Federation Square & the Melbourne Prize

There is plenty to see and do in Federation Square; someone could probably write a blog and post nothing except all the stuff happening at Federation Square. There is a lot happening all the time both officially and unofficially: music, art, dance, food, videos and that is just what is happening outside.

Pop up Garden

I visited the Pop-up Patch, a vegetable garden in the middle of Melbourne in part of the disused carpark at the end of the Federation Square. There are patches used by restaurants and other people, including a planting of hops by Little Creatures brewery. It is a great little vegetable garden overlooking the Yarra River.


I normally don’t write many blog posts about Federation Square, I spend more time on Sydney Road, Gertrude Street or Hosier Lane. This is more a case of overrated (and consequently over-reported) and underrated rather than an idea of an authentic Melbourne location. This week I have been exploring Federation Square, walking around looking at the finalists work in the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014. (See my post Installing Ursa Major.)

The six finalists for the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture have work installed in Federation Square but don’t expect to see things of bronze, wood or stone on plinths. Juliana Engberg, Artistic Director of ACCA, said that the sculpture prize “reflects a shift in thinking, a long way from plonk space.” Another one of the prize judges, the sculptor Callum Morton, pointed out that the sculpture can be “propositional, monumental, performance based”.

Geoff Robinson, 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days

Geoff Robinson, 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days

Geoff Robinson was very happy to win Melbourne Prize; the $60,000 cash prize would make most artists very happy. His work 15 locations/15 minutes/15 days is a sonic sculptural event using the space and time of Federation Square. Robinson thanked the hundreds of volunteers who are ringing federation handbells, courtesy of Museum Victoria at the 15 locations each marked with a multi-coloured pole.

On the subject of sonic sculptural work, I have to mention the exhibition of The Instrument Builders Project (IBP) at NGV Studio. I love exhibitions of musical instruments, especially when I can use some of the instruments. IBP is an experimental collaborative project between Australian and Indonesian artists and musicians. It is also fantastic fun, with plenty of instruments that you could play on. Pedal power synthesisers, combinations between strings and percussions, foot pumped horns running on air power. Music as installations driving water and lights. There is a beauty in both the sculptural form of musical instruments along with the awareness of sonic potential in the object.

Back to the Melbourne Prize awards…

Kay Abude was completely surprised to win the $10,000 Professional Development Award. She had just been working in the Atrium, casting plaster ingots and painting them gold, before the Award presentation and was still wearing her work shirt and shorts. She didn’t think that she would win and hadn’t invited her parents.

Kay Abude, Piecework

Kay Abude, Piecework

Aleks Danko was the recipient of the Rural and Regional Development Award.

As I was leaving Federation Square on Thursday evening I saw a woman with a red plastic typewriter and a sign: “Free a Letter” sitting on the plastic grass. She was offering to type what you want to say. I wished that I could have found out more but I wanted to catch the 7:41 Upfield train and couldn’t hang around for another twenty minutes.

As I wrote at the start, there is plenty to see and do in Federation Square.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

6 responses to “Federation Square & the Melbourne Prize

  • Eucalypso

    Moving away from ‘plonk space’ for sculpture makes sense, though I’m over artists using volunteers for projects and then taking the kudos and money (that one will come back to bite me for sure). What’s happening is inspiring, can you please include Federation Square in your rounds in the future? Your blog of art, street art, and Melbourne puts the three favourites together, outside Adelaide of course, how good it that. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Mark Holsworth

      I don’t think that the 15 minutes of volunteer time is that big an issue with money and kudos, it is about participation and involvement. It would be a different sculpture with paid bell ringers and would be more like Abude’s Piecework where the workers are paid per piece.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if I do write more about Federation Square, thanks and keep reading.

    • Lucas M

      Ironic view of the work given it’s true value which, by definition, exists well beyond the basic input of labour.

  • Eucalypso

    About twenty years ago it was popular for female artists to reclaim traditional women’s crafts by designing projects and getting volunteers to do all the work (in the tradition of women’s work having little value). There is a fine line between a project coordinated for and by the community and a project about the artist that uses free community labour. Glad to hear that this one is more about the volunteers.

  • Lucas M

    There was a nice continuum I though, in Kay’s choice of blue collar uniform – very appropriate I thought given the nature of her practice and concerns. It reminded me straight away of Bianca Hester’s studio work attire which she sported at the last Melbourne Prize. I think at the time she made a point of saying some thing along the lines of: ‘artists are traditionally working class so why would I pretend to be anything else’ – i can’t remember if this was said on stage or candidly after. Respect either way. At the time I thought it brave and pretty radical given the uber formalities and Illuminati present (I had made the switch for the occasion – into my special armor, though still sporting fiberglass rash and welding radiation burn under my purpose bought shirt). It would be very fun to see a solid MPUS fashion tradition emerge – sartorialist extensions of work and practice.

    Congrats Kay! great work all round!

  • Eucalypso

    Interesting. Reading exhibition notes from (Anglo/European-Australian) women artists of the last century, many had independent incomes to allow them to work, which doesn’t sound like working class.

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: