Leading Australian distributor of professional sound systems Jands sponsored a unique collaborative light and sound installation for the Vivid Festival in Sydney.

The ‘Light Origami’ is a collaborative installation from Japanese artists Masakazu Shirane and Saya Miyazaki, Kiwi Reuben Young, Australian composer Inge Liljestrom and the engineering team from consultancy firm Arup. Located at Sydney’s Circular Quay, the giant walk-in kaleidoscope has been erected for the Vivid Festival, drawing hundreds of visitors into the interactive space. The multifaceted mirrors of the kaleidoscope refract and distort the shapes, colours and movements of the audience as their perceptions of light and reality are altered.

Christopher Sims, Senior Consultant in the Acoustic and Theatre Consulting Practice at Arup supported the creative team behind ‘Light Origami’ with a simple, effective and robust sound design that enhances the visual experience. Involved with Vivid since the inaugural event in 2009, Arup offers their services pro bono with several passionate individuals from within the organisation contributing their expertise.

Composer Inge Liljestrom created a soundscape piece to accompany the work. Christopher’s design challenge was to incorporate a sound system that was invisible, covered the whole structure and gave each audience member an aural experience analogous to the visual. Since all normal mounting positions for the eight JBL Control 16C/T ceiling speakers were ruled out due to cabling and visual considerations, Christopher devised an innovative solution, which consisted of a ‘shroud’ running around the perimeter of the structure along the ground, concealing the lighting and cabling. The Control 16s’ standard mounting system was adapted and the speakers flipped around and mounted in the ‘shroud’ firing upward, bouncing their sound off the surfaces in the structure.

Christopher had to additionally devise a signal configuration that optimised the soundscape piece for the whole audience with the speakers wired in a ‘left, right, left, right’ arrangement around the structure. This concept helped create a surrounding, enveloping experience for the audience.

Running the speakers efficiently on a 100v line, Christopher employed two channels of a Crown DCi 8|300N power amp, and used its built-in EQ processing to tune the space. The soundscape is played from an iPod mini with one track set to infinite repeat. The amplifier and lighting power source is on a digital timer that turns on at 6 PM and switches off at midnight.

Christopher sees Arup’s annual involvement in Vivid as a great way to foster creativity and innovation in cross-disciplinary teams. Explaining the decision to participate in installation art, he said that the project helped them collaborate with the other disciplines in the organisation such as structural and lighting.

He also notes that they are usually involved in the design aspects of audio and lighting systems but do not install them; however, these art projects enable them to participate in all phases of development and installation. With the Light Origami project, the structure was manufactured in Wollongong and delivered to the site, and architectural students and volunteers helped them bolt it all together. The entire process required them to improvise a lot, and work together as a team to creatively solve problems.

Christopher also thanked Jands for being a sponsor for the Light Origami project.