The title of the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab, 'What Happens Now?' is derived from an anonymous paste-up program throughout New York City in 1979 by American artist Jenny Holzer. Like a manifesto, Holzer’s slogans are part of her acerbic ‘Inflammatory Essays’.
While anchoring the curatorial framework, the proposition ‘What Happens Now?’ offers an open-ended inquiry and the prospect of imagining new possibilities. By asking about ‘now’, we can interrogate the multi-layered and deeply condensed history of the Biennial Lab site: Queen Victoria Market. Established in 1878 as part of the Council’s mandate to manage Melbourne’s consortium of markets, QVM also resides on one of Melbourne’s earliest cemeteries. QVM provides a place to imagine the traces of Indigenous, mercantile, migratory and colonial histories that are embedded in the site.
The capacious title What Happens Now? suggests that we are at a crossroads in our city. Artists will be asked to consider: How have the city’s migratory patterns affected the market as a microcosm? How can we work with local communities within larger social and cultural structures? What is the role of the feminist agenda and slogans? 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 cycle of open/closed, day/night? How can we listen to the murmurings of Melbourne?