Sydney Festival 2017

Sydney Festival, running until 29 January, brings a bubbly urban beach to town, as well as inspiring design, art, theatre, installations and music



ABOVE: Hedonistic installation 'The Beach' at Barangaroo

The Beach
Life's a beach at Sydney's vast subterranean space The Cutaway, where an immersive installation of 1.1 million recyclable white plastic balls by experimental US art/design practice Snarkitecture forms a bubbly ocean for festive chilling. White, bright and very light, lounger-lined 'The Beach' is guaranteed shark free, so take a dip...
The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, Hickson Road entrance, Barangaroo (7-29 January 2017, closed Mondays; free 10am-5pm, last admission 3.30pm; or see website for ticketed morning and evening sessions to guarantee your spot)

ABOVE: The mind-bending 'House of Mirrors' maze will amaze, and is worth experiencing both by day and night

House of Mirrors
Lose yourself in your reflection at the 'House of Mirrors', a mirrored labyrinth that messed with minds at Hobart's 2016 Dark Mofo festival. Leave at least half an hour for this disorientating update of an old fairground classic, designed by Melbourne artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, which incorporates 15 tonnes of mirror, 40 tonnes of steel plus timber and moody illuminations. Not recommended for those prone to panic, there's only one way into the maze, but finding the way out is the real art. Free-entry Meriton Festival Village is next door for recovering afterwards with local snacks, sips and shows.
Beside Meriton Festival Village, Hyde Park North, entry near Archibald Fountain (6-29 January 2017; 4.30pm-11pm; tickets $10 at venue only)

ABOVE: Data design is becoming increasingly influential, with visual arts installation 'Exit' using it to communicate pressing global problems

An illustrated breakdown of a planet in trouble, 'Exit' surrounds viewers with a 360-degree animated world map, charting natural and manmade disasters, the displacement of populations, and the destruction of the environment, livelihoods and cultures. By New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro with French collaborators, this striking 45-minute visual arts work at UNSW Galleries expresses powerful data from UNESCO and the World Bank. With migration perhaps the biggest challenge for 2017, it's a design for the times.
UNSW Galleries, corner of Oxford Street and Greens Road, Paddington (7 January-25 March 2017, closed Sundays and Mondays; 10am-5pm; free)

ABOVE: 'Scent of Sydney' designs a scent for the city; Solo performance 'The Encounter' uses groundbreaking sound design to recreate an epic journey to the Amazon by a National Geographic photographer; Wearing goggles and headphones that restrict light and sound, the audience at 'Imagined Touch' experience sensory deprivation

Scent of Sydney
In our increasingly digital/virtual world, our sensory skills are falling away. Scent, in particular, has the power to trigger memories and connect us to people and places. Combining an installation with a series of talks at Carriageworks, 'Scent of Sydney' by Australian artist Cat Jones explores the question, 'Can you know a city by the way it smells?' With discussions around landscape, extravagance, competition, democracy and resistance, you're invited to contribute to an olfactory portrait of Sydney, from jasmine and frangipani to sea and sunscreen.

Also exploring sensory stimulation is immersive theatre show 'The Encounter' (18-28 January) by UK group Complicite, which uses headphones and sound design to transport the audience to the Amazon, while Jodee Mundy Collaborations' Australian performance/installation 'Imagined Touch' (9-14 January) allows you to experience sensory deprivation, with the help of deaf-blind artists.
Scent of Sydney, Carriageworks, Bay 19, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh (installation, 7-29 January 2017, closed Mondays; 10am-6pm; talks, 17, 18, 24, 25 January; 6pm-7pm; both free)

ABOVE: Nick Cave and PJ Harvey both share new albums at the festival

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / PJ Harvey
They may not be playing together, but fans of former collaborators Nick Cave and PJ Harvey will be licking their lips as the charismatic duo takes to the same stage in Sydney over consecutive nights. Charismatic UK talent Harvey is touring her devastating latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project, backed up by a 10-piece band, tackling themes from war to global poverty and loss. Grief also infuses Australian musician Cave's haunting recent album Skeleton Tree, a withering, painful tour de force, captured in a new docu-film (One More Time With Feeling) and influenced by the death of his teenage son.
ICC Sydney Theatre, Darling Drive, Darling Harbour (Nick Cave, 20 & 21 January 2017; PJ Harvey, 22 January; 7pm-approx 10.30pm; $103-$118.25)

Pictures: Noah Kalina (The Beach); Exit (Diller Scofidio + Renfro); Cat Jones (Scent of Sydney); Chloe Courtney (The Encounter); Imagined Touch (Bryony Jackson); Maria Mochnacz (PJ Harvey)