White Night returns to Melbourne next year for the sixth time and like a new Star Wars movie, promises to be bigger and better than ever. The theme of next year’s all-night arts festival is “What If?”.

The Serpent Mother, an enormous kinetic sculpture that looks like a snake skeleton and shoots fire into the air will writhe and move around the city, after previous appearances at Burning Man and Coachella.

Liquid Sky – a 14,000 square foot holographic Skynet – will appear like a silver ceiling suspended over Fed Square, dancing and undulating in the wind.

Musicians and dancers will perform on verandahs and balconies on Swanston Street for 12 hours. Opera singers, classical musicians, rock bands, tap dancers, brass players, percussionists and others will perform 10-minute recitals. Little Bourke Street will be covered in snow, while an installation of neon dogs will appear in a Melbourne laneway.

The Royal Exhibition Building and State Library will again be transformed by spectacular projections, and the five-metre-high White Night Messenger will return to the streets too.

“It’s our objective to raise the bar with each successive year,” artistic director David Atkins said in a statement. “For the first time we have undertaken the work of building a full 3D model of the [Royal Exhibition Building’s] façade.

“We will be able to take the Royal Exhibition Building to another level as a result.”

The festival will also return to Ballarat again, with a focus on the Australian bush. Drones will be used to create images of Ballarat from above and projections on the Town Hall and Craig’s Hotel will add psychedelic colour.

White Night Melbourne takes place from 7pm on Saturday February 17, 2018 and Ballarat follows a month later on Saturday March 17, 2018.