It’s a misty-rain day in Melbourne. The top of the Eureka tower has disappeared in the low cloud; people are out shopping for bargains in the winter sales and ducks wade in puddles round the Hamer Hall construction on St Kilda Road. At Fed Square a carpet of books and tiny lights are spreading out over Nearamnew markings in the cobble stones for The Light in Winter.
The anonymous artists, Luzinterruptus are upstairs somewhere fixing LEDs to about 10,000 books the Salvation Army have donated for the installation, which will continue to grow until The Light in Winter ends on 1 July. Even now, at the beginnings of the installation, visitors to Fed Square are taking photos of each other among the books, and investigating the texts for hidden wonder.
A space ship in the middle of the Square is broadcasting text messages from who knows where… “Do you ever stop talking on your planet?”, while little sheds beckons you to take shelter.
We are sheltered inside Arintji, on the mezzanine at a long table that keeps getting longer whenever someone new joins us. We are reading The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, the novel written by Fergus Hume in 1888. Published 124 years ago, it still weaves a compelling mystery through Melbourne streets, suburbs and institutions whose names we recognise – Collins St, St Kilda, the Melbourne Club.
Fellow reader, Sage is here again to read with us. She was with us on the first weekend and returns to trace the steps of the mystery. She declares she’s “hooked” and thinks she has to be at the reading every weekend until we finish on June 30th.
These readings will happen at 2.30pm each Saturday at Arintji till we finish the book and we hope people will join us to make it happen by the 30 June. It’s not just the great mystery read, or the fascination with Melbourne’s past, but the act of shared reading that surprises us. As we go round the table today the Australian accent is suddenly followed by something tinged from India, and the next reader is clearly American. We all read differently, our accents and voices are all different, but what a wonder that despite our differences and we can share the act of reading, share in the present a taste of the past in Melbourne.
It’s even more of a wonder that an inspiring festival in the heart of Melbourne can give us this gift. The Light in Winter is enlightening us through reading. I’ll be back next Saturday at 2.30pm (17 June) to join the read at Arintji - it lasts a couple of hours - and then to experience Reading the Body, a salute to those cultures whose traditional readings were in signs and symbols (Saturday 16 June, 4.30pm).
See you there!
Fed Square’s free annual, month-long program, The Light in Winter launches this Friday. Directed by Robyn Archer, this year’s program takes inspiration from the National Year of Reading and will focus on the enlightenment that reading brings to our lives. Literary texts, oral traditions, calligraphy, music, body art and braille will be re-imagined in creative ways; a village of interactive light sculptures by international and local designers will take over the Square; and an array of festive events will delight and entertain.
Take a look at what’s on for the month at fedsquare.com/thelightinwinter
Pictured: Literature Vs Traffic by Spanish guerilla art collective, Luzinterruptus. They will be bringing their en-masse illuminated book installation to Fed Square for its Australian Debut.