The Night is White

(pic - Story) White Night 2017 - titleIsn’t it funny how, despite planning on having a quiet weekend at home, something comes along that ends up changing everything. In fact, a part of me is looking forward to a Saturday when I don’t have to step out of the house, though it does tend to come down to a point where I have to go out for a least a little while, even if it is down the street to the really dodgy pub that seems to only cater for gamblers and birthday parties (okay, it also has a bistro and a bottle shop, but the only place I can actually sit with some semblance of comfort is on the stool in the smokers cage outside of the pokies parlor).

Anyway, come mid-February Melbourne suddenly decides to throw everything open, and people swarm in from all over the city (and even the state) for this one night of roaming the streets and seeing anything and everything artworthy. Look, this isn’t the first time that I have been to a White Night, and it certainly isn’t going to be the last, but on that night this year I put out an invitation to my friends to see who would like to come and experience the wonder of this event. Mind you, just like the last time I went out, sleeping in late wasn’t an option, though unlike last time, where I had to stand in front of the church in the morning and read the Bible out loud, this time my attendance wasn’t obligatory (it was book club), but I wanted to go nonetheless. Maybe next year (or the year after) I should try to wipe the slate clean on the Sunday and try and experience as much of White Night as possible.

Swanston Street Crowds
The crowds are out and the night is still early.

So, come eight o’clock, I was sitting on the lawn outside the State Library waiting for my friends. Okay, I know, when you want to meet somebody in Melbourne you are supposed to meet them under the clocks as Flinders Street Station (every city seems to have a meeting point where everybody meets, like in Adelaide it is the Malls Balls and the Sydney it is the Town Hall Steps), but since White Night was probably going to result in half of Melbourne waiting at the steps for the other half of Melbourne, I decided to try something a little different. The problem was that my train decided to stop at Flinders Street Station, which meant that I then had to hike all the way up to the State Library Lawns, and even then I discovered that there was a huge line splitting it in half.

Back to Uni

There was actually quite a lot of things on, though not everybody likes crowds, or are able to stay out all night, so we decided to sit down, grab a coffee (or a tea in my case) and then work out where to go. Sure, there was a huge line snaking out of the State Library, but as I have learned from the Simpsons is that long lines don’t necessarily end at cool stuff. Sure, there is some pretty cool stuff in the State Library, including an exhibition about the evolution of RRR, a community Radio Station (as well as Ned Kelly’s Armour, which I haven’t actually checked out yet), but we could go there anything so waiting in line probably would have been a waste of a really cool evening.

So, instead of going and checking out Ned Kelly’s Armour (or where Ned Kelly was hung), we instead crossed over Latrobe Street and decided to check out the RMIT gallery. Mind you, like the State Library, the RMIT Gallery is pretty much open all the time, and you could wander in there at any time of the day (I believe) and have a look around, however for some really strange reason people only seem to go in there during White Night and during the rest of the year completely ignore it. Hey, I’m just as bad as everybody else because I have only been into the gallery twice, and both times was on White Night.

(pic - Story) White Night 2017 - RMIT
I know the guy that designed that.

So, what was in the Gallery. Well, I guess I could say ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’ art. Look, I wouldn’t expect to see anything that is, say, from the Tate because it seems that most of the art that lands up here is actually by the students at the university. Okay, there is a possibility that the art might eventually land up at the Tate, but I suspect that the artist needs to be pretty famous to have their artwork appear there, namely because people generally don’t go out of their way to see the works of an obscure artist – unless of course it is White Night and they are wandering past the RMIT Gallery.

(pic - Story) White Night 2017 - RMIT Art
Not entirely sure what that is

Look, it wasn’t as it the art was bad, though when it comes to modern art nobody can beat a urinal with the word ‘Mott’ painted on the bottom, and then stuck in a art gallery, but as it turns out that is only one aspect on modern art (and an aspect that pretty much everybody else has attempted to copy, though in my mind, it doesn’t matter if it happens to be Warhol scribbling something in a block of cement and dumping it in a box, he is still copying Duchamp and not being original). Okay, nobody was being a Duchamp here, but they were exploring different aspects of art, including with machinery.

One thing that did stand out was the video of blood flowing through the veins. Well, it wasn’t blood as in liquid red stuff squirting everywhere, but rather a close up of what blood really looks like when you get down to the cellular level. The other part was a bunch of eyes, though the interesting thing about eyes is that everyone is different. You know how they say that everybody’s fingernails are unique? Well, their eyes are much more so, and these pictures simply turn the individual nature of our eyes into a form of artistic expression.

Off to the Museum

The last time I went White Night I skipped the museum, namely because it happens to be quite a way out from where most of the main action was located, and walking there was going to result in losing a lot of time. Well, my friends wanted to go so I decided to tag along, and anyway we had decided that we would go there anyway. As it turned out it was much more impressive that simply something somewhat out of the way. Actually, we first wanted to visit Cirque de Soleil, but I believe it was on the other side of Latrobe Street, and they had blocked the centre of the street off to allow a tram to occasionally trundle down there, and to also provide access for emergency services.

In sticking with the artistic themes, one of the things we encountered when we reached the museum was a tree that had a number of cubes hanging from it. The cubes had images on the sides and would regularly change, but wouldn’t change so fast that you weren’t able to appreciate the images. The other thing was that for some reason all of the statues around the city had dresses on them. Well, not all of them – they had left Burke and Wills alone, but that probably had something to do with the statue being of two men that were pretty much joined together, where as Matthew Flinders (and the other guy) were positioned to be able to wear dresses.

However, the main show at the museum happened to be a light show that was on the side of the Royal Exhibition Building. In fact it was suggested that this show was probably the only thing worth seeing. There were other light shows, such as on the front of Flinders Street Station, and the front of the NGV, however the crowds outside Flinders Street were ridiculous, and the NGV one was basically just something termed as ‘fashion art’.

Anyway, here is a video of what we saw.

Train to the NGV

We could have walked to the NGV, but it would have been a bit of a hike, and the trains were running so we decided that catching them would be the way to go. We did check out the museum, though there wasn’t anything all that spectacular there. Okay, unlike most times, it was free, and they had turned the section where you pay into a bar, but the museum basically same old, same old (and there wasn’t even an exhibition). There was some light displays out in the courtyard, as well as a food court (which we didn’t take advantage of which resulted in me becoming somewhat hungry), which we did spend a little time looking at, but our main destination was the railway station.

Mind you, it takes about ten to fifteen minutes for the trains to take an entire trip around the loop, and there is one like (the Clifton Hill Loop) that goes for a complete circle of the city, but unfortunately they hadn’t opened this line up for that option (though there was nothing stopping them from doing so). Fortunately there was a train that was leaving shortly, and we jumped on board for a trip around the loop. While we could have got off at Melbourne Central (since there was quite a lot of stuff going on up there) be decided to catch the loop around, past Southern Cross station (which was rather quiet) and to Flinders Street.

And here is the video of a train arriving at Parliament station which was taken a couple of years ago.

It was at that point we got a little lost, namely because we decided to head to the NGV through the back way. The problem is that the back way doesn’t necessarily take you to where all the action is. We did eventually work out how to get from the lower streets to the upper streets, and went out in front of Hammer Hall where there was a lot more people gathered. Actually, one of the things that I remember about Hammer Hall was that there used to be an old tram parked out the front that doubled as a bar – but they took it away. I’m still having a huge sulk about that. Still, there are a couple of old railway trains on top of a building in Collingwood that I should check out sooner rather than later.

Anyway, there was something I wanted to see at the NGV, namely the Rembrandt paintings. I found them pretty quickly, though there are only three of them – a self portrait, one of a random person, and another of two men debating (or arguing). However we did spend a bit of time looking at some of the religious and pastoral paintings in the next room before heading back outside to continue looking around. However, the problem was that our time in the city was starting to run short.

(pic - Story) White Night 2017 - Rembrant
And this is the Rembrandt I was talking about – any excuse to post a painting from an Old Master.

Anyway, one of the things that we had concluded was that it was one of those things that you can go and do by yourself and you can have an awful lot of fun doing  as well. However, once we found ourselves back in the city, and the lack of entertainment around the gardens (though there was a garden of love hearts, but that really didn’t count), meant that the only really interesting thing was the NGV. Well, there was the garden of lights, so I can’t knock that.

Oh, and there was the VicHealth stage that seems to appear every year, though it does change places year after year, and unfortunately we didn’t get to check out the churches either. Then again, we had just missed our train, and we were in a mad rush making our way up Elizabeth Street to get to Melbourne Central before the train did (which actually isn’t a difficult feat), that taking our time wasn’t an option. Oh well, I guess there is always next year.

And before I leave, here is another gallery of photos:

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The Night is White by David Alfred 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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