Brave the cold and head into the city this July to see the city lights - not just the regular city lights, but 'City Lights' - a free and family-friendly light trail around the city of Adelaide. For 17 nights, city spaces are being lit up and transformed into a playful kaleidoscope of projections and light installations.
The installations bring local and international artists together to present contemporary artworks with light on a grand scale. Some are projections onto buildings, some are installations, and some are augmented reality experiences.
The light trail features three precincts. North Terrace, Rundle Mall and Rundle Street, and Hindley Street and Light Square. We managed to visit all three in a few hours on a cold winter's night.
North Terrace is the most popular and arguably the most striking collection. Start near the Botanic Gardens entrance and make your way to the war memorial to witness Adelaide's cultural precinct being taken to a new level. Beginning with the 'Archway of Light' at Lot 14, you'll pass through a tunnel of light and head towards 'Emergent Horizons', a light show projected onto the buildings of Lot 14 by Pixel Ninjas with Rising Sun Pictures. Further along North Terrace, outside the University of South Australia, you'll pass a garden of 'Neon Hearts' by Carla O'Brien.
This section of North Terrace is very busy as people take the opportunity to interact and take plenty of photos as they immerse themselves in the artwork.
The iconic Goodman Crescent Lawns host the 'Firefly Field' by Studio Tour. The University of Adelaide operates a tasting room and bar overlooking the strange field of moving lights spread across the lawns. 'Naturae Vitibus' (Nature Forces) is a light projection onto a Moreton Bay Fig tree outside the university but it's a little muted compared to the sights and sounds all around. The Art Gallery fašade is covered in hoarding at the moment but there's still room for a movie projection and there are events inside the gallery during the day.
The popular museum lawns are home to 'Airship Orchestra', 'Neon Dog Park' and 'I am Here'. Here's where the kids are let off the leash and run amok among the giant inflatable figures and neon light installations. It's a little chaotic and muddy, so pick a weeknight for the best chance to enjoy these in peace. 'Library of Light' is an intense laser light show emanating from the State Library. It flashes and pulses with light and glass and it will make you see the library in a 'new light'. Finally, 'Kaylene TV' lights up the institute building with whimsical art and sounds.
From here, head into the centre of Rundle Mall to wander among the 'Sky Castle'. Similar to 'Airship Orchestra' this inflatable installation creates a colourful forest of abstract figures. As before, choose a weeknight for this one as the kids run wild around this too.
A wander down Rundle Street offers more illuminated buildings - the themes of each are keyed into the buildings they are projected on. 'Angel Wings', a neon set of angel wings designed for posing in front of, in Synagogue Place would have been excellent if part of it wasn't badly broken.
The Big Picture - Creative Destruction. Augmented reality before and after
We jumped back in the car and headed up to Light Square next to check out the projections on the K Park wall facing the square and try out the augmented reality experience of 'The Big Picture'. You just need to download an AR smartphone app and point it at the symbols around the square to activate virtual sculptures that come to life on your screen against the backdrop of reality. There are many other projections and installations along Hindley Street but the biggest and the best is in the carpark behind the TAFE college and Jive nightclub. It could be said that 'The Big Picture Series' by Filip Roca is the only 'drive-thru' Illuminate Adelaide experience.
For me, 'Emergent Horizons' was the biggest and most compelling display, closely followed by 'Library of Light'. Both displays held large crowds transfixed by the scale and detail of it all. All of the works are amazing and everyone will have their own favourite.
The photographs in this article cannot capture the sound and colour and movement. You have to see it for yourself. Why don't you make the most of this free opportunity to wander among this amazing collection of public art with the city as your backdrop?