Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab

In 2016, the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab provided 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 offered dedicated creative development for up to ten early mid-career artists across all art forms to create place responsive works that responded 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 provided development and production support for the realisation of eight temporary public artworks.

We'd like to respectfully acknowledge that the the land on which the inaugural Biennial Lab was hosted is the traditional land of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to elders past, present and continuing.

From Biennial Lab 2016 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.