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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Golden Square (228 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne)

The Rising cultural and artistic festival, which has taken over from what used to be called White Night and the International Arts Festival, kicked off on 1st June and runs until 12th June.

It comprises 225 events, featuring 801 local and international artists. Their canvas is the city at night. I speak of streets, gardens, carparks, waterways and rooftops. An explosion of culture in the winter chill.

First up, I took in Golden Square, which comprises a series of exhibits in the heart of Chinatown – in the Golden Square carpark, no less.

QR codes give you more of an understanding than I got simply by standing and watching and listening.

My favourite was a work by Paul Yore, who lives and works in Gippsland, called Seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth.

It features neon signs in evocative colours plastered all over a large, six by five metre installation with a domed roof that you can walk into.

There are symbols like stars, a pineapple, a tap, a pine tree and many, many more. Couple those with words, such as free!, Truth Isn’t Truth, Believing, Captain Cook etc.

Inside are three popular culture sculptures with mirrored sides giving the impression of greater expanse.

I couldn’t get enough of the cornucopia of ideas. The installation has a strong “wow” factor and made me feel happy.

Among the audio-visual installations that are part of Golden Square is a pyramid featuring Africans and imagery. I noted words like “patriarchy” and “sexuality”, but found the spoken word difficult to understand.

So, too, another three-screen audio visual show where I felt the dialect was competing with the music.

A large video screen complete with cartoons and maps deplores violence, exploitation and genocide.

An inflatable of a human head, mouth agape, eyes lit up, with black locks cascading, certainly makes quite a statement. It is an unmistakable drawcard.

Moon worship is the theme of a live, 30-person parade of spirits, dragons and animals moving to the beat of drums, featuring extravagantly attired roller skaters.

From the rooftop it is also hard to miss universal ideas writ large, a six-story projection by the pioneer of text-based public art.

Since the 1970s, Jenny Holzer has distilled universal themes and political thought into text.

I Conjure is projected onto the 19th century façade of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre.

While much of the work I saw as part of Golden Square was hardly what I would term mainstream, it certainly caused me to stop and think about what just the artists were trying to say.

Food and drink are available to purchase on site and portable toilets have also been set up, so just remember to rug up and bring an umbrella, if appropriate.

You should allow a good hour to take in all that Golden Square has to offer.

To find out more and to book, go to


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