On Saturday night, we braved the crowds and threw ourselves into White Night Melbourne 2014. After 2 weeks of watching sport on TV, it was time to get off the couch and onto the street. The weather was kind and the night was cool. And yet there was a summer feel to it. As it turns out, half a million people had the same idea and what a spectacle it was. The highlight for us was simply the wonder of our landmarks transformed into giant landscapes with all the colours of the rainbow. It was simply magical.
Of course, we had planned ahead where we wanted to go but I discovered two things in the end which stopped us short of our goal. One I had expected but not to this magnitude and the other, I did not at all. Both conspired against us and after spending almost 3 hours walking, we had to skip a few places or end up leaving way after midnight!
Firstly, the crowds were way, way beyond what I had expected. They were manageable at first walking along Flinders Lane but when we got to the crush that was the corner of Flinders and Swanton st, it was almost unbelievable. The vast ocean of people in almost all directions meant crossing the intersection was like the Shibuya scramble crossing in Tokyo multiplied a hundred fold!! There must have been thousands and thousands of people squashed into a half kilometre block. Except you weren’t actually crossing. You were just plastered into the crowd. For the first time, I think I know what “carried along” by the crowd REALLY meant! I could have stopped walking completely and yet be lifted off my feet and moved along. But to complicate things, there were also mass sections of just stationary people that had stopped just to admire and take photos. So, if you got caught in one of these pockets, you were jammed in unless you wriggle yourself loose and onto one of the slow moving streams.
But you do have to choose your streams well. Choose poorly and you will slowly but surely be shuffled off in another direction with no hope of turning left or right. Your only chance would be to try and ooze your way out and hope you don’t get trapped by another mass school of happy snappers. Definitely not one for the claustrophobic!
Secondly and this one I did not expect, was the description of the events and what they actually turned out to be. Take the Julio Le Parc display. The website describes it as
a sensorial walkthrough installation, Lumières en vibration(Lights in vibration) transforms a familiar historical monument into a maze of heightened shadows and projected lights. The visitor is invited to roam a space that appears endless, filled with passages, transparencies and movement.
Yes, there were lights and there were sounds. But to me, they seem to be just strobe lights shooting into the night sky accompanied by low frequency whale-like mating songs interspersed with sci-fi like sound effects.
Add to that, you get a crowd of people lying flat on the grass, seemingly in a trance like state, transfixed on the lights and hypnotized by the music, I seriously begin to wonder am I missing something here? Then the music ends, and there’s applause all round and I conclude that I must have misread the brochure.
Contrast that with Craig Walsh’s projections of moving images onto the trees along the Yarra river which when we stumbled upon was like “oh Wow!!”. It was mesmerizing and we just stared at it in wonderment. After that, I decided to ditch the plan and just go with the flow for the rest of the night.
So, in the end we saw less that what I had planned but also more than what I had anticipated. Which in a way, is so typical of how things always work out. But what a great way to spend a Saturday night. I am guessing that we will be back next year!