Who doesn’t like long standing relationships, especially if they result in ongoing mutual benefits?  Take for example the creative duo of Ruth McDermott and Ben Baxter who have been the mainstay in the extraordinary festival of lights – VIVID – since the event was first established in 2009.

For seven years, Ruth and Ben have developed and stretched the boundaries of what is possible at this ever-growing landmark festival within the realms of colour, light, shape and fun.    

Ruth and Ben have been interested in the optical influence of light and colour and the ways in which light impacts our lives and shapes our experiences since they were students (Ben at UNSW Art & Design and Ruth at UNSW Built Environment).  After graduating, the two jointly established a company dedicated to the creation of bespoke lighting displays and installations for internal and external spaces called mcdermott baxter.

Over subsequent years mccdermott baxter has grown to become a commercially and artistically successful company with a series of high profile clients and projects across Australia and internationally. 

Major projects include; the calm arch of light that runs the entire length of Restaurant Sevva at the Prince’s Building in Hong Kong; the Oceania light box display – a large, wall-mounted grid of lights, made from textile, acrylic and metal – for Nestle’s Sydney headquarters; the Ice Nimbus – a suspended bubble-like pendant featuring 25 individual LEDs embedded into the structure and programmed to simulate the colours of a storm or a sunrise – exhibited in Italy at the Milan de mobile; and the soundscape light installation for the German Biennale for International Light Art set to Wagner’s magnum opus, The Ring of the Nibelung, a group of four related operatic works spanning 15 hours over four nights.

For VIVID, Ruth and Ben have done many things – all distinct, memorable, and pushing the limits of what possible with LEDs.  In 2009, they created Cloud of Bats, featuring a stretched net of Perspex (flat) bats backlit with LEDs and projected on the sandstone of Argyle Street.  In 2014, they dressed the bridge connecting Pier 1 and Pier 2/3 at Walsh Bay with a lighted skirting and reflective underwater nets with Lunar Nets.  In 2015, they made a Luminous Canopy from 10,000 translucent and reflective streamers that hung in a foyer of the 1820’s heritage South Seas trader building.

And this year at VIVID Sydney, they have installed lighting by boat under Walsh Bay’s Piers 2/3 to create a vast Underwater Forest. The work is a tribute to the massive turpentine treated tree trunks that support the heritage jetty.

Underwater Forest can be viewed at Walsh Bay from 27 May – 18 June between 6 and 11pm.