- L O C A T I O N : M E L B O U R N E , A U S T R A L I A .
The game plan was set… a few hours napping and head out around 2am. Seemed like a great idea, the public transport ran all night and we would miss the madness of the earlier crowd. Melbourne’s 3rd annual ‘White Night’ festival is a celebration of art, culture and light… running for a single night from 7pm to 7 am. Having recently returned to the city… it would be our first and I was intrigued to see what all the commotion was about.
Leaving home at 2am reminded me of my youth… heading out at some ungodly hour. This time, however, I was being ‘culturally enlightened’ and not hitting a club… coffee replacing other stimulants as a catalyst for movement. It did feel strange, standing at the tram stop at that hour, although glimpses that we were not the only nocturnal creatures embarking on the mission were evident. So, with Ivan camera in hand, and me carrying the tripod, we set out to “White Night’.
First stop… and the most obvious starting point for us, the old Melbourne Exhibition Buildings. Once the seat of Australia’s first Parliament, this grand building is an iconic landmark. And what a sight she was… bathed in light with projections. ‘4 elements’, a commission by ‘White Night’ to Portuguese based group Ocubo, embraced Earth, Wind, Fire and Water in a sceptical of light, colour and dance. Using movement pieces from dance, circus and synchronized swimming in the video mapping, ‘4 Elements’ was truly a sight to behold. World-renowned Ocubo have created major work globally in similar festivals, creating jaw dropping projections that hug and envelope the architecture. Taking a piece of architecture and using it as the foundation for artistic pieces reminds me of the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The technology of video mapping, however, uses light as the medium to explore architecture and environment as a canvas.
Time to move on… and further into the city. It was 2.30am and there were people everywhere. Seemed like we were not the only ones with the same game plan. As we went deeper into the ‘hot zone’, the crowd increased. By the time we had reach the State Library Building, the overwhelming number of people was evident. The half a million joining the festivities throughout the night, it seemed like all of Melbourne was there.
Nick Azidis of Projectionteknik illuminated the State Library with projections entitled ‘Rabbit Hole’. A local darling of digital projections, Nick was commissioned by ‘White Night’ to explore the theme of Lewis Carroll’s literary masterpiece ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Celebrating 150 years since its publication, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed the major works of this year’s festival. The psychedelic montage truly embraced the dreamlike start to the story of ‘Alice’.
It was time to explore some independent contributors, and take to the back streets, escape the crowds and see what else ‘White Night’ had on offer. We stopped by Draw/delay, a collaboration by musician Mick Dick and artist Kellie O’Dempsey. An improvised performance marrying experimental soundscape and visual art, draw/delay was intriguing. The use of traditional and digital drawing gave the work an evolving and engaging presence. Wandering through Union Lane to see the light boxes of ‘Fourteen Ounces’ by Jessie Boylan and Wyatt Knowles’ ‘I’ve seen the future and it looks like it used to.’ The lights cast a beautiful, eerie haze down the laneway, illuminating the street art surrounding. By chance, we staggered into a brilliant piece by Paula Binnie, ‘Snip, chop, spread.’ The film, unnumbered on the official program, was a comic relief to the serious nature of the other pieces and another highlight.
‘Exodus’ by Yandell Walton and ‘I & the others’ was a must on our list. The combination of street art and projection was truly beautiful. Here, the mythology of therianthropy, the transformation human to animal, quietly sits at the end of Rainbow Alley. The illustrated poster of crouching girl transforms into a projection of a flying owl. This unassuming work, was so beautiful in its simplicity.
Okay… I’ll admit it, by this time it is pushing 4am and we were growing tired of the crowds and well, simply being awake at 4am!!! There was so much to see, so much ground to cover. It became completely obvious that we were not going to cover the 80 events on the program. It was time to get serious… and pinpoint key areas and hit them hard.
Down Collin’s Street, the projected flying foxes of ‘Colonise’, set in the nave of Scot’s Church, gave 360 degrees of projection onto suspended sculpture. ‘The pursuit of Wholeness’ at the Collins Street Baptist Church mixed performance, projection and video installation. ‘Illuminate – Athena’ at the Athenaeum, large inflatables with projected image, crown the entrance to the theatre.
Moving across to Flinders Lane, and down Degraves St. we see our first glimpse of ‘Wonderland’. Another commission by ‘White Night’, this time by Sydney’s Electric Canvas, sees the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme return on a grand scale. Projected against the Flinders St entrance to the grand station, the familiar characters of the book dance around the façade. I scratch my head a little to understand the real relevance of the theme to Melbourne, as spectacular as it is. But you can’t take away the splendour of the sight, the bold colour and the amazement and ore of the audience.
We are eager, at this point, to head towards the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s pushing 5am by this stage. Our patience is growing thin, and we are growing tired… very tired. We had earmarked a couple of things as must sees, so before making the journey home, we head down St.Kilda Rd to the Arts Precinct. And it was truly worth the effort.
The installation ‘Keyframes’ has been meticulously placed in one of the famous pools in front of the N.G.V. Created by French group Groupe LAPS, ‘Keyframes’ takes luminous bodies in plastic and, in a programmed piece of lighting sequence, explores kinetics and movement by breaking it into it’s fundamental components. Like live animation, ‘Keyframes’ was clever, entertaining and humorous. This was, for me, one of the true highlights of the festival. Despite our weary state, we stayed and watch the sequence many times through; watching the figures dance, fight and rejoice. ‘Keyframes’ was nothing short of genius.
Entering the National Gallery of Victoria, and through to The Great Hall, we dismissively walk through to Grollo Equiset Garden to see ‘Infinite Curve’. This laser projection, created by passing laser through rotating glass, creates an organic, textural lighting display on the walls of the Gallery. The vivid colour reminds me of macroscopic scientific photography… beautiful, dramatic yet unrecognisable. The imagination is left to interpret what the eye sees.
Returning to the Great Hall, we stop this time to see ‘Presage 2014’. French based artist, Hicham Berrada, takes the viewers on a visual and aural journey with his work. Together with composer Laurent Durupt, ‘Presage 2014’ is created by the combination of chemicals products in beakers, filmed live and projected. The result is a nebula of colour: an organic, moving creation. Watching the two artists work together; one on the visual, the other on sound, was truly mesmerising.
It is time to take the journey home, passing Sita’s Garden on the distant shore of the Yarra River, with it’s floating lotus flowers, we have to keep going. Bed is calling. My only regret is not having made it down to see the happenings along Birrarung Marr. Passing Federation Square, we re-enter ‘Wonderland’. The Forum Theatre and joining buildings do look amazing. But To be honest, I’m too tired to really take it in.
With so much to see in so little time, it would be nice to have ‘White Week’. I would have loved to have been able to see more, experience more and have a moment to take it in. Having said that, the contributors and organisers of the event did a truly incredible job. It was really a sight to see… a city come together to celebrate. Sure, we all have our own unique way of celebrating (and we saw it all!!!) but it was a city alive; a living, breathing entity… and that was a special moment to see.
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Photography: Ivan Jacyno Photography