Sydney Festival 2015

Design fans will find rich pickings at this month's Sydney Festival, which brings a wave of culture to the Harbour City. The Fizz selects four favourite must-sees...


Culture vultures rejoice! Running from 8 to 26 January, 2015's Sydney Festival offers a smorgasbord of art, cinema, theatre, dance, music, circus, cabaret and more. Naturally, we're taken by the more design-led events, including these four inspiring installations. 

8-25 January 2015, Around the Festival Village, Hyde Park North

An explosion of vibrant, geometric stripes and clashing colour blocks, Higher Ground is an interactive, public installation by US-based Irish street artist Maser. A mash-up of architecture, pavilion and photo-playground on a grand scale, it rises two storeys above Hyde Park's lawn, and begs you to get in amongst it. With shifting perspectives worthy of MC Escher, it's the lead piece by the Festival Village's artist-in-residence (catch a video about it here), but you'll spy more of his popular pop-up works around town. Our earlier Instagram of Maser's monochrome mural at London chicken restaurant Clutch also proved a hit.

Pictures: Maser, Jamie Williams

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8 January-22 March 2015, Carriageworks

If ever a sculptural installation captured the essence of Buddhism's focus on impermanence, it's 'Sydney Buddha', an epic work by Chinese artist Zhang Huan at Everleigh's warehouse gallery Carriageworks. Two seated Buddha statues face each other, each more than five metres tall; one is a mould formed from glossy, durable aluminium, the other incorporates 20 tonnes of incense ash, pressed with water and cast from its interior. Adding to the spiritual dimension, the ash hails from Chinese temples, so embodies the prayers and hopes of the people. Over time, the ash Buddha will decay and disintegrate unpredictably, provoking meditations on the brevity of life. 

Based in New York and Shanghai, Zhang Huan is known for extreme performance art, including 1994's '12m2', when he sat naked in a Beijing public toilet, covered with honey, fish oil and insects. For more on the making of 'Sydney Buddha', see Studio's video.

Pictures: Susannah Wimberley

8-17 January 2015, Carriageworks

Created by UK-based artist/composer Mira Calix, contemporary dance work 'Inside There Falls' is set inside a startling space crafted from tactile, snow-white paper. The installation forms a shimmering labyrinth, with hidden pathways and music, video and voices emanating from the maze. Calix's team treated 1.5 kilometres of paper, soaking the starch out of some 400 sheets, then crushing them to create a crumpled effect. The process converts the delicacy of paper to fabric-like toughness. This world premiere features choreography by Sydney Dance Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela, and includes dancers from his troupe. Find it at Bay 17 at arts centre Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, or sample this atmospheric video.

Pictures: Prudence Upton

8 January-7 March 2015, National Art School Gallery

New Zealand artist Bill Culbert's eye-catching exhibition features 'Pacific Flotsam', an eddy of plastic bottles, containers and fluorescent light tubes, making a graphic eco statement. Culbert represented his country at its pavilion for 2013's 55th Venice Biennale of Art, and this showing at Darlinghurst's National Art School Gallery is his largest Australian work to date. Also look out for 'Strait', a string of milk bottles pierced by a single fluorescent tube, which also draws on found waste materials, plus recent sculptures and wall works.

Pictures: Jamie Williams