Melburnians and visitors have rare access to parts of the historic Flinders Street that are usually off limits, including its famous ballroom, with ‘A miracle constantly repeated’, an exhibition by visual artist Patricia Piccinini running until June 2022.
The heritage station building is one of Melbourne’s best-known landmarks. It’s also an important and highly valued VicTrack asset.
Staging the exhibition, launched as part of Melbourne’s Rising Festival, in the station building came about through a collaboration between VicTrack and Rising Melbourne, VicTrack Senior Development Manager Ryan McCormack explained.
“Festival organisers contacted VicTrack around two years ago and since then, our Property Group team has worked with Metro Trains Melbourne, managers of the station, and Rising to activate parts of the building that have been largely closed off for 30 to 40 years,” he said.
“To be able to activate the space is amazing. And it's been a really exciting project to be part of.”
Piccinini’s exhibition explores how technology and nature coexist and combine. The artist has created an eco-system of sculptures, video, sound and light, featuring creatures, huge dioramas, and foliage.
The exhibition stretches over several rooms of the station building. At different times in the station’s history, these rooms have housed facilities for the Victorian Railways Institute including a gymnasium, billiard room, a lending library and sewing room. The rooms later housed offices. This part of the building has been empty since the 1980s.
Presenting the exhibition of delicate artworks in a heritage location posed some unusual challenges for the organisers.
“Rising can’t actually drill or impact the heritage fabric of the building. So, there's been a really long process of working with them to install these amazing art pieces while still not damaging the building,” Ryan explained.
An ongoing challenge for the exhibition curators is managing the dust that accumulates in the building. To protect the exhibits, they need to cover the delicate sculptures (some are made from Papier-mâché) with plastic sheets at the end of each day, then clean thoroughly and vacuum each morning before the doors open.
“It’s an amazing exhibition and how they have filled the spaces is really impressive,” Ryan said.
“And it’s a real opportunity for the public to be able to come through this building.”
After being closed down during recent COVID-19 restrictions, the exhibition has been extended until June 2022.
Rising has been extended until June 2022.