As firmly embedded in the miasma of digital culture as we are today, the thrill and spectacle of lights and the moving image still has the ability to conjure a childlike wonder, even in the most heard-hearted urbanites. The Gertrude Street Projection Festival, now in its sixth year, takes that excitement and transports it into the public sphere: the city that surrounds us becomes the screen and we’re given the opportunity to fully inhabit a world of illumination and mystery. This year’s festival will run over 10 days and across 36 sites on and around Gertrude Street.
Festival organiser and co-founder Kym Ortenburg regards the event as an opportunity to “change the familiar to the unexpected through the use of light and colour”, taking everyday spaces and experiences and altering the public’s perception of them. A prime example is Nick Azidis’s work, which will shine onto the 14-storey towers of the Atherton Garden Housing estate (the location of the festival’s opening ceremony), bombarding the site with colour, life and personality. Azidis features alongside artists such as Victoria Johnson, I and The Others, Yandell Walton and Freya Pitt, whose works will all occupy different areas around the neighbourhood. Many of the creative minds behind the projections may already be familiar to keen-eyed adventurers – White Night Melbourne’s architectural displays drew from the same talented pool.
For those wary of the winter chill, fear not. This year’s festival also features the inaugural Festival Hub, located upstairs at Gertrude’s Brown Couch – a space for espresso martinis, music, ideas and presentations. The Hub, as the name suggests, serves as an ideal base from which the festival can be explored. Ortenburg says that, although the block between Napier and George Streets will be “a real focal point”, there has been a concerted effort to include as much of the neighbourhood as possible, both indoors and out, with projections inside Left, Ladro and Gertrude Street Enoteca appearing alongside work that runs along buildings, over trees and into the streets themselves.
While the festival has only expanded as the years have passed, Ortenburg recognises that the focus has always been on keeping it “creative and in the community”. And although there are loose plans to take the event to other areas – especially regional Victoria – the neighbourhood that it is illuminating will always be the hero.
The Gertrude Street Projection Festival runs from July 19 to 28, from 6pm to midnight each night. The opening night ceremony begins at 6pm at Atherton Gardens.