Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab: What happens now?

Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab provides time, space and interaction with leaders in the public art field, as well as financial assistance for artists to explore, investigate and create new ideas for temporary public art in our city.

Through the Biennial Lab, Public Art Melbourne offers dedicated creative development for up to 10 early mid-career artists across all art forms to create place responsive works that respond to a significant city site. As the name suggests, this extraordinary opportunity is offered once every two years.

For the inaugural Biennial Lab, Public Art Melbourne will provide development and production support for the realisation of up to 10 temporary public artworks.
Curatorial Statement: Chief Curator Natalie King

The title of the inaugural 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, the Market also resides on one of Melbourne’s earliest cemeteries. Queen Victoria Market 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 while allowing artist to probe and experiment: 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 cycle of open/closed, day/night? How can we listen to the murmurings of Melbourne?

From elaborate and evocative installations to intimate moments of human connection, this suite of eight temporary new works will share some of the market’s secrets and stories over a calendar week, complemented by artist’s talks, performances, happenings and song.

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), Fiona Whitworth (Queen Victoria Market), Lynda Roberts (City of Melbourne).

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