Melbourne Design Week 2024: A Review

It’s been a little more than a week since we’ve returned from Melbourne Design Week and Melbourne Art Book Fair! From 23 May to 2 June, these two events were held in different venues across the Australian State of Victoria, where Melbourne is. This is also at the start of winter in Australia, and the temperatures were as low as 7˚C.

These posts will be covering each day of travel for the exhibition, and we will compile it into a zine itself! This would truly match the sentiment of what we had seen, and the inspiration of the work too. So keep a look out for the next few days too!

We arrived on the 28th, and started visiting the exhibitions in the city.

National Gallery Victoria (NGV) were the main organisers of the events, and within the gallery building, there were a few exhibitions going on at once.

Future Press by Kids Own Publishing was our first stop, and we got to experience a very liberating style of zine making. Preschoolers were encouraged to tell their stories through collage in a zine, and the artwork would be immediately be published via color photocopier with a “Kid’s Own Publishing” stamp! Then the children would walk over to a big button in the wall, trumpeting their publishing release.

The Publishing Wall!

The Melbourne Triennal was still running, so we managed to catch little bits of artwork within the midst of their permanent collection. The Triennal’s work was integrated in a modern way, and gave a very tasteful touch to the pre-existing, older work.

The piece I really enjoyed, but didn’t really look like an art piece was “Colonialism and Abstract Art” by Hank Willis Thomas. It traced the art movements with cultural movements of the world, and how the two seemed to be correlated.

Clarice enjoyed “Modern relic IV: All in this together, apart” by Jessica Murtagh. A translucent blue vase with imagery of COVID panic placed all around in white sandblast, depicted in a form reminiscent of ancient vases with stories drawn on the outside.

Next, we headed over to the University of Melbourne, Southbank Library. Within the library, there were two exhibitions running. The first one was OPEN CLOSE, a typographic exploration of books by the typography students of the school. The work was intentionally exploring how the stories and the theme of existing books could be typographically expressed, even to the publishing of the book itself. The form became an expression of the book.

My favourite was Kit Nicholson’s take on The Time Traveler by HG Wells. The book was rearranged as a blueprint, and each character’s speech was tabbed to a column.

Clarice’s highlight was the Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō, redesigned by Arvind De Silva. It was made to fit into a Japanese tea box, and crafted as closely to embody the book’s contents.

The second exhibition was titled Deal or No Deal, where a number of works were placed within the Southbank Library itself. It was a good idea of how public spaces like libraries can incorporate interactive art.

After a quick lunch break, we walked over to the Sticky Institute, which was a short walk away. The Sticky Institute is one of the longest running zine libraries in Australia, if not the longest. Started about 20 years ago, Sticky started collecting zines, running and publishing zines under the Flinders Street Station in Melbourne city. They moved recently to their location next to the Shrine of Rememberance, and finding the building is a bit of an adventure of its own.

Coming to Sticky was quite momentous for me, as I had read about their work in a zine from Amsterdam. The total amount of zines and independently published work was so much, and it would have taken a very long time to read through all their zines on display. The pricing of zines were also extremely affordable, as profit was not the aim of the art. The zines were to carry the message of the artists, and the creative purity really made inspired me personally. This mindset is wildly different from Singapore, where I feel the need to publish something worth purchasing. Within the Sticky Institute, it is clear that the artist chooses what they want to publish, and they don’t really care if anyone buys their work or not. It was really to make a statement of their own.

We left some Liminal zines with them, hopefully that they could stock it, but if not, just as a gift to the avid zinesters in Melbourne city!

We took the tram back to the city, and and strolled around the city exhibitions while looking out for a cafe to sit at.

We stumbled into Craft Victoria, a small gallery and store, tucked in an alleyway along Flinders Lane.

Craft Victoria held a few exhibitions within their cozy space. The first was Cercare Trorvare by Bobby Corica, which started at the staircase. He used carefully refined glass and other materials to create wearable objects, applying his jewelry making skills learnt in Italy.

Next was Material Provenance by Clay Matters, “part of a community interested in interrogating questions of environmental impact in their work”. Working with a range of materials, their work was quite lined the walls, and moved its way through to the corridor leading towards the store space.

Upon entering the space, the store itself was on the left side, and the products for purchase were on the shelves.

But on the right side of the space, Aluminium was next, and the sculptured pieces were all made of aluminium, as the title suggests. Six different artists came together to explore the material, in its ability to be recycled and reused well.

The work had such a brutalist form, and it gave me much thought to interior pieces and the idea of work being devoid of general notions of comfort. It was quite a show!

The last segment was By Product by three Australian artists, and there was actually music to go along with the artwork. The work was made with recycled materials and upcycled to create handmade luxury goods.

As a space, it seemed a little small, but while interacting with the pieces, the space did seem to open up. Kudos to the team for their curation, and arrangement of the pieces!

Eventually we found a cafe, and we grabbed a simple dinner. We ended the day by walking to a book store launch nearby.

TERRAIN is an eco-focused bookstore, with a curation of books focusing on ecology as a whole. The store itself was an artpiece, looking like a cave with futuristic bookshelves. One of the store windows displayed digital art, but the books and the curation was the main star.

The selection of books were very well chosen. The owner, Christina, shared about her stacks of books she would sift through and read, in order to stock the shelves appropriately. There was work from all over the world, including fictional work that embodied what TERRAIN stands for as well.

We chatted together with Christina for a bit, and ended the night. It was a very long day of walking and visiting exhibitions!

One huge conclusion we had after the first day was the openness and welcoming nature of art in Australia. It really felt a lot more simple, and easier to approach. There was excellence in the work on its own, but it was not for the sake of achievement. Instead, the art produced was meant to carry the message of the artists.

Profit was also not the aim of the work produced. It would cover cost at minimum, but the pricing of items were extremely different from what they would have been priced in Singapore. From the homemade zines in Sticky Institute, to the luxury pieces in Craft Victoria, it was artwork approachable even in price. An affordable art fair would sound quite ridiculous in some sense!

We would continue to see this very hospitable approach to art in the coming days, but we’ll leave that experience for the next post!


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