ASE journalist Bronwen Largier has her first experience of Melbourne’s White Night.
I was very excited for White Night Melbourne. The idea of being able to wander (and wonder) around Melbourne at all hours of the night, bumping into various art pieces rather than hanging out somewhere seedy and alcohol fuelled was a seductive proposition.
My initial aim was to try to see everything that White Night had to offer. And I mean, literally, everything. How hard could it be, I thought, naively, as it turned out. Soon after arriving at my first port of call, Melbourne Museum around 7.45 as it was already becoming crowded, I realised that seeing everything was not an option – there was a constant stream of choirs performing in the foyer of the Museum alone – and I began to appreciate the impossible, glorious number of options the night afforded me.
These were the highs and lows of the night in roughly chronological order as well as my observations as an event goer.
Before I went, I made a rough (and extremely simple) comparison to Vivid Sydney, for those Sydneysiders who weren’t familiar with White Night (and the large number surprised me). Once I arrived, however, I realised this comparison did not do White Night justice. Condensing it all into one night and having it run, essentially, from dusk til dawn makes for quite a different – and heightened – experience, and, while there are certainly some common elements – lighting projection onto buildings and other interactive lighting exhibits – White Night contains a larger musical and performance element than the Vivid Light Festival (with the music and ideas of Vivid components generally ticketed and thus not comparable).
The flaming Serpent Mother (and egg) installation in the forecourt of the Melbourne Museum was impressive – even outside of its performance times.
The Birdmen, huge illuminated creatures seemingly from a prehistoric world, roaming the Melbourne Museum forecourt every few hours were both beautifully ethereal and delightfully interactive.
The projection onto the Royal Exhibition Building was stunning and grand in scale – given the length of the building it’s pretty much impossible to see it all at once.
The Phantasmagoria was not much to my tastes, but I certainly wasn’t the target age group. It was glaringly lit, cartoonish and busy.
The only time in the night that I felt vaguely at a loss was when I was leaving Carlton Gardens – at that point I would have appreciated some signage as I stumbled through the dark and ended up in a much lonelier part of the city around Parliament Station which wasn’t part of the White Night precinct.
In the city proper, I found the Storywall in RMIT and the #CreateArtHistory on the front of the State Library pleasingly complementary – the former was peaceful while the latter was high energy.
The Buskers Pitch further up La Trobe St also provided another much needed quieter moment for respite from a crowded night, even if the songs performed by the busker I saw were a little too stereotypical (think James Bay and, yes, James Blunt).
I had high hopes for the Wishing Tree in QV but it was one of the low points of the night. The interactive installation was supposed to be “like a lo-fi Snapchat” but alas, it didn’t deliver as promised.
The highlight of the night was The Secret Life of Books in the State Library. I’ve never seen a large scale projection in the round before and it was truely a sight to behold. The audio could have been better however – the sound was not as clear as it could have been – possibly a hardware problem as the State Library generally isn’t set up to deliver concert sound.
The Verandah Virtuosos, alongside the Queens on Collins, were a fantastic idea – a number of concerts taking place on rooftops along Swanston and Collins Streets throughout the night, encompassing a variety of musical styles from opera to old school disco anthems.
Snow Lane on Little Bourke Street was perhaps not quite as snowy as it could have been but the idea was interesting.
Airing my Laundry on Little Collins Street was a pretty graphic textile art piece and could possibly have started a few interesting conversations between parents and young children about human reproductive biology and anatomy.
Finally, the Uptown Funk stage playing a 12 hour music marathon of funk, jazz and blues was the perfect way to lift things between 2am and 4am when one is in need of a pick-me-up.
Despite being at White Night for over seven hours, I don’t think I saw even half of what was on offer, but it has set me up for a return visit in future years and proved what I already knew – and what frustrates me about Sydney and what seems to terrify politicians across the world – that the night time is an untapped and safe entertainment and community engagement opportunity rather than a time when we should avoid public spaces and fear for our safety. It demonstrates the power of events to transform spaces and opinions, bring people together and strengthen community and individual relationships and connections.