Over the weekend Melbourne’s biggest celebration of art, music and architecture delighted a massive half a million people. White Night Melbourne, a one-night-only sensory spectacular, saw a diverse crowd of people flood into the central business district for the serious business of soaking up all the cultural events on offer. With over 70 events spaced over a large area it was impossible to meaningfully visit every site within the 12 hour festival, however here is a selection of the delightful experiences of 2015.
This lighting exhibition used stick figure like lighting sculptures and carefully programmed lighting sequences to animate and imply movement. Watching the figures move across the NGV reflection pond brought to mind flip book style animation. The piece was put together by Groupe LAPS under the artistic directorship of Thomas Veyssiere. The quick movement and at times comedic sound track made this a crowd favorite at the southern end of the festival.
This was really the biggest highlight of White Night 2015. Projected upon the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, this multimedia experience perfectly blended the art forms of animation, dance, music and architecture to create a truly memorable event. At times the facade appeared to have been overgrown by vines which then catch fire as a figure dances across the massive canvas. With artistic direction by Nuno Maya, and an original sound composition by French composer Sylvain Moreau this carefully curated projection piece was a big crowd favorite.
The Royal Exhibition Building is arguably the most significant building in Melbourne. It was design by prolific architect Joseph Reed and construction was completed in 1880. It is the only still surviving Grand Hall to house a 19th Century International Exhibition. This building was also used for the opening of the first Federal Parliament of Australia in 1901.
The original exhibition of this piece was in Cascais, Portugal on a much smaller and less ornate buildings. It is interesting to see what a difference the change in architecture makes to this piece. The scale and monumentality of The Royal Exhibition Building makes it the perfect canvas for projections. If you wanted to see 4 elements, it was best to see it in Melbourne.
A trip to the Old Melbourne Gaol impresses upon the visitor the power that a space can possess over an individual. Matched with a sinister history of captivity and executions this building oozes an uneasy atmosphere. This atmosphere and history overwhelmed the temporary and slightly out of place art exhibition of ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ by artist Terry Taylor.
Inspired by the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland, this multimedia projection was located within the State Library Reading Room. The striking visual experience was created by renowned French artists Antoine + Manuel and set to a beautiful soundtrack by Sui Zhen. Like the Royal Exhibition Building, the State Library of Victoria was also designed by Architect Joseph Reed. His work on the reading room created a spectacular space. To transform this iconic chamber with a projection of millions of stars is something that had to be seen to be believed.
This event explored the artistic methods of drawing as a performance piece. The collaboration between artist Kellie O’Dempsey and musician Mick Dick, was an action collage with sketches on paper projected on to a wall merged with simultaneous paint brushed directly upon the ‘canvas’, all set to a moody soundtrack. The live nature of this event showcased the creative process of the artist rather than just the ‘finished product’ making it an ideal inclusion in the White Night programme.
The experience of visiting Hamer Hall is in itself something special. The ‘Ghostly Machines’ performance was conceived by the production technicians at Arts Centre Melbourne who use the high tech Sound lighting and scenery mechanisms to deliver the venue as performance art.
With approximately half a million people flocking into the Melbourne CBD this event really challenges the notion of what Melbourne culture is. Yes we have our sporting events, such as the Melbourne Cup or the AFL Grand Final but this event is something different. Unlike most of our sporting carnivals with long histories, this is only the third Melbourne White Night. It is also refreshing to have an event which is not associated with alcohol consumption or gambling.
White Night in many ways marks a significant step in the evolution of Melbourne from a single purpose commercial precinct to a 24 hour multipurpose hub. As a city – through creative pursuits of art, design, architecture, dance and music – Melbourne has shown of its credentials as an international city with a creative soul.
Michael Smith is Director of Melbourne architecture firm Atelier Red + Black. This article originally appeared on The Red + Black Architect blog.