From sunset to sunrise starting February 18, Melbourne will be transformed into a carnivalesque lightshow of citywide proportions. Now in its fourth year, White Night returns to transform the CBD into an all-night gallery. Even for the seasoned veteran, the sheer number of events, performances and displays on offer can seem almost as overwhelming as the crowds, so here are our top picks to help you navigate your night.
But first, here are some good things to know:
- Public transport will be running all night but is not free outside the city loop.
- Parking will likely be severely limited.
- Some shows have long lines but many of them are all night long so don’t worry.
- All events listed here are free, but others might need tickets or bookings – check before you head out.
- There are many more options than listed here, especially in terms of bands and artists. For the full list check out the full program.
Early Evening: 7-8pm
Start your night indoors at the transformed State Library. Seadragon’s Lair is a fully immersive underwater adventure, using the majestic domed La Trobe Reading Room as a backdrop. Through animation, soundscapes and underwater cinematography, artists Lisa Greenaway, John Power and aquatic scientist Sheree Marris have banded together to create a stunning underwater world.
Once the sun goes down, step outside to see the façade and outer walls of the State Library illuminated with an enchanted garden. Inspired by medieval poetry, The Night Garden is an enveloping soundscape of wind and water, birdsong and music – enough to transport you while you wait in line or relax on the lawn.
Seadragon’s Lair & The Night Garden: State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street
Cross the road from the State Library to sink your teeth into some fresh new talent. Developed by students, staff and alumni from RMIT’s animation and interactive media program, Story Wall showcases a curated collection of animations sure to make your eyes swim.
Also nearby, RMIT designers Joshua Redmond, (((20hz))) and Sean Redmond have crafted a nine-screen video installation charting a spread of contagion and experimental disease in Viral Screens.
Finally, duck over to Melbourne Central for Fingers Of Light: a choreographed light show that highlights Coop’s Shot Tower and its glass atrium ceiling. This is one of three Fingers Of Light installations to illuminate Melbourne Central and Swanston Street throughout the night.
Story Wall: RMIT School of Art façade, Building 2, Bowen Street
Viral Screens: RMIT Info Corner windows, Corner La Trobe & Swanston streets
Fingers Of Light: Melbourne Central Shot Tower, 211 La Trobe Street
Later On: 8.50-10pm
Follow the crowds to the river for a dance that draws on the spirit and traditions surrounding the (recent) Chinese Lunar New Year. The Hong De Lion and Dragon Dance Association presents a luminous dragon dance that blends traditional high poles and ritual dance with LED lights and acrobatics.
Cross over to Southbank to see even more White Night installations, including Echinodermus – a cross between a giant tree and a solidified firework.
Hong De Lion And Dragon Dance: Birrarung Marr (Lower Terrace), Batman Avenue
Echinodermus: Southbank Promenade, Melbourne
While You’re There:
Consider taking an ice cream break to keep your energy levels up, Trampoline Gelato at Southgate, or continue the Chinese theme with a dinner at the rockpool Spice Temple – delicious yum cha and creative cocktails.
Trampoline Gelato: G24/3 Southgate Avenue, Southgate
Spice Temple: Crown Towers Melbourne, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
Across The Yarra: 10-11pm
Leaving the river behind you, Arts Centre Melbourne has created a sensory overload experience right across the forecourt in Convergence. Interact with touchpads and smoke jets, or be blown away by locally sourced fragrances.
Convergence: Arts Centre Melbourne 100 St Kilda Road
If you’re feeling the need for a break or a drink, Arts Centre Melbourne’s The Barre will be open throughout the entirety of White Night, with seasonal produce and a classic cocktail menu.
The Barre: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road
Late Evening: 11-12am
Just down from the Arts Centre is a White Night exclusive NGV exhibition, inspired and informed by the gallery’s major Viktor&Rolf exhibition. Viktor&Rolf – Inside Out brings the work of the Dutch fashion duo into the streets through anarchic projections and hectic fashion.
If you’ve got children along with you, and they’re somehow still awake, the NGV has created a space for them to construct their own fashion, strike a pose and capture their work in a portrait and runway show as part of Atelier: Viktor&Rolf for Kids.
NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road
Sunday Morning: 12-2am
Keep your mood invigorated by heading back into town to see one of the many musicians performing throughout the night: Felix Riebl (of Cat Empire fame) will be performing material from his two solo albums from 12am to 1am, as well as some reimagined earlier material at White Night’s Live Music Marathon in the Bourke Street Mall.
If you’ve somehow found yourself by the riverside, keep the dancing going from 1.20am to 2.20am with hedonistic tunes from the Tek Tek Ensemble in Birrarung Marr Park. “[I]nspired by tropical jungles, late night Balkan weddings, 1960s chic and shamanistic desert rituals,” this is one way to keep those energy levels up.
Felix Riebl: Live Music Marathon, Bourke Street Mall
Tek Tek Ensemble: Birrarung Marr (Lower Terrace), Batman Avenue
Those feeling up to it can adventure outside the city for the spectacle of the largest hand operated, multi-octave fire organ in the world. If the unearthly bellows and Armageddon rhythms of the Pyrophone Juggernaut aren’t enough to keep you fired up, then you should probably go to bed.
The Pyrophone Juggernaut: Melbourne Museum Plaza, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
The Wee Hours: 3-4am
Unwind after all the excitement at ACMI with Video Game Mixtape. This exhibition uses a blend of live gameplay and interactive machines to give a retro-relaxing experience. Alternatively, take part in Proximity – an interactive installation where participants shape the space through their own body movements.
Video Game Mixtape & Proximity: ACMI, Federation Square, Flinders Street
Image © BennettFoddy and AP Thomson
Around about now you might need some time to recharge. Lonsdale Lounge Cinema lets you relax on couches to the visual mastery of Tropfest winners, top-class VCA graduates and more.
Lonsdale Lounge Cinema: Lonsdale Street (between Elizabeth & Swanston streets), Melbourne
Early Morning: 5-6am
Various intersections in the CBD are showcasing different works of art, so as you wander blearily along Lonsdale Street, look out for works from artists such as Alex Cherney, who has crafted a collection of time-lapse photos showcasing the beauty of Melbourne’s skyline – and the effects of light pollution.
Also scattered around Melbourne are statues that you might have seen before, now transformed. Alter egos, reimaginings and love affairs all on display as you stumble home.
Dark Nights: Intersections of La Trobe & Russell, Lonsdale & Swanston and Bourke & Swanston streets
The Secret Life of Statues: Various locations around the CBD
Breakfast Time: 6-7am
If you need an early start to the day, Tropicana Juice/Food Bar can refresh you with Amazonian smoothies, or head to Stokers Fine Pancakes to relax at their raw-timber bar and reward yourself for a hard night’s partying.
Tropicana Juice/Food Bar: 213 Elizabeth Street
Stokers Fine Pancakes: 231 Clarendon Street