Once again Melbourne has turned it on for the spectacular cultural juggernaut that is White Night. A crowd of around 600,000 took part in the all night festival of projections, performances, artworks and installations.
Stealing the show again this year was the extraordinary projections upon the Royal Exhibition Building. The Light show entitled ‘Rhythms Of The Night’ by White Night & Artists In Motion, depicted the four stages of sleep. These fantastical scenes were at times like that of a Halloween nightmare, with spiders and skeletons. The dream would them move on by disintegrating into vibrant black and white patterns reminiscent of MC Escher.Supporting this main event, were a number of excellent installations throughout the Carlton Gardens Precinct. Sailing in between the Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building was ‘The Pyrophone Juggernaut’. Part steel pirate ship, part musical performance, part pyrotechnic show this collaboration between Hubbub Music and Strut & Fret was a real crowd favorite. Nearby, the Sonic Light Bubble by Eness and Pixel Fruit by Tim Newman both created valuable support pieces to this precinct, which as a whole was a significant improvement from previous years.
In Flinders Street, the ‘usual suspects’ between St Pauls Cathedral and the Forum Theatre were lit up with vibrant animations. This year the theme was ‘Fractured Fairytales’ which gave some traditional fairytales a Pop Art feel.
In the southern gardens, participants were greeted with any number of unusual sights and experiences. The White Knight Messenger, a superb piece by Blanck Canvas, patrolled St Kilda Road, moving majestically between the Elm trees.
Another White Night favorite is the State Library of Victoria which was illuminated both outside and from within the reading room. This year punters were taken on a trip beneath the waves, to view the seascapes of Port Phillip Bay. Seals, Seahorses and a swarm of crabs all made for a surreal library experience in the middle of the night.
Outside the library a group of protesters took the opportunity to make their views known on the City of Melbourne’s homeless ban. Their protest was peaceful and undertaken with great respect.
Perhaps no building is more suitable for dramatic projection than the National Gallery of Victoria. The smooth bluestone facade beyond the rippling water fountain could make any moving image sing. This year the fashion designs of Victor and Rolf were chosen to bring the colour and style. Whilst it probably didn’t live up to the highs of last year, it remained a spectacular contributor to the evening.
Not all parts of the program were brilliant successes. The illumination of the Coops Shot Tower at Melbourne Central was quite underwhelming and the limited scope of the Flinders Street Station projections (although high in quality) would have disappointed some.
Overall White Night 2017 was another shining success for the arts and urban culture in Melbourne. Yet despite the 600,000 strong crowds and the crowding issues having largely been resolved, there is a determined force that is working to undermine this event.
Some sections of conservative politics are attempting to politicize the event as a law and order issue. This is being readily facilitated by some sections of the media who are continually pushing fear. If you were to read the Herald Sun at the moment, you might think Melbournians shouldn’t leave their homes for fear of certain death. The reality at White Night however that there were ample police available to respond to the slightest issue.
The White Night crowd size of 600,000 punters is roughly equivalent to the size of 6 Melbourne Cup crowds. Despite this huge number, there were just 21 police arrests. By comparison there were 9 arrests at the Melbourne Cup in 2016, well over double the arrest rate per patron.
There are always going to be incidents when there are large crowds at events, but to push fear for political gain, is petty and irresponsible. White Night is a celebration of our diverse society together, enjoying the vibrancy of our city, contesting ideas, experiencing culture and participating in urban life.
“Night the beloved.
Night when words fade and things come alive”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
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