Melbourne’s RISING festival returns with music, art... and a big hole

A person standing waist-deep in a hole they are digging

Nicola Dowse

Posted May 23, 2022

After being postponed in 2020, then cancelled in 2021, Victoria’s ‘new’ winter arts festival goes all-out with art that must be seen to be believed.

Melbourne is a city filled with holes, but not many done in the name of art.

From June 9 to 12, a perfect, circular hole will be dug in Melbourne’s Birrarung Marr by members of the public. And then it will be filled up. That’s it. That’s the artwork.

“When people get into it, they really get into it,” says Bron Batten, on the multiple creatives behind the aptly named work, The Hole. “I wouldn't be surprised at RISING if we had people come back over multiple days because there’s just something about it.”

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that The Hole provokes a reaction and further questions from all those who encounter it. The main question being, "why?”.

“Why not?” Batten says. “Why not dig a hole?”

2022 RISING arts festival in Melbourne


It’s not the first time the work has been shown, having originated out of an artists’ residency back in 2015. “A couple of the artists had this idea that we would start to just dig a hole,” she says. “Over a few days, everybody sort of started to get a bit obsessed with the hole.”

Batten and the creative team then took the work to the 2016 Falls Festival in Lorne where it was incredibly popular. “We had over 300 punters come and dig the hole over the course of the three days,” she says. “We filled it in and then later that night I saw these punters sitting where we filled in The Hole.”

“They were like ‘The Hole’s under here’.”

Batten says you can approach The Hole from several perspectives, including as a work of land art, as a Buddhist commentary on impermanence, or as a durational artwork. Batten laughs, “Or, you know, it's just a hole.”

This will be the first time the work has been produced during winter, and winter in Melbourne at that. Batten assures the creative team have accounted for potentially inhospitable weather, ensuring The Hole doesn’t become ‘the pond’.

“There will be a shelter,” she says. “We don’t want a massive mud pit!”

The Hole is just one of the 225 exhibitions, installations, concerts, performances, and events happening as part of RISING, Melbourne’s ‘new’ winter arts festival.


People standing around a perfectly circular hole

The question behind the artwork  isn't 'why dig a hole', but rather, 'why not dig a hole'? Photo: Lisa Hirmer.

Third times the charm

RISING is an amalgamation between the now defunct Melbourne International Arts Festival and White Night (which has moved to Victoria’s regional cities) and has experienced more than its fair share of setbacks since it was first announced.

The festival was originally slated to premier in 2020, only to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Hopes were high for a successful second attempt in 2021. Those hopes were dashed, however, when a lockdown was called just one day into the festival on May 27.

But with high vaccination rates and eased public health restrictions, it looks like 2022 could finally be RISING’s year to shine.

“I am so excited to see a long-held dream finally come to life. The artists, the city and the RISING team have been waiting for this moment for a long time," says RISING co-artistic director, Hannah Fox.

“Melbourne is such a culturally rich and diverse city, and we hope that RISING will not only reflect that creative energy but also bring something new, unexpected and really fun to the table.”


A giant, one-eyed inflatable alien sculpture with lots of tentacles set up outside of Sidney Myer Music Bowl

You'll encounter strange creatures (like this one-eyed inflatable alien by Tin & Ed) as part of The Wilds. 

Into the Wilds

The Hole sits well and truly at the ‘conceptual’ end of the art presented in RISING, with significantly less esoteric works also showing as part of the hotly anticipated festival, which features a whopping 225 events 12 days.

One of the biggest drawcards this year is The Wilds, which Fox describes as,” a sensory adventure through an art park of inflatable sculpture, towering video projections, dance and music ensembles, food and wine.”

The Wilds debuted in 2021, but few people saw it due to the snap lockdown. Even if you were among the lucky ones to attend the event, there’s plenty of new experiences to be excited for in 2022.

The Wilds in 2022 is even bigger with more artists and a performance program that includes a 200-voice choir, big dance ensembles parading the site and plenty of different areas to discover and explore,” says Fox.

Artists Tin & Ed and Leeroy New have created an otherworldly jungle for guests to explore, complete with inflatable creatures and alien landscapes – the latter of which uses bamboo structures from the cancelled 2021 production of The Wilds.

The Wilds also provides a (now) rare opportunity to go ice skating on the stage of Sidney Myer – with backing tracks from the Night Chorus who’ll be belting out hits from the 1980s and 1990s.

Fox says there’s several ways you can approach a night at The Wilds. “You can take a date or a friend for a fancy dinner in The Lighthouse and a wander through the art park, winding up drinking cocktails with 1800 Lasagne DJs, or you could take the kids for an ice-skating session, art and a hot chocolate – or just roll up and explore it with no plan required.”


People ice-skating on a rink set up on Sidney Myer Music Bowl

You've the rare opportunity to go ice skating at Sidney Myer Music Bowl as part of RISING 2022. Photo: Eugene Hyland.

Returning artworks

The Wilds isn’t the only event returning to Melbourne for RISING in 2022.

Golden Square is another eagerly awaited event that will get a second chance to shine come June 1.

The experience reimagines the Golden Square Carpark on Lonsdale Street into a multi-level contemporary art gallery, complete with strange projections, performances and even its own bar.

One of the highlights of Golden Square is Banksia, a video work exploring Australia’s first African settlers by one of the country’s most exciting contemporary artists, Atong Atem. During your time at Golden Square there’s also the chance that you’ll run into hoard of moon worshippers in Parade for the Moon, a twice-nightly procession inspired by the many cultures that honour the moon.

And if you haven’t seen it yet, RISING 2022 also presents the very last chance to see Patricia Piccinini’s A Miracle Constantly Repeated.  Piccinini has filled the usually closed off Flinders Street Station Ballroom with her signature hyper realistic sculptures of humans – not to mention human-like creatures - as well as some of her more abstract works.

The uncanny exhibition opened during RISING last year, closed for lockdown, then reopened at the end of 2021. Since then, it’s welcomed tens of thousands of guests through its doors but will be closing for good June 12.

RISING is on across Melbourne from June 1 to 12