromatic theme?” she asked. She noted the ”splenetic bricks, liverish bricks, apoplectic bricks, bibulous bricks (those purplish ones like old drunks’ noses), and bricks which appear to have been steeped before baking in the pancreatic juices for a special variegated effect”.

Above- some art deco brick examples from the inner east. For more images go to-

She suggested a temporary solution, one gleaned from her time in Greece. ”I know it’s a daring suggestion, but I’ll make it anyway. Might not a poultice of whitewash reduce the inflammation of our brick areas also?”

If only she was still alive to see how thoroughly this idea had been embraced. But in the wholesale whitewashing of brick constructions of the recent past, are we solving the mistakes of the past or repeating them?

No one will ever shed a tear for the developer-driven abominations which are now being tarted up, but how many of the thoughtful designs of the 1960s and 1970s are being destroyed, too? Many of the finest examples of the Sydney school of architecture embraced the very techniques which are now so on the nose, such as rough brick and exposed beams.

As Clift noted in her essay, there is nothing wrong with bricks per se, they are a ”good honest form of building material”. It is how they have been used which makes them a problem.

She also mentioned she has ”just been reading Robin Boyd”, something a lot of people, including myself, have been doing again since The Australian Ugliness was republished a few months ago. As Boyd’s biting classic makes clear, the Australian Ugliness is not about a particular material. It is about the inability of Australians to commit to an idea and hold tight to something more enduring than fashion. It is about the flight to trappings and features rather than cohesive design.

And in this respect one passage is as relevant now to the cult of renovation for short-term economic gain as it was when it was written in 1960: ”Not prepared to recognise where, when or what he is living, the Australian consciously and subconsciously directs his artificial environment to the uncommitted, tentative, temporary, a nondescript economic-functionalist background on which he can hang the feature which for the moment appeal to his wandering, restless eye.”

There will come a day when renovators of the future view the renovators of today with the same horror as we view the renovators of yesterday, the ones who hid lustrous floorboards under nylon carpet and replaced bay windows with aluminium ones. It is hard to imagine it now, but they will curse us all as they spend weekends carefully chiselling away at rendering with the care of archaeologists, wondering how anyone could have failed to see the beauty of earthy, honest brick.


Sydney Opera House safety risks denied

6 Jun

Matthew Westwood, The Australian June 01, 2010

STAGE machinery at the Sydney Opera House may be cranking into its 37th year of operation but the NSW government denies it is a safety risk.
An engineering report by theatre consultants Marshall Day Entertech warned of “multiple fatalities” in the event of a serious malfunction.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported the Opera House would be forced to close unless repairs worth $800 million were done.

But the NSW government yesterday played down the risks and the cost of work.

Carol Mills, director-general of Communities NSW — a super-department that includes Arts NSW and the Sydney Opera House — said the Marshall Day report was part of a needs-and-costs assessment of arts organisations. It did not calculate the risk of accident but looked at potential problems.

While the stage machinery was “nearing the end of its life”, Ms Mills said, Opera House employees had “never been safer”.

Sydney Opera House management said the cost of repairs was overstated. The figure of $800m referred to a total refurbishment of the Opera Theatre: a grand scheme that would rebuild the theatre according to architect Joern Utzon’s design.

However, the stage machinery upgrade could be done separately, at a cost of about $50m.

Opera House chief executive Richard Evans said there was no threat of closure to any of the famous venue’s theatres.

“Sydney Opera House has a $30m annual plant and equipment maintenance program, widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world,” Mr Evans said.

Upgrades to the Opera Theatre have been discussed for years, and malfunctions have occurred. A performance of Handel’s opera Rinaldo in 2005 was interrupted by technical problems.

“Some time in the next five years, we will have to close for a period for repairs,” said Opera Australia chief executive Adrian Collette.



$130m to save Sydney Opera House from closure
By Andrew Clennell From: The Daily Telegraph June 02, 2010

An engineering report showed there were risks of “multiple fatalities” because of ageing stage machinery in the Opera House.

•NSW Government to stump up $130m
•Money is enough to “fix the problem”
•Opera House is lobbying for $800m

COMING soon to Sydney Opera House, the 13 million tenners – a $130 million rescue package.
After 10 years of lobbying, the NSW Government will announce the funding in next week’s state budget.

Treasurer Eric Roozendaal will provide the money for the Opera House in what senior government sources said was enough to “fix the problem” which has threatened the Opera House with closure.

The rescue package comes after revelations this week that an internal engineering report that showed there were risks of “multiple fatalities” because of ageing stage machinery.

Senior government sources have confirmed that more than $130 million will be allocated in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 financial years.

It will be far less than the $800 million the Opera House is asking from the state and federal governments over seven years for a renewal project to fix the premises but will pay for the cost of replacing stage machinery and enable it to remain open.

The Opera House report from engineering firm Marshall Day Entertech warned: “There is a real risk to persons on stage or being carried on the flying system from a malfunction or fault with this installation and a similar, although lesser, potential risk when people are carried on the transport elevator.”

The report warned there was a risk of “multiple fatalities” and said the theatre’s flying system was “non-compliant with current international codes and practice”.

The funding comes at a time when Treasurer Eric Roozendaal is being called a “scrooge” for not spending enough on other new projects in the upcoming budget.

A Government source said “stamp duty receipts were through the roof” but Mr Roozendaal was reluctant to open up money to new projects.

Sources said cuts were expected instead in the departments of education and environment and climate change to meet surplus targets in future years.

The Sydney Opera House is likely to warmly welcome the Government’s rescue package as it has been lobbying state and federal governments since 2000.


Exposed: artist's plan to move Opera House to Cockatoo Island amid a biennale blast

15 Feb


Exploding cars … the artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s large-scale sculpture to be displayed on Cockatoo Island.

Adam Fulton SMH February 10, 2010

A FINNISH artist’s abstract photographs of the Sydney Opera House and other landmark buildings across the city are to be displayed in large projections on Cockatoo Island as part of the coming Biennale of Sydney. Continue reading

who knew? Sydney then & now 1

13 Feb
Site- Queen Victoria Building  powerhouse collection.
photo- Culwulla Continue reading

Utzon's new landmark sets sail

28 Jun

Joyce Morgan June 2, 2008 SMH

The landmark Utzon Centre has opened in Denmark with an exhibition about the Sydney Opera House.

The $16 million centre in Aalborg, where the Sydney Opera House’s architect, Joern Utzon, spent his childhood, will be a venue for discussions about architecture, design and art. Continue reading