Holograms at the Sydney Opera House

When Stephen Hawking died I immediately thought back to his appearance in hologram form at the Sydney Opera House in 2015, where he was interviewed by fellow physicist Paul Davies. It was a novel use of technology, with a charming Star Trek twist as he was ‘beamed out’ at the end of the interview but no longer in the realm of science fiction.


My book begins in 2011 with the early phase of a Building Information Management System that is steadily increasing in scope to unite the functional aspects of the building’s operations and maintenance with the technical aspects of performances and the website and digital displays around the building and precinct. And the building was slowly switching over from analogue to digital systems, from the basement, where beautifully steampunk brass display monitors on the system pumping seawater through the building as a cooling mechanism were being switched out for computerised display monitors.


The first Vivid Festival, in 2009, had a “smart light” component, stressing sustainability and digital infrastructure presented in an arty way. The following years focused on gee whiz lightshows that seemed to have a presentiment of their rapidly encroaching quaintness. The Jenny Holzer digital artwork on a cross-brace of the Richard Rogers building in Chifley Square and the year round Badu Gili projection on the Eastern Roof shell of the Bennelong Restaurant have brought a year round Vivid sensibility.

In 2011 the static posters along the lower concourse walls, and on the upper level, outside, underneath the monumental steps, were replaced by screens. They’ve been mostly static with small pieces of embedded video, and special effects … the cape of a static dancer ruffles as if moved by wind.


The testing of a poster size interactive screen isn’t gee-whiz technology but maybe suggests a scaling up to life size of digital effects. The idea of a human size holograms, emanating light rather than made of light (as in Blade Runner 2049) engaging with visitors and maybe replacing the clunky displays of cast and show information in the Western Foyers, now seems an entirely reasonable next step.


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