Following a successful debut in 2023, the City of Melbourne’s art, ideas, music and technology festival Now or Never is back for a second year – this time with the theme “Look through the image”.

Last year, Melburnians partied in the Royal Exhibition Building at four pulsating club nights, and Now or Never is bringing back the centrepiece experience. This time the four gigs include American multi-instrumentalist Eartheater, UK techno collective Sandwell District, and Portuguese Danish singer-songwriter Erika de Casier. French producer-singer Coucou Chloe will make her debut Australian performance in the historic building, renowned Australian musician Ben Frost (currently based in Iceland) is also on the bill, as is electronic artist Naretha Williams and British electronic musician Clark. Plus, Italian techno DJ Donato Dozzy will also headline a night co-hosted by Untitled Group.

The first Now or Never attracted over 200,000 visitors, and the City of Melbourne is hoping to ignite the same curiosity with a major art installation on the Yarra River. French artist Joanie Lemercier will present a large-scale celestial work that’ll hover above its own reflection, called Constellations. Similarly, there’s an augmented reality experience, Slow Walker, that’ll look like a colossal being hovering above the Melbourne Museum Plaza.

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Artist Marco Fusinato will present DESASTRES – an experimental noise-guitar performance that premiered at the Venice Biennale 2022 – at Nant Studios in Docklands cinema studios. And London-based art practice United Visual Artists (UVA) is presenting two large-scale works, Silent Symphony and Present Shock II. The first is a sonic interpretation of celestial patterns with composition by Ben Frost, while the second uses real-time information about the world to turn this into “alternative facts”.

Exclusive to Now or Never, Melbourne band HTRK and UK electronic musician Actress will perform together at the Melbourne Recital Centre for one night only. And Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay will join Jan Fran on stage for a talk about her latest book Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People’s Business.

Also on the program is contemporary dance by choreographer Melanie Lane and music from Clark with costumes by fashion designer Akira Isogawa. A world-premiere dance, Plagiary, uses AI to improvise each live performances as it’s dictated to them by a computer. And there’ll be a gamified walk on Country called kajoo yannaga (come on let’s walk together) guided by knowledge from Wiradjuri Scottish artist April Phillips.

Soft Centre makes its Melbourne debut with SUPERMODEL, a three-day program of performances and talks in the State Library of Victoria with appearances from Mckenzie Wark, Pseudo, Alexander Powers and Marcus Whale.

Queer Powerpoint is a fun night of celebrating queer art with Xanthe Dobbie and Harriet Gillies. Mycologist Merlin Sheldrake (author of Entangled Life) joins Natasha Mitchell via video for an in-depth chat about fungi. And Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta and Nari Nari man Kutcha Edwards fronts a performance with the Australian Art Orchestra that’ll include some of Australia’s most creative jazz and improvisation artists.

Now or Never runs from August 22 to 31. Tickets are on sale now.