This weekend, White Night will engulf the streets of Melbourne for the sixth year in a row, transforming the CBD into a technicolour wonderland.

“We’ve pushed things even further this year,” says artistic director David Atkins. “There are more things to see even further out – in Carlton Gardens, Queen Victoria Gardens and Birrarung Marr. We’ve taken it to another level with the installations, in terms of the number and scale.”

Atkins brings his background in theatre to the agenda once again, with a program split between interactive performances and mesmerising visual projections, including two installations from America’s Burning Man festival.

In the lead-up to Melbourne’s annual festival of sleeplessness, Atkins divulges some of the highlights that will definitely keep you out of bed.

CHILL

Liquid Sky
The closest you’ll ever get to seeing a school of fish coalesce above Federation Square is Liquid Sky by LA-based artist Patrick Shearn and his studio, Poetic Kinetics. Specifically designed for Federation Square, this “skynet” is composed of 150 square metres of holographic kinetic sculpture that forms a silver ceiling above the city, shifting and undulating with the wind.

Metamorphosis
On Saturday night, Carlton Gardens will be overrun with insects of the glowing and musical variety. Designed by arts collective The Indirect Object in collaboration with A Blanck Canvas, Metamorphos is an installation of giant, colourful cocoons that respond to human touch. “It’s a beautiful installation work that is interactive but that you can also just sit and watch,” says Atkins.

The Secret Life of Books
Every year, the State Library of Victoria is home to one of the standout installations of White Night. The stunning domed architecture of the La Trobe Reading Room will once again be put to good use with a mesmerising projection of flying books set to an ambient soundscape.

EXPLORE

Utility Kinetic Insect (UKI)
Utility Kinetic Insect is a four-by-four-metre metallic insect-like exoskeleton that doubles as a DJ booth. Made in Melbourne by art collective Make Mob, it has also roamed the Burning Man playa and other festival grounds in the USA. “We’re using it more for ambient music,” explains Atkins. As the tunes ring out, “her” aerodynamic, six-metre wingspan will illuminate with LED lights – her whole body animated with lifelike motion.

Verandah Virtuosos
Make sure you look up as you’re walking through White Night this year. “Verandah Virtuosos is a whole series of different performances along eight verandahs along Swanston Street,” Atkins says. “It’s everything you could think of, from musicians to dancers to singers.”

The Serpent Mother
Another veteran of Burning Man, the Serpent Mother is a perfect example of what Atkins means when he says that White Night 2018 is taking installation to the next level. A huge metallic reptile that combines art with interactive performance, the automated creature – with its 92-vertebrae spine – takes up 50 metres of space outside Melbourne Museum, and spews coloured plumes of fire into the sky.

AVA V2
David Atkins insists you walk through Alexandra Gardens on Saturday. Among the many sights and sounds hidden in the greenery, AVA V2 is a highlight. This immersive installation, which previously appeared at TedxCern 2016, is inspired by particle physics, but you don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy it. Its creators, Istanbul- and Los Angeles-based collective Ouchhh, have reinterpreted cosmic rays into a 360-degree structure of light and fabric that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The White Night Messenger
This crowd favourite from White Night 2017 returns to Melbourne and Ballarat this year. White Night Messenger, by Melbourne-based A Blanck Canvas, is a roving, glowing, five-metre-high, “futuristic archangel” that roves the city, manned by a team of eight puppeteers and performers.

The Wish Tree
Described as a “lo-fi Snapchat”, and designed by French studio PITAYA, this digital “tree” grows from its base in the QV Building throughout the night as participants use their phones to add messages to its phosphorescent leaves.

NGV
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a lot going on at the National Gallery of Victoria at the moment. In addition to the Triennial, the current architecture commission, Garden Wall, has transformed the Grollo Equiset Garden into a labyrinth of white mesh panels. The NGV will remain open for the duration of White Night, so, even if you’ve seen the exhibitions already, there’s something to be said for wandering through its dramatic corridors and galleries in the middle of the night.

PARTY

Queens on Collins
“The real place to party is with all the queens along Collins Street,” says Atkins. Queens on Collins takes place on the balconies and verandahs of Collins Street. Inspired by Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical (which is playing at the Regent Theatre on White Night and legislation of gay marriage, some of Melbourne’s most celebrated drag artists will serenade passers-by from above with renditions of iconic anthems, from Abba to Celine Dion.

No Lights No Lycra Family
This year the No Lights No Lycra dance party returns to Melbourne for a special children’s edition. Held in Melbourne Museum’s Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery, the dimly lit dance party invites all ages – from babies to five-year-olds to mums and dads – to shake it off in the early hours.

Melbourne, Meet Your New Train
Ever been struck by the urge to break into dance on public transport? This year, White Night presents a socially acceptable way to do so. Transport Victoria, together with White Night and arts collective The Electric Canvas, have come up with a unique way to introduce Melburnians to their future public transport. A full-scale model of Melbourne’s next-generation train will sit over 40 metres of Birrarung Marr, covered in a kaleidoscopic light projection. Inside the train, you’ll find something else – a silent disco hosted by LED stick men. Wireless headsets provided.

Broadsheet’s Guide to Where to Eat and Drink at White Night 2018
With more than 100 works showing between 7pm and 7am, White Night is a long night. If you plan to stick it out until morning, you'll need a decent feed. Maybe even two. Thankfully, plenty of places trade past midnight on Saturdays, and a handful have extended their hours to 7am for the event. These are our picks for a pre-event dinner; midnight drinks and snacks; or even a 6am burger.

White Night will take place throughout Melbourne from 7pm on Saturday February 17 to 7am on Sunday February 18. A month later, select features will head to Ballarat White Night, to take place from 7pm on Saturday March 17 to 2am on Sunday March 18. Full program here [https://whitenight.com.au].

For Melbourne’s latest, subscribe to the Broadsheet newsletter.