Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why I Love Melbourne

Last year, I took this photo in ACDC Lane in the heart of Melbourne city and it’s a view of Melbourne I really love. Of course, as with any city, Melbourne can be imagined, experienced and lived from limitless perspectives, but this is the city through my eyes, my Melbourne.

Walking through the city one day, I came across these brightly coloured buckets hanging cheerily from the power lines at the entrance to ACDC Lane, off Flinders Lane. After a bit of digging, I learnt that this was not a commissioned art installation, but the product of some passer-by’s imagination. Sure it wasn’t legal and sure it was taken down mere days later, but this momentary display of colour and creativity made me, and undoubtedly countless others, smile.

The truth is, while this impromptu expression of art made me pause, think and linger, it is not out of place in this city. A city is never static, rather it is fashioned and shaped by the people that populate it and the social activities that take place within it. This cannot be more apparent in the city of Melbourne, where a dark corner, a narrow lane, a hole in the wall, often turns into something delightful and charming. And, it’s up to us to seek out its secrets and engage with and explore its gems. Fortunately, Melburnians are good at that. We are a curious bunch, and love nothing more than to interact with the city and participate in its dialogue. Which makes this year’s Laneway Commissions particularly intriguing.

Into its eighth season, the City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions invite artists to bring expressions of art alive in Melbourne’s beloved laneways. But I was compelled to write about this year’s installations as they seem to depart from previous works and form a new generation of public art. Each of the three works asks the audience to participate in shaping their experience. We are no longer in the realm of static public artworks exposed to the peril of pigeon poo.

MyStory, Urban Codemakers and Public Writing are this year’s projects and each engage their audience in a different way. MyStory brings some of Melbourne’s popular laneways alive through storytelling and exploration of the histories of those spaces. Taking public art into the 21st Century, the storytellers use audio files, which can be easily downloaded from the internet onto mobiles, to spark visitors’ imaginations and guide us through the human dimensions of these lanes. This project runs alongside the Melbourne Writers Festival, also currently taking place in Melbourne.

Three competing guilds have emerged in the aptly named Guildford Lane and surrounds in Urban Codemakers, a project that in fact takes the form of a game, urging audiences to participate in shaping its narrative. With guild leaders named Crossmedia Ecologist and Locative Urbanist, visitors are asked to choose a side to compete with. Aspects of the game exist in the physical world – markings will emerge throughout the city’s laneways – but later spills into the online world, where participants can continue the conversation on Melbourne’s competing urban spaces. It is evident that this journey will be both unpredictable yet pertinent.

Lastly, Public Writing is a video animation projected onto the wall of Lingham Lane. The main image is a hybrid machine, of a typewriter with quills protruding from its base and, according to that’s melbourne, ‘allows the audience time to reflect on what is permitted, said or read in mass media and how it may reveal some of life’s absurdity, sub text and meaning.’ I consider Public Writing to be a starting point, or springboard, for thinking about the written form that surrounds us in abundance in everyday life, and hope that conversations continue beyond the walls of Lingham Lane.

If you’re in Melbourne, take the time to explore the city’s laneways. Be part of the city, learn some of its secrets and join in its dialogue.

For more information on the City of Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions 2010, visit that’s melbourne:

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