It has been a week since I came back to Melbourne after spending 2 weeks in Penang and Bangkok for Chinese New Year. I had a great time but almost didn’t make it to Bangkok wondering if it will be safe to visit due to their internal political turmoil of protestors camping and blocking some of the major streets. But my 2 nights in Bangkok on my way home was nothing but peaceful and relaxing. I went shopping. I caught the hotel river boat and the sky train.
Since I came back to Melbourne, I went to see Kid Creole and The Coconut live concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre. This was the first time Kid Creole has done a gig in Melbourne! It was a privilege to recall the eighties. I was also looking forward to the biggest event of the year on the weekend – White Night Melbourne 2014! A festival of arts, lights and entertainment from dust to dawn. This was the second White Night. Melbourne hosted the first White Night last year. I counted myself among the 300,000 people who flocked to the centre of the city as lucky to experience the first White Night in Australia! It was spectacular and was the best art and cultural event I have ever experienced in my life! Naturally I was looking forward to this year which started last night Saturday 22nd Feb at 7pm until 7am this morning Sunday 23rd Feb.
This year, there was much more publicity in the press, subscription newsletters and through word of mouth. There was more awareness created by the media and people. The result – more people and more crowd. I was astonished when I reached the centre of the city of Flinders Street about 11:15pm. That was about the same time as last year when I went to see the events. It was packed. Not just packed with people, but massively overcrowded with people jammed in the main intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets. It was quite daunting and the amount of people on the flight of steps on Flinders station leading to the street were people after people. It was an unbelievable sight. Nothing I have ever seen in Melbourne. It was nothing like this last year, with a more organised crowd and a live band on the steps of the Flinders station. I quickly moved away from the main intersection fearing that at any moment if there was a sudden alarming incident, there will be an unsightly crushing of human upon human. That will be a “White Night” to remember! I was more concerned about this crowd than I was when I was in Bangkok just a week ago.
I felt more at ease once I was away from the massive crowd and walked along Swanston Street across the Princes Bridge. At the south side of the river towards the Alexandra Garden, there was the trajectory light show streaming into the almost clear and cloudy sky creating an amazing criss crossed of light beams forming an hour glass into space.
I walked towards Alexandra Garden for one reason – to find the perfect spot to see the “faces on the trees” – an artwork by Craig Walsh called “Monument“. This was the highlight for me. Having sat down on the edge on the south side of the river, it was almost surreal to gaze across the river in the dark towards the north side at the row of trees with moving images of human faces.
Next I made my way back to the north side of the river and headed towards Federation Square. The crowd hasn’t reduced in size. It got bigger. It was past midnight! There must be hundreds of thousands of people everywhere.
By that time I almost had it and thought I should head home until I saw a crowd queuing to get into The Forum theatre – a house of human curiosities!
I joined the queue which didn’t take long before I got inside the building. The artwork was curated by Ashley Crawford, “Cabinet of Curiosities“. I wasn’t sure what to expect except the main centrepiece at the entrance foyer looked a bit strange. The entry was free and R-rated. Underage not allowed. So I was in for a big surprise and shocking experience I told myself.
As I entered the main theatre hall on the ground level there was a heavy heart beat – a thumping heart beat with a projection of a human heart on the main screen. It was a heart beat of a heart beat.
On ascending to the first level of the building, I entered the next hall and was not sure if I should or should not sit down. In the end I did. It was a film of naked human with hooks pierced through their skins and hung up high swinging in circle. This was an extreme to the human body. I have seen hooks pierced into human skin especially during Thaipusam in Malaysia. But I have never seen human being hung up high with hooks on the body. I was thinking the human bodies were dead bodies until their feet were placed on the ground and realised they were real and very much alive! The second segment of the film, my stomach could not take any further and I had to leave before feeling sick in my stomach!
By 2am, I have decided it was time to call it the night. The crowd hasn’t dispersed much. It was still busy. I was lucky that I live in the city fringe with easy access to Tram to go home.
Hopefully next year there will be more police patrolling the streets and crowd. This year brought out more people who were into partying than enjoying the arts and culture of the exhibitions. It was a different crowd than last year. There were alcohols and marijuana in the air. A mixture of concoction spelling disaster for parents with young children and prams in the crowded streets.
Overall the event was good for Melbourne as a world class art and culture city of Australia.
When I first read about a solo exhibition by the popular Penang street artist, a Lithuanian born Ernest Zacharevic, long time residence of Malaysia, before I left for Penang, I had to include that as a “must-see” exhibition in my calendar on my recent trip.
Zacharevic has make himself famous national in Penang and Malaysia after he started painting his wall mural on some of the old, dirty and exposed walls that nobody care to repaint in the old town of George Town, gazetted as worth preserving as a world heritage site by UNESCO. These walls have since been painted over by Zacharevic displaying some of the most famous photographed painting by the locals and visitors to Penang. Zacharevic has now attracted even a wider international interest with coverage by BBC news and other international publications. He is being compared to other world famous street artists, like Banksy whose painting can fetch a fortune.
Zacharevic launched his first solo exhibition in George Town called “Art is Rubbish is Art” at a disused bus depot, Hin Bus Depot, an ideal location for such an exhibition. The venue is interesting itself with a sheltered main building leading to an exposed open space in the back with broken walls and overlooking the back of a row of old brick terraces.
I went there with my partner and a couple of new friends whom we came to know and met in Penang. I came to love street arts after living in Melbourne, one of the street art capital in the world. Penang street art painted by Zakarevic has a different feel to the street arts in Melbourne. Zakarevic’s painting of his local social experience and children happily playing and laughing are the sort of scenes that the locals will accept. There is nothing controversial about his artwork. However, there was a recent work that he did in Johor Bahru of a snatched thief that didn’t go down well with the authority.
His recent solo exhibition; however, I believed is a bit more moody with interesting subjects. It will be interesting to see what he does next.
Posted in Art, Culture, Entertainment, Penang, Travel
Tagged Art, Ernest Zaharevic, Exhibition, Painting, Penang, Street Art, Travel
Melbourne Now is an art installation featuring over 175 individual artists, curators and group presentations across the various venues of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The exhibition is free and open to the public.
The main exhibitions are installed at the NGV International and The Ian Potter Centre – NGV Australia at the Federation Square, and a few other venues. I went to the one at The Ian Potter Centre this weekend. At FedSquare (Federation Square), there are many other things to see and do. On a Saturday, there is the Book Market with a few regular pop-up stalls for the novice book collectors and readers.I love everything about Melbourne. It is a city that is easy to get around either by foot or by Tram. There is a free city circle tourist Tram that runs around the outer grid of the CBD. There are many cobblestone lane ways to explore. This is an art and culture capital of Australia. I have moved here 2 years and 3 months now. I still find the city a great place to live. The city grows by 1,400 residents each day! Federation Square and Flinders Station are one of the most visited tourist spot in the city. They are across each other separated by a tram station in the middle section of the street. The old dame Flinders Station versus the new and open public Fed Square – a square that is either hated or loved by the Melbournians. I love both of them for their own uniqueness in its architectural forms. At the Ian Potter Centre, there are 3 levels with separate rooms and open halls showcasing the Melbourne Now art installations. There are 2 installations that really stood out for me. They are my favourites – one for its creativity and interaction with the visitor, and the other for the artist’s message and provocativeness of each of her work.
Sedulur Gamelan (Gamelan Sisters) I can tell from the other side of the wall was the sound of Javanese musical instruments, imagining there was a group of Javanese musicians. But, it turned out to be a self play interactive musical instruments with a twin interlocked wooden structures of instruments to create an abstract of an 18th century double grand piano. The 2 cases housed 56 Gamelan instruments from Yogyakarta that have been automated to function as a self-governing electro-mechanical orchestra performing musical transriptions of drawings by American artist Robert Smithson. Visitors can select works to be performed by pressing the gilded triangles on the hexagonal console. I imagine this would have taken a group of musical geniuses to put this masterpiece together.
My next favourite was a very confronting work by Julia deVille called Degustation. It is not for someone with a weak stomach. It is on the dark side. But beautiful at the same time.
DegustationTaxidermy dead domestic and wild animals, birds, fowls and mostly the young ones with jewellery studded onto their body reminiscent of the Victorian era. Her installation offers a way to consider mortality, remembrance and animal welfare in a creative and contemplative manner. All the animals died of natural causes. The artist is a Vegan who holds a passionate view on animal welfare. The other installations are visually interesting and some colourful, but don’t interact or connect with me like the Gamelan Sisters and Degustation. Melbourne Now is on until 23 March 2014. I will definitely go back for another visit or two in the new year. Talking about the new year, we are only 3 days from Christmas and 10 days to 2014.
Wishing all my followers and readers a happy Christmas and New Year 2014 and be safe during this festive season. I hope none of your dining table will look anything like the picture! 🙂
It’s blue. I could see them from my apartment! 5 little blue boats slowly cruising up and down the Yarra River early in the morning for the past 3 weekends. The first weekend when I saw them, I was wondering why there were 5 small blue boats taking off from the Collins Landing in front of the ANZ HQ Building Yarra’s Edge. Then, I remember it was one of the art installation project sponsored by the City of Melbourne and supported by Port of Melbourne featuring the sounds and sights of the harbour city, created and choreographed by artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, which I had booked a month ago.
I have to say that I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first read about the 5 Short Blasts. All I knew was it is an art and sound installation project and it involves being on the river. I booked a 9am on a Sunday morning. Meeting point was at the Water Plaza in Victoria Harbour. It was a short 10 minutes walk from our apartment. The weather was perfect – calm water with light wind and mild temperature. There were 5 small blue boats. 4 passengers to a boat and a private “seafaring” skipper who spends most of his / her life experience working on the water city of Melbourne. Or, at least our boat skipper “Alan” has spent all his life working as a seafarer and has some wonderful stories to tell. The journey took us up the river under the Bolte Bridge and the working wharfs unloading cargos from the gigantic ships.
We were very lucky to participate on this once in a lifetime experience of the 5 Short Blasts. I will remember this special journey on Melbourne waterway for a long time. A great way to start the morning and weekend.
Thanks to all the wonderful people for putting this program together and most of all, our skipper “Alan” who even share his thermal flask of warm tea and a packet of biscuits. At the end of our trip, Alan gave each of us a small pamphlet featuring the program, sponsors, creators and people involved on the program, including history and facts on various signals used in the waterway to prevent any collision. It is a well documented little hand pamphlets 52 pages thick.
Finally I am back in Penang again. It is nice to be back after seven months of absence. It is never boring in Penang. There is always something to do or “eat”. On each trip I made to Penang, I will made a point to walk and explore the old heart of George Town, which is UNESCO heritage listed. There are new finds and surprises. Every streets that I walked brings back some childhood memories reminding of the past. The narrow streets are still grungy with cloaked and smelly drains, and broken and uneven pavements. Old terraces are being renovated into boutique retail shops, art studios and galleries, restaurants and cafes, and stylish accommodations. They are tastefully renovated by retaining the historical look and colour. They are not overdone with vibrant colours to become something out of a movie set, and the surrounding un-renovated buildings and dirty streets still remind the visitors of the past.
I was walking along Weld Quay when I came across a row of heritage listed colonial terraces used as trading houses by the German shipping companies during the Straits Settlement. Weld Quay is rich in history all along this main coastal road. It was a project overseen by the Governor of Straits Settlement – Sir Frederick Aloysius Weld – in the early 1880s. The road was constructed in front of Swettenham Pier, a vibrant shipping port sheltered from the wild wind and rough sea. It became the main thoroughfare for the traders between east and west merchants.
There were some activities in front of the row of terraces. I stood outside one of them and noticed a couple of artists working on the huge walls – painting some local scenes of Penang. A minute later someone came up from behind. He smiled at me and started explaining the artwork that was happening inside the building. It got me interested. The paintings on the wall are inspired by a Singaporean investor, who was born and grew up in Penang. He bought a row of the four terraces, refurbishing them into an art gallery museum depicting the history of the earlier Straits Settlement of European traders, Chinese and Tamil workers. The buildings were used as “Godown” (trading warehouses) in the 1880s.
The project manager, Mr Yong, spoke with great passion of this amazing project, which will be called “Made in Penang”. It is target for a soft opening later this year. The vision and master plan to recreate the scene of the thriving shipping and trading industry along Weld Quay in the 1880s is slowly coming to life on the walls of this row of terraces.
Mr Yong invited me to look at the other two adjoining double storey terraces – one of which will have a 3-dimension painting on the wall depicting the local scenes of Penang and the other will display a full size miniature model of what the busy street scene was like during the trading era of 1880s. I was delighted and grateful when Mr Yong offered to show me around.
I can’t wait to see the completed work. It is in my “must visit” destination when I come back to Penang in 2014 for Chinese New Year.
This is truly a story of “Made in Penang”. All the artwork is done or will be done by local Penang artists.