October 17, 2016 - Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab - Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab: What Happens Now?
October 17, 2016

Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab

Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab
What Happens Now?
October 17–23, 2016

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The inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab comprises eight temporary commissions that activate the historic site of the Queen Victoria Market from October 17–23 as part of the Melbourne Festival. During this week-long cycle, the artists open up a set of inquiries: what is the role of anti-monuments? How can we work with local communities within larger social and cultural structures? How can the Biennial Lab be an incubator or micro-ecology? What can "happen" in a market situation that is voluble on some days yet static on others during the weekly market calendar, when it is open/closed, day/night? How can we listen to the murmurings of Melbourne?

Anchored around the phrase What Happens Now?, the title of the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab is derived from an aphorism within Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays (1979), a then anonymous paste-up program throughout New York City. What Happens Now? offers an open-ended inquiry and the prospect of imagining new possibilities, suggesting that we are at a crossroads in our city.

Established in 1878, the Queen Victoria Market has a history as a gathering place for the clans of the Kulin Nation and as a meeting spot for “suburban swagmen” in late 1880s Melbourne. It resides over one of Melbourne’s first cemeteries. The market provides a place for artists to imagine the traces of Indigenous, mercantile, migratory and colonial histories that are embedded in this site.

The Biennial Lab was foregrounded by a two-week intensive artist summit held in June with Chief Curator Natalie King and co-convened with Claire Doherty (Director, Situations) and David Cross (One Day Sculpture, Iteration: Again). From elaborate and evocative installations to intimate moments of human connection, the resulting interventions share some of the market’s secrets and stories over a calendar week, augmented by a program of artist talks, performances, happenings and song as well as daily lunchtime guided tours during market hours.

Hiromi Tango presents an undulating sculpture made from bound fabric that extrudes from a market stall, reminiscent of the way the market is packed up each day. Steven Rhall addresses the market’s history as a cemetery and as a gathering place for the Kulin Nation by creating an architectonic installation that harnesses the movement of the sun to comment on the formation of the city grid in contestation with the city’s Aboriginal history. The Mechanics Institute’s socially engaged project is a roving Trade School that explores notions of value, production, authorship and ownership. Melbourne-based collective Field Theory will host a 9000-minute radio broadcast from a structure clad in repurposed market boxes, which they will inhabit for the entirety of the Biennial Lab, inviting participants to join them on radio 99.7FM within the market perimeter and live streaming online at 9000mins.com.

Multidisciplinary design group SIBLING will install a temporary mobile structure around the market’s John Batman monument which will break away as a folly during the week, inviting audiences to use it as a platform to discuss Melbourne’s contested history. Kiron Robinson installs neon texts throughout the market, inscribed with the words “upon this troubled sea I rest my head” as a poetic metaphor for the market in a state of flux. Collaborators Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine create a stop-motion animation that narrates the story of a long-serving trader, encouraging audiences to form new relationships with the market’s merchants, while A Centre for Everything retrieves the often-overlooked hand gestures of market traders through a self-guided tour that provides a series of intimate encounters and itineraries through the market.

Coinciding with the temporary commissions Public Art Melbourne, in collaboration with Claire Doherty, has developed a set of new rules for public art inspired by situations. Released as part of the Biennial Lab, The Melbourne Principles encourage artists and local communities to take their time, negotiate meaning and address what is urgent in public art.

On the finale day, Sunday, October 23, visitors can experience a choral lament, a talk about anti-monuments by Indigenous author Tony Birch and a range of other events, culminating with chanteuse Sophia Brous who will respond to the Biennial Lab in a special closing performance. Also performing will be Hiromi Tango, in collaboration with Dylan Martorell and Benjamin Hancock.

For more information, including documentation of the Lab process and more on the artists’ projects, visit www.bienniallab.com and join us in Melbourne from October 17 to 23.

Curatorium: Natalie King (Chief Curator), David Cross (artist, curator, Head of Art and Performance, Deakin University), Jefa Greenaway (architect, Director, Greenaway Architects and Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria), Veronica Kent (artist, The Telepathy Project), Djon Mundine OAM (curator, activist and writer), Lynda Roberts (City of Melbourne), Fiona Whitworth (QVM)

International affiliates: Claire Doherty MBE (Director, Situations), Khairuddin Hori (artist and former Deputy Director of Artistic Programming, Palais de Tokyo, Paris), Hou Hanru (Director, MAXXI, Rome)

Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab
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What Happens Now?
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