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A large scale video artwork with projections of dozens of people in a cavernous interior
Photograph: © Julian RosefeldtJulian Rosefeldt's Euphoria

Head to Melbourne to experience these cultural offerings at Rising 2023

Radiating out across the city from Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s major winter festival is packed with must-see arts events

By Stephen A Russell for Time Out in association with Visit Melbourne
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Melbourne’s sparkling cultural scene never sleeps, not even when the nights grow long and winter’s chill creeps into the corners of her famously graffitied laneways. But the Victorian capital’s nooks and crannies really come alive when celebrated winter festival Rising lights up the CBD and surrounds once more. Transforming the city with a glimmering array of exciting, intriguing and inspiring events, from mesmerising artworks crafted in light to breathtaking live performances, it's an event that proves Melbourne is in many ways at its best during winter.

Rising takes over Melbourne’s streets June 7-18. You can explore the program here.

Rising arts highlights around Melbourne

Celebrating the oldest living culture is at the heart of Rising, with fantastic works by exciting First Nations creatives taking over the centrepiece of the city – Flinders Street Station’s sprawling attic rooms. Towering over the commuters milling below, these vaulted spaces will host eye-popping works by the likes of game-changing Wiradjuri artist and storyteller Karla Dickens, Possum cloak maker and multi-disciplinary artist Vicki Couzens (Keerray Wooroong/Gunditjmara) and even Sweet Country filmmaker and Kaytej man Warwick Thornton, for an extended season from June 7 right through to 30 July. Curated by Yorta Yorta woman Kimberley Moulton, this will be too brilliant to miss. 

German video artist Julian Rosefeldt worked side by side with Australia’s screen queen Cate Blanchett on film piece Manifesto, which transformed the Tár maestro into myriad fascinating characters. They’re at it again with this even more ambitious work that casts Blanchett as a supermarket-stalking tiger in a surround-sound work beamed onto screens all over Melbourne Town Hall from June 2-18. An anti-capitalist masterpiece set to a dazzling jazz band and sweet musings from a melodic choir, it also features the remarkable talents of rap hero Snoop Dogg and Breaking Bad/The Mandalorian star Giancarlo Esposito. 

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For braver souls willing to rug up and immerse themselves in an unforgettable experience playing out beneath the glittering canopy of the stars, book into this mind-bending musical that channels a little of the old, deep magic. Taking place at twilight in Fitzroy Gardens’ leafy hollow tucked behind the Victorian Parliament from June 10-14, it’s an electroacoustic update on the oldest piece of music not lost to the mists of time: a hypnotic ode to Nikkal, goddess of the orchards and consort of the moon, no less. Co-created by composers and performance artists Genevieve Lacey (Pleasure Garden) and Erkki Veltheim (Diaspora) and harnessing the sounds of nature, this is one powerful ritual you’ll want to bow down to while the bats chatter above. 

During the moonlit nights that make up Rising’s wondrous winter bacchanal, if you make your way to the cathedral-like hall of Chapter House, you might just be able to feel a strangely warming wind on your skin, gently gusting its way in from the Caribbean. That’s because Haitian street culture heroes Atis Rezistans (Resistance Artists), a multi-generational music and art collective from Port-au-Prince’s Grand Rue hangouts, will take over this neo-gothic sandstone and wood palace from June 7-18. Fusing dance, sculptural practices, traditional painting and a steampunk approach to reinventing the abandoned detritus of modern life, this feel-good throwdown will surely lift revolutionary hearts. 

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Beyond Rising
Photograph: Supplied/Visit Victoria

Beyond Rising

With all this and more on offer across the length and breadth of the city during Rising’s wild nights of artistic abandon, there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff to see and do in the city this winter. And it doesn’t have to stop when the festival wraps, either. You can pay a visit to Melbourne Museum’s resident triceratops, explore the story of cinema at ACMI and pay tribute to the silver screen stars of exhibition Goddess, dive into the latest winter masterpiece collection at NGV International, with a focus on French Post-Impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard, learn more about the diversity of First Nations art at the Koorie Heritage Trust, and, of course, make the most of Melbourne’s internationally admired bar, restaurant and café scene. 

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