Lighting up winter at Federation Square

The eighth instalment of Federation Square’s The Light in Winter festival will illuminate and enchant visitors.
Lighting up winter at Federation Square

Radiant Lines, The Light in Winter, Night Time Concept Art, Image courtesy of Federation Square.

As Artistic Director of popular mid-year festival The Light in Winter, Robyn Archer AO has created a festival program that interrogates the role and application of light within art and the broader community.

‘We have found thematic connections and particular projects with particular artists and communities have really set that vision of keeping on the cutting edge of lighting and art.’


‘We’re different from other light based festivals in that we always wanted to work with the various communities in Melbourne, and empathise that Melbourne is the great city that it is because of the great process of migration and new settlers here in Melbourne,’ she said.

Now entering in its eighth year, The Light in Winter (LIW) is a three-week long celebration of art, light and enlightenment at Melbourne’s Federation Square. ‘The LIW has had seven remarkable editions and the eighth is similarly special,’ said Archer.

‘It has clearly changed Melbourne’s winter behaviour as we now see so many people visiting and staying in the Square from dusk into the evening, in the middle of winter.’

Archer said this year’s festival theme of the cycles of life would be reflected strongly through the two headlining commissions. ‘While the formula remains the same, the content changes radically.’

‘Quite often, it will come from the international installation will inspire first thoughts or another thought will come and we will work around that.’

‘What I love about it is that it is not just pretty lights. It is much, much more that that. We have some very powerful on-effects about the collaborations that we make,’ she said. 

World-renowned UK architect and artist Asif Khan makes his Australian debut with festival commission Radiant Lines, a magnificent and interactive light sculpture that is triggered by human movement.

Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theatre joins forces with Melbourne’s Cake Industries to present the second festival commission Anachron as a series of whimsical shrines to the past, present and future.

Archer said the collaborative work between Papermoon and Cake Industries would be highly unusual and original. ‘Out the front of St Paul’s Court you have three seemingly circular sculptures that are very detailed.’

‘They are intimate and are intricate and there are a bunch of things that will make people will want to stop with spend time with them,’ she said.

During a public forum The Creative Process to be held at ACMI on Monday 16 June, Archer will lead a discussion with the artists behind Anachron, the ways in which the project evolved and a broader discussion around creativity.

A range of other free public lectures also includes Remembering in Melbourne: Monuments, Memorials and Shrines, to be held at Deakin Edge on Monday 2 June.

Archer said the event would explore commemorative sites across Melbourne, which was a unique take on the festival theme, where the ideas of shrines and memorials emerged towards the end of the cycle of life.

‘Here [in Melbourne] you have the Shrine of Remembrance, churches, mosques - you have all kinds of things that when you note that this very solid kind of memorialisation tends to be very expensive to maintain and to care for in the future,’ she said.

‘We are wondering in the digital age whether there are still highly effective but slightly more ephemeral ways in which you can memorialise.’

Opening the LIW in an ongoing festival tradition is campfire Leempeeyt Weeyn’ where members of Victoria’s Indigenous communities will create a meeting place for engagement and conversation.

Designed by Vicki Couzens, the large campfire forms an informal festival hub with a rich selection of fireside events as programmed by Rob Bundle. ‘Having a fire burning for a whole month is really a beautiful thing,’ said Archer.

‘We have a great welcome to country by the elders. The smoke says that we have started winter, and we really do embrace winter.’

A special rehearsed reading of award-winning author Tim Winton’s new play Shrine will premiere at the Deakin Edge on Sunday 15 June.

For the first time in the festival’s history, the grand finale Solstice Celebration will fall on the actual date of the winter solstice on Saturday 21 June.

It is with lucky coincidences such as this that Archer likens programming an event such as the LIW to a process of alchemy. ‘I never come to these events with a pre-planned idea, except these couple of touchstone elements.’

‘What I love about it is that there’s nothing certain in this process. You just always have to be on the alert, that’s the thing that I love doing best and that is kind of problem solving, putting together these juxtapositions and making the connections.’

‘Every opportunity, every festival presents a marvellous opportunity simply to be free to make connections and do something different and I think that is absolutely the thing that I treasure about this process,’ she said.

The Light in Winter 2014 is a free, three-week festival celebration of art, light and enlightenment held at Melbourne’s Federation Square.

For more information including a full program of events, visit The Light in Winter website.

Troy Nankervis

Monday 26 May, 2014

About the author

Troy Nankervis is an ArtsHub journalist from Melbourne. Follow him on twitter @troynankervis