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Future Natives

Artist, Design, Fabrication, Programming, Installation
Vivid Sydney

The Future Natives are geometric birds of light which create a unique and vibrant display for nearly any space. During their original display at Vivid Sydney 2022, over 150 birds were installed along the entire 8km light walk in flocks between 2 and 30 birds, making the piece potentially the largest “single artwork” ever displayed at Vivid.

The idea behind Future Natives is a reflection upon urban sprawl, the modern cityscape & lifestyle, and how these have affected and will continue to affect our ability to enjoy vibrant wildlife in close proximity to our homes. The birds bear the colours of various vibrant species; in the case of Vivid Sydney, a selection of species native to Sydney were displayed. Their shape is a geometric abstraction of a bird in flight, which forms a futuristic aesthetic inspired by the technology-driven futures common in various visual media since early 1900s Futurism, and especially in post-1960’s popular culture. In the context of a festival, their shape doubles as a wayfinding utility, allowing the artwork to form a connective thread between other exhibits. This kind of distributed display also provides for opportunities such as birdwatching and scavenger hunt games, and can be accentuated by site-specific animation programming.

The design is compatible with a huge range of mounting options, including standard street signage hardware, and there are three wingspan sizes of around 950, 1400, and 1900mm. This ensures the Future Natives can be installed on nearly any site, indoor or outdoor, in practically any imaginable configuration.

This installation flexibility is also facilitated by the control system I custom designed, produced, and programmed. The system allows the birds to wirelessly communicate and dynamically rearrange and assemble as required to ensure stable connectivity in any configuration, including spanning hundreds of metres in total. Each individual controller can power and animate up to around 15-20 birds depending on their sizes, spread, and choice of wiring configuration (daisy-chained or individual), and the smallest controller design can be mounted directly to the rear of any bird. Combined, this means each bird only requires 1 cable to be routed to it (AC power, or combined DC power and signal) to provide full functionality including synchronised flock animations.

Special thanks to Easfina for assistance with production of the custom-cut LED neon and mounting channel.