I. White Night: General Impressions 0 Comments

I. White Night: <i> General Impressions </i>

The first White Night Melbourne was a cultural event held between 7pm and 7am on Saturday February 23rd. It featured art, live music, fashion and theatre, all the things we love about our dear beloved Melbourne.

At 7pm, the grand bell tower of St Paul’s Cathedral chimed in time with the Federation Bells at Birrarung Marr, signalling the beginning of the event. Children raised their hands to feel the vibrations of the large Federation bell, while down by the river the subterranean drone of the six-screened installation art piece World Without Sun began. Over in Federation Square the dancing started up, and would continue until 6am. The first dance was the infectious rhythms of Zumba.

The dancing seemed to be popular, from Bollywood to the Thriller Dance. The crowd in Federation Square seemed to even enjoy the Boot Scootin’ ‘Nutbush’, despite the too-tight-in-front pants worn by the lady instructor. I found Swing dancing enjoyable, except for the elbows of other people connecting with my own.

Over the next few hours the crowd would become a suffocating crush, concentrated around Federation Square and Flinders Street. It was a mixture of body odour, halitosis breath and damp feet in sneakers. The numbers would dwindle only after the final trains and buses departed for the night, leaving those who could catch one of the all-night trams.

The water and light sculpture From the Deep caught the attention of the people wandering the banks of the Yarra. Children vocalised their wonder as light spun in double helix reams up and down the water spouts in time to music. Sometimes the colours shifted, psychedelic. Sometimes they were the vision of a heart monitor, spiking then going to flat line. My partner looked on and uttered that he’d never seen anything like it.

Equally impressive were the projections on the façades of the Forum Theatre, all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral, and an animated projection on Chapter House. The buildings were turned into landscapes of harlequin fancy, bright patchwork, technicolour Paradise. And when the projections changed the crowd breathed their awe in unison.

The World Below at Hi-Fi Bar, however, did not deliver, and we found this to be the case with some of the smaller art installations. In the program it was described as though it was a journey into a Wonderland-esque realm, but instead it was a few screens at the entrance to the bar, a few screens below, with indecipherable sounds coming from the speakers, and a few confused regulars.

My friends and I escaped north to the Wheeler Centre. They had some satisfying poetry readings, and an impressive dance-off between Laura Jean Mckay and Lawrence Leung. Their creative nonfiction readings were pretty good, too.

As The Cat Empire began to play on the steps of Flinders Street Station, the area descended into chaos. The crowd was so thick we could hardly navigate our way down Flinders Street. We waded through the rubbish to the stick hut that had apparently been there for weeks prior. A chemically-influenced guy was talking at my friend about some television series. A drum circle began in one of the smaller rooms.

Out on Flinders Street again, and we took a break in Obscure Voiture, a mobile camera obscura that projected the outside world upside down on the inside of the box as you were wheeled up and down the street. It was a relief to have the world at a distance for a time, everything muted and distorted, with the sound of The Cat Empire playing far away.

I had been at White Night for nine hours. I was so tired I thought I was hallucinating, but it was just the Leunig Boat of Faithsailing dreamily down the street. And so my friends and I left to get the tram home, and I couldn’t help but think on all the things I’d missed.


There was a time when Chloe Brien wanted to be a fairy and work magic. Having given up on that dream, she instead wants to work magic with words. Her preferred incantations are fiction and poetry. She has been published in Verge, Voiceworks and elsewhere.

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