Long before Sydney brought about its controversial night-time lock out laws, Victoria’s capital was already the place to be for all-night entertainment. Now in its fourth year, the White Night celebrations – that began in Russia and France and have since spread around the globe – seek to open up the city of Melbourne to locals and tourists alike with an array of unique late-night options showcasing artists as well as the city itself.
Running from 7pm to 7am, this Saturday’s spectacle is something everybody in Australia should be in Melbourne for at least once. This year features some truly excellent events across major thoroughfares, down hidden alleyways, in famous architectural landmarks, and throughout Melbourne’s many open spaces. Pretty much everything is walkable and trams and busses will be running all night.
Here’s 15 highlights to check out.
#1 Wominjeka: Blak Nite
Where: Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
Wominjeka: Blak Nite is returning to White Night for a celebration of the region’s Indigenous people and is set to take over the Milarri Garden at the Melbourne Museum. Transformed by projections and live music, it will provide a fascinating glimpse into the vital culture of some of this country’s First People.
#2 Cmd. Ctrl. Decipher
Where: Arts Centre Melbourne Forecourt, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
It’s a rare opportunity for the average citizen to have a say about the look of the Melbourne skyline, but tonight they get the chance thanks to this interactive installation that allows visitors to control the colour of the Art Centre’s landmark spire. 6600 metres of fibre-optics, 140 metres of neon bulbing, and 14,000 incandescent lamps are involved in a series of group puzzle solving exercises from the centre’s forecourt precinct.
Where: La Trobe Reading Room, State Library Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
It’s not very often you get to explore the cavernous halls of the State Library after dark, but thanks to White Night you can do just that. Witness the majestic domed La Trobe Reading Room transformed through interwoven soundscapes and projections created by the artist collective Ideation.
#4 Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei
Where: National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
This exhibit has been leaving Melbourne audiences in awe since early December. If you haven’t caught the major international feature focusing on two of history’s most iconic modern artists and don’t want to miss out before it leaves in April, then this is your chance. It even features newly commissioned works by Weiwei, including the Forever Bicycles exhibit, made from almost 1500 bikes. While this event isn’t free (like most events at White Night) tickets are significantly cheaper than usual (adult tickets are $10 when purchased at the door), but only after 11pm.
#5 Neon Laneway
Where: Rudledge Lane, Melbourne
Located right off the famous home of Melbourne graffiti, Hosier Lane, Neon Laneway will light up Rutledge Lane with a colourful mix of urban art and contemporary dance, soundtracked by excellent Aussie beats. Inspired by the popular Japanese dance known as butoh, the graffiti walls of Melbourne will come to life across eight performances throughout the night.
Where: Princes Bridge Underpass, Melbourne
What better time to try and reach the other side? And where better to do it than under a bridge? From 8pm the portal to the other side will be opened by electrical explorers Feverstone, and séances will be held at 9pm, midnight… and beyond.
#7 Landscaping Architecture
Where: State Library Victoria Forecourt and Façade, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne
The stunning exterior of the State Library will get a brightly-coloured make-over thanks to award-winning video artist Amanda Morgan. Featuring photography by James HH Morgan and music from DJ JNETT, this meeting place for university students and workers alike will be transformed into a playground of shape-shifting colours and large-scale projections.
#8 Sidney Myer: Free Concerts
Where: Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne
One of Australia’s greatest open-space concert venue will host conductor Joshua Weilerstein and violinist and MSO Concertmaster Dale Barltrop for a free concert of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphony No. 5’ and Samuel Barber’s ‘Violin Concerto’. Get in early as tickets are on a first come first serve basis with gates opening at 4:30pm.
#9 Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy and Girt By Sea
Where: Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Flinders Street, Melbourne
If you need to take a load off, why not do so by taking in Tracey Moffat’s groundbreaking classic short film, Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy. This 17-minute, hyper-stylised reimagining of the legend of Jedda screens every 30 minutes for free in ACMI’s world-class cinema. Also playing in the downstairs studio are a 90-minute double feature of 30-minute comedy satire Babakiueria and the 60-minute ode to modern Australian beach culture, Girt by Sea. There will also be an assortment of Virtual Reality short films for visitors to experience alongside ACMI’s usual Screen Worlds exhibit and their current Julian Rosefeldt: Manifesto exhibition featuring Cate Blanchett.
#10 Exile: Songs and Tales of Irish Australia
Where: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
The exquisite and recently restored Hamer Hall on the bank of the Yarra River is host to this celebration of the Irish immigrant in Australia. Featuring Paul Kelly, Shane Howard, Leah Flanigan, Pauline Scanlon and more, this mix of song and literature and culture weaves a rich history. Those under 30-years-old can get discounted tickets for the show which runs from 8pm ’til 10pm.
#11 The Dresses
Where: Queen Victoria Gardens, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Tae Gon Kim is a South Korean artist who resides in France who “translates emotions into technical statements.” Whatever you think that might mean won’t prepare you for the ethereal beauty of The Dresses, an art installation made of fibre-optics the shape of three voluminous and extravagant dresses. The lighting tells a story of its creation as they hang in darkness, allowing visitors to ogle at the intricacies and details of the work while in awe at the mesmerising light show.
#12 Chin Chin Wall of Art
Where: Chin Chin, 125 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Melbourne-based animator, painter and video artist Imogen Henry takes over the Wall of Art at favourite local haunt Chin Chin with her work Phantom Pony. Inside the popular cocktail bar there will also be a feature on the works of New Zealand contemporary artist Anna Leyland and her series “Woven Bones”.
#13 The Making of Midnight Oil
Where: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Fans of Aussie rock royalty Midnight Oil cannot miss this exhibit which charts the band’s music and influence across cultural and political history. Developed by the Manly Art Gallery & Museum alongside Midnight Oil’s drummer and songwriter Rob Hirst, The Making of Midnight Oil features memorabilia, costumes and heaps more.
#14 Silver Rain: Illuminated Opera
Where: St Paul’s Cathedral, Flinders Lane & Swanston Street, Melbourne
Award-winning sisters and opera sensations Kirilie and Ruth Blythman are joined in this immersive experience by projection artist Michael Carmody. It’s an evocative feature that explores themes of nature, fantasy, and creativity and finds inspiration from works of famous poets Emily Dickenson and Langston Hughes.
Where: Old Melbourne Gaol, 377 Russell Street, Melbourne
The Old Melbourne Gaol gets a sexy twist thanks to local burlesque artist Sina King who’s set to take charge in this fusion of dance, fashion, and art. Working with Jake Stollery, King – known as ‘The Royal Captivator’ and hailed as ‘Miss Burlesque Australia’ in 2011 – promises the show will be an unforgettable boundary-pushing experience.
(All images: John Gollings/White Night Melbourne)
Glenn Dunks is writer from Melbourne who recently returned from living in New York City. While in America he got to visit more states than many actual Americans. He is predominantly a film and music critic and has written for many Australian online and print publications including Junkee, SameSame, Metro Magazine and The Big Issue. Internationally he’s written for Vanity Fair, Dutch website biosAgenda and can occasionally be heard on the Monocle 24 digital radio network out of London. In 2014 he won an award from the Australian Film Critics Association for his work.