After a sold-out, premiere season in 2021 – during which it faced the duel challenges of wild weather and COVID – this Illuminate Adelaide highlight has returned for three weeks as part of the 2022 festival program, with the nearly 2km-long digital art trail also including a few new elements.

The Botanic Garden is a spectacular setting in which to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world, and the company that created the site-specific Light Cycles, Canada’s Moment Factory, has garnered a global reputation for using technology to amplify and transform the beauty of nature. It does this by blending light, technology and emotions to reinvent iconic locations.

This experience starts at the Ginkgo Gate at the garden’s western entrance. Audiences are guided along a free-flow, curated path by a train of fairy lights hanging above; this alone creates a sense of enchantment. It’s a self-guided experience, so viewers can stay at each of the seven installations for as long as they like. To take it all in, you should allow an hour.

The artistry works with the natural shapes and features of the Botanic Garden, gently interacting with them. Archways are transformed into passages of suspended light; trees are used like sheet music to show movements in music; and bamboo clusters serve as textured canvases for a montage of light illusions.

Digital artworks interact with the Botanic Garden’s natural features. Photo: Moment Factory

Crowd favourite Into the Sunset, an ode to the setting sun, invites audiences down a tree-lined path (between the Morton Bay fig trees of Murdoch Avenue) towards a horizon. As people venture down the path they are hit by lasers of light from above. These lasers decorate the path and make the medium seem tangible, like you could reach down and run your hand through a sea of lights.

The path leads to the rich glow of a setting sun, and as you get closer, the crowd members become a community of silhouettes. Coupled with uplifting, meditative instrumentation, this reveals the wonder of twilight, in a scene that resembles the closing credits of a film.

Light Cycles also reimagines common reference points in the garden. The main lake is home to Reflection Lake, a piece that merges light installations with water in a way that makes it hard to tell where the lake ends and the light begins.

Light Cycles illuminates the iconic Palm House. Photo: Moment Factory

Palm House is lit up to reflect the idea of a gathering place to share stories and song – which is fitting, as this is often a meeting place for visitors of the Botanic Garden. The lighting accentuates both the grandeur and the simple beauty of the glasshouse and is accompanied by an instrumental composition driven by a pulse that echoes a beating heart.

When wandering through Light Cycles, it’s easy to lose yourself in the spectacle. Then, as you glimpse the Crowne Plaza in the not-so-distant skyline, you’re brought back to Adelaide, and feel even more amazed that something so beautiful is taking place in a space you know so well.

Light Cycles is being presented in the Adelaide Botanic Garden from July 7-31 as part of Illuminate Adelaide. Read more Illuminate stories here

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