White Night – The artists of Melbourne hit the streets

White Night Title


Well, if there is one thing that I can say about White Night and that is it is better that New Years Eve. I’ve had a couple of New Years Eve’s in Melbourne and I must say that pretty much everything is shut so what you get is a bunch of people meandering around the streets of Melbourne looking for things to do while counting down until the inevitable 12:00 midnight when everybody screams out in unison ‘happy new year!’ and then begin signing, mostly off-key, Old Man Time. Yeah, sure they have fireworks, and every year they attempt to out do the previous years, but in the end you wake up with a hangover, or end up sleeping most of the day, and then trundle off back to work to do it all over again.
So, what is it that makes White Night better than New Years Eve? Well, basically everything is open, or at least everything in central Melbourne is open, and the event runs from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am the next morning (though by that time pretty much everybody has made their way home to sleep through the next day, or wake up with a hangover) and is effectively a celebration of Melbourne’s art and culture. Sure, the shops are all open, but that is just a side result of the event itself because, well, if you are going to have 450,000 people descend on the city, then I’m sure the entrepreneurs are going to want to cash in on it. However, it is not just the shops, but all of the cultural venues, that are open, including the Museum, the State Library, and the Art Gallery (among the many others). In addition to that there are numerous other exhibitions scattered around the central part of the city for people to enjoy.
Melbourne Alight
Hate to see their monthly electricity bill
Anyway, there were lots of exhibitions and performances scattered throughout the city and while they advertised that a guide was going to appear in the Herald Sun there was no way that I was going to hand any money over to obtain a copy of that particular newspaper (and I’m too honest to take somebody else’s copy) the only other guide that I knew of was on the internet. Well, I do happen to have a smartphone, and while I am stingy with my internet use (because I don’t want to give my carrier any more money than I have to) the main problem with that medium was that it was simply too small. Smartphones are useful but using it to plan my way around White Night was just not going to work (especially with the interface that they were using). Okay, you might suggest that I use a tablet, but despite not owning one, I find them a little too cumbersome and have little to no use for them. So, for a while I was planning on simply going blind when, while sitting outside the State Library (I couldn’t go inside because they were setting up for White Night, so I sat on a bench outside and used their Wi-Fi) I noticed that one of the ushers had a stack of leaflets in his hands.
White Night Map
I was saved.

So, I had my map, which meant that the next decision was what I should go and see first. Well, I was keen on going into the State Library, however there was only one problem:

State Library line
This was the line

Well, I guess sitting in the chess room using their Wi-Fi wasn’t going to be the plan for the night (and if it was there were better places that I could do so – such as home). Anyway, before I continue any further, I probably should show you a map of the route that I took:

White Night route

Well, I have numbered the stops that I made, as short as some of them where, so the best thing to do is to go through them one by one.

RMIT Building
It looks as if it is being eaten by slime

1) I’m sure we are all familiar with the piece of post modern architecture that happens to be the RMIT buildings. Well, my first stop was here because their gallery had a display of post modern digital art. Actually, most of the artistic presentations were digital because, well, this is where art is heading in our technological age. Okay, people can still paint pictures, but the artists that tend to stand out are the ones that embrace the full spectrum of media that is available.

Melbourne Central Dome Room
Looks like your average weekday

2) My map indicated that there was some sort of display in Melbourne Central, so I decided to go and have a look (after a bite to eat at the Snag Stand). It turned out that the only thing of interest was a technicoloured piano that nobody was playing. Okay, they were still in the process of setting it up, but the only thing Melbourne Central was that all of the shops were open. It looked as if the only things that were on display were goods and services available for purchase. Okay, they seem to have the clock working now, but I didn’t want to see a shopping centre that I pass through everyday, so I decided to head elsewhere.

3) Elsewhere turned out to be Section 8, a bar that is nestled in an alleyway. Okay, there are lots of bars in Melbourne nestled in alleyways, but this one is special because, well, it is a shipping container. It is a pretty hip and happening place, and as is typical for a weekend the bar was pretty full, which meant that I had to find a comfortable spot on the floor where I could stand, drink my beer, and play with my smartphone. Once again, I can go to Section 8 anytime and stand around with a beer in my hand so I decided to make my way to the next exhibit.

Section 8
This is a photo I took earlier

4) Actually, this wasn’t an exhibit, this was a stage with some pretty lame guys playing hip hop music. The logo on the back of the stage indicated that this stage was being sponsored by Vic-Health. I rolled my eyes – any bands that the government seem to select to represent them always seem to the be lamest ones around. Okay, they may be able to sing and play instruments (at least they have proper auditions) but when I see one of those departments, especially the ‘health department’ I immediately think ‘no fun’. At this stage I was hoping that it would be getting a little better than this.

5) I made my way back along Lonsdale Street and ducked down an alleyway as my map showed me that something happened to be there. It turned out to be some people drawing on a massive exa-scetch, so I stepped out onto Little Bourke Street where there were some Brazillian drummers playing some beats. That was pretty cool, however I quickly moved on, stepping back out onto Swanston Street were I was immediately confronted by some huge crowds. I remember a friend warning me that there would be so many people in the city that I would not be able to get anywhere near the Town Hall, however it turned out that the crowds actually weren’t all that thick, and I didn’t end up getting pickpocketed.

White Night Crowds
Wow, where did all these people come from?

6) My next stop was Bourke Street Mall and the first thing that I encountered was a busker that was singing out of tune. At least the guys at the Vic-Health stage could sing in tune, even if it was hip-hop. So posting a musing on Facebook about whether buskers actually audition (I don’t think they do) I continued down Bourke Street to discover a number of couches facing a large TV Screen that seemed to be playing some piece of modern art. I’m not sure if anybody was paying attention to what was on the screen because they all seemed to be either talking amongst themselves, or simply cuddling up on the comfortable couches.

Bourke Street Mall Couches
I’m not sure they were meant for cuddling up on

7) Leaving the couches I then turned into one of the many alleys that run off of Bourke Street Mall (and choosing not to go into Myer because, well, I generally don’t go in there anyway) past another display of modern art which I, well, can’t actually explain what it is about because it is, well, modern art. However the string quartet playing on Little Collins Street provided a bit of a distraction before I plunged back on Swanston Street to get caught up by the crowds.

Vege Patch
Should have taken some home for my garden

8) I walked past the Town Hall, and the fact that I was able to move past here rather freely indicated that the organisers had learnt their lesson from last year. However, what caught my eye were the crates full of stuff that you would expect to find in somebody’s vegetable patch (if they actually have room to grow vegetables). I slowly walked past the display, knowing that I’m probably not going to be living where I am currently living long enough to consider growing a vegetable patch and then turned onto Collins Street where people seemed to be putting leaves onto the fountain wall to create random words – it turns out that it was not an artistic display, just something that people do in this corner of Melbourne.

Fountain Leaves
I wasn’t all that keen on getting my hands wet

9) Well, I decided to part from the crowds and head down Collins Street as I noted that there were a couple of exhibitions in that direction. As it turned out these exhibitions where in the Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church. The first stop was the Presbyterian Church which was basically some odd shaped screens showing some strange patterns with some eclectic music in the background. The thing about the Presbyterian church was that I ended up walking in the wrong door. I some how managed to slip past the bouncer and enter the church to sit down for a bit when I noticed a stream on people coming in from the other side. That was probably a good thing because I didn’t need to line up to get in here. After about five minutes I then left and entered the Baptist Church where there were a couple of women on stage throwing some videos up on the screen. One of the women was reading out lines from various authors who were talking about love. It was all very poetic, and I’m sure she probably could have done that all night, recycling the many quotes that she no doubt had sitting in front of her.

Oh, I’ve just noticed that I didn’t mark my stop at the City Library on Flinders Lane, though I am sure you can work out where it is located. Sure enough DeGraves’ Street and Centre Lane were a bustle of activity (as they always are from about 5:30 am onwards) but it was the City Library in which I was interested. Okay, I could have sat down somewhere and either read a book, or used their internet, but I can do that anytime so instead I went upstairs to the art hall to see what they had on display. As it turned out there were a couple of strange exhibits. One of them was a large table with one of the touch screens on it and about five windows. It seems like technology has reached a point where I can move these screens around on the table and enlarge or reduce them as I see fit. I didn’t particularly care about what was in those screens because I was more interested in being able to move them around. The other display was a mattress and some UV lights and you would shine the lights on the mattress and see the artwork. I went back to playing with the table.

10) My next stop was Flinders Street Station where they had a huge display projected up upon the wall of the station. Instead of writing about it I will just show you the video that I took (and I am sure there are many others on the internet as well, but this is mine):

After watching this unusual display (well, it wasn’t all that unusual because they had done a similar thing at Christmas on the Town Hall) I then made my way further down Flinders Street where I stopped off at the Young and Jackson and had a beer in Chloe’s Room.

Crowd Outside Cathedral
I’m not sure if the cathedral is big enough to hold all these people

11) When I reached the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Street I noticed that I had arrived at the apex of the crowds. In a way it seemed that the crowd was swarming around the Cathedral, so I decided that I would go inside and have a look. In a sense the cathedral can be a place of solitude and reflection, and it was no different tonight than it is at any other time. Okay, they had a fairly ordinary light display on the ceiling, but people just seemed to be moving around the edifice taking in the grandeur of the place. I decided to sit down and spend some time in quiet reflection (though since I am a Christian I probably could have prayed as well, but then again I can pray anywhere and at anytime, so I simply let the atmosphere drift over me). Getting out wasn’t anywhere as easy as getting in though, but when I managed to move my way through the crowds I decided to continue down Flinders Street to see some more light displays.

12) Well, I could give you a detailed description of what I saw here, but I feel that I could never get display across using words alone, so instead I will just post a number of pictures that I took while making my way down here past Federation Square. I will mention, though you will probably be able to tell simply by looking at the pictures, that there is a distinctive Alice in Wonderland theme running through the displays. It wasn’t until I reached this point that I realised that this was the case, though many of the other exhibitions that I visited had nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland Lights 2Alice in Wonderland Lights 1
Alice in Wonderland Lights 3Alice in Wonderland Lights 4
Alice in Wonderland Lights 5

Alice in Wonderland Lights 6





Well, I’m surprised, those photos came out a lot better than I expected.
13) So, not surprisingly, Federation Square was open so I decided to walk inside. I had a quick look at the Ian Potter Centre and decided instead I would go into the Centre for the Moving Image. Much to my delight I suddenly discovered that I have walked into the middle of a rave. I am never one to turn down a rave, so I bopped among the crowd for a bit before going and checking out something else, and that was the museum of film and television. My brother and I have been here before but we were kicked out before we could finish looking at the history of the moving image (namely because the museum was closing). So I decided to finish it off by checking out the computer video game and the internet display. I won’t say much more here because I will be writing posts on the history of video games at another time.

Though I will post a video for your entertainment

I then ascended the escalators, walked past a long line waiting to get in to see the 1901 version of Alice in Wonderland on film, and made a beeline for Beer DeLux, where I sat down with a nice, cold, glass of beer and ended up having a chat with a couple of other Melburnians who had come to experience the White Night, as well as watching some more electronic music on the main Fed Square stage.

Okay, it wasn’t a big as this, but I have to post a video of a rave

14) After I finished my beer I said farewell to my new friends and made my way to Princess Bridge where I wanted to check out some of the exhibitions on the Southbank – in fact I wanted to see if there was anything on Southbank, but before that I made my way to the Queen Victoria Gardens to see what was there (since the Alexandria Gardens seemed a little boring).

The first thing that I encountered were sort of like some wind chimes. It is a bit hard to explain, and it was too dark to take a video of it, so I think I will make an attempt. Basically there were a number of poles with a cross bar that would spin around and at the end there was something that was a little like a wind chime. Some machine would set the cross bars in motion resulting in some rather soothing sounds. So, I lay down on the grass (along with everybody else) and just listened to the sweet sounds of the wind.

I then made my way around to a rotunda where there was a long line waiting to get inside to stroke some plants. Okay, stroking leaves may be fun, but waiting in line to do so was a little odd (since there were lots of other plants in the garden that you could stroke if that is what you really, really wanted). However, as it turned out there was a method to their madness because these plants were wired up to a synthesiser and by stroking the leaves gently you could create music. I decided to leave that for the others and made my way towards the art gallery.

Before you get to the gallery you have to pass the statue of King Edward VI, and last year they had a band playing there. Not so this year – there was just a set of glowing angel wings that people would stand in front of and have their photo taken. One person made the comment that by doing so you are having your photo taken by more than just your friends, some of which will appear on the internet. While I took some photos, I won’t be posting them up on the internet.

15) A part of me wanted to go inside the art gallery, but as I stepped through the door I realised that it was basically the art gallery and I can go here any time I want. It was also getting late, so instead I videoed the light display that was out the front.

This actually looks rather cool


16) So, after spending some time watching the lights dance back and forth, I decided to make my way down to Southbank, and the best way to get there was through the theatre. First I wanted to have a beer at the tram bar, but the tram had disappeared, so it wasn’t going to be the same. Instead I went into the theatre where they had some Ghost exhibition, but I skipped it and walked out onto Southbank.
It turned out that Southbank was, well, Southbank – nothing different from any other Saturday night that I had been down here. However what I did notice was that some guy had set up a telescope offering people the opportunity to look at Jupiter in all its glory. I looked up into the heavens to discover that there was only one star in the sky, so using by Holmsian deductive reasoning, came the the conclusion that it must be Jupiter.

Anyway, I’ll close with a picture of Jupiter in all its glory.

If you look closely, you can even see the red spot

After that it was time to go home so I crammed onto the crowded train, got home at 1:00 am, and went to bed to be ready for church in the morning (so, what was the sermon about again – I think I fell asleep – no, not really, it was on Leviticus).


Creative Commons License
White Night – The artists of Melbourne hit the streets by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

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