White Night to light up Bendigo, Geelong with heavy metal

A neon emu lit up against an old building at night time

Nicola Dowse

Posted August 23, 2022

After two years of waiting, White Night returns to Victoria’s regions with plenty of light, art, music and a car-crushing performance.

It sounds like a scene from Mad Max: a full-sized car crushed by an enormous machine in the middle of the city, while heavy metal music and pyrotechnics fire in the background.

But it’s not an outtake – it’s a performance called Heavy Metal coming to regional Victoria as part of White Night festival.

White Night 2022 will show in both Bendigo (September 3) and Geelong (October 8) for a one-night-only performance after two years of planning and postponements.  

Joseph O’Farrell, who goes by the artist's name JOF, is the Creative Director for White Night. JOF believes audiences are ready to re-experience the “beautiful, communal moment” that is White Night, whether that be though music, projections or installations that cater for every age and interest (not just metal-heads).

“We've been dreaming of this program for so long,” he says. “I just am thrilled and cannot wait to share this event with the audience.”

From Paris to Victoria

White Night was first held in Paris in 2002 where it was known as Nuit Blanche and ran through the night, from dusk till dawn. The festival is famed for how it uses cities as a canvas, illuminating famous buildings with projection art, filling streets with zany performances and eclectic music, encouraging residents to rediscover their cities in a different light... literally.  

The global phenomenon first came to Victoria in summer 2013, attracting a whopping 300,000 nocturnal revellers to the streets of Melbourne for one night only.

The event continued in this format every year until 2019, when it changed to a three-night winter event, before eventually being subsumed into new winter arts festival, RISING.  

However, Victoria’s regions have continued to celebrate the arts festival – though this year marks their first real chance to do so since 2020, with audiences champing at the bit.

“We’re expecting around 60 to 70,000 people in Bendigo and 70,000 in Geelong,” JOF says. “I really feel that everyone is ready for this. We just haven't experienced anything like this for such a long time.”


Around 70,000 people are expected to experience White Night in both Bendigo and Geelong this spring.
The Guardian, a huge lion-like puppet, will prowl Western Beach Road in Geelong, as well as the streets of Bendigo.
Bendigo's Gold Rush-era architecture will be used as a canvas to project art on as part of White Night.

Focus on First Nations

This year, the theme for White Night is “everything on the land is reflected in the sky”, which JOF describes as “the sky, the constellations, the stars, even some cheeky alien takeovers.” 

“The theme really asks audiences and artists to openly respond to the notion of the night sky, constellations, and the universe while also reflecting on the environment and the country that we’re placing these two events on – Dja Dja Wurrung Country and Wathaurong Country,” he says.

It’s a concept both inspired by, and delivered in consultation with, the traditional owners of each city, with a focus on First Peoples creatives evident throughout White Night’s Bendigo and Geelong programming. 

One of the most spectacular works coming to both White Nights is The Electric Canvas, a massive installation of projection art beamed onto major buildings in each city. In 2022, The Electric Canvas will focus on the work of local First Nations artists, including Troy Firebrace, Natasha Carter, Jenna Oldaker, Kait James and Billy-Jay O’Toole.

“They're incredible artists and make really different, awesome work that we will be showcasing on this huge canvas.”

A tale of two cities

While there is some overlap in the programming for the Bendigo and Geelong events, White Night organisers have tailored the festivals to the individual history, culture and character of the individual cities. 

“The way in which we’ve approached the program… it’s a conversation with both cities. And that conversation is about thinking of them as a canvas on which to build these events,” says JOF. 

In Bendigo, that means utilising the Gold Rush-era architecture, as well as hosting artworks and performances that nod to the city’s rich Chinese heritage and culture. That includes teaming up with the acclaimed Golden Dragon Museum for a takeover featuring SBS PopAsia’s Andy Trieu taking on DJ responsibilities while guests explore artist Derek Ho’s White Rabbit Candy Buffet.

In Geelong, the White Night program will be tempered by the city’s industrial past, as well as noting its contemporary transition as a hub for art and music. 

“It’s a beautiful city by the sea as well, it would be remiss of us not to take full advantage of Western Beach Road and that beautiful view of the ocean as it looks back to Melbourne,” JOF says. 

It’s on this major seaside street where Geelong White Night audiences will find The Guardian, a ten-metre-long, four-metre-high luminous lion puppet studded with crystals.

“Audiences can come up close and take a selfie and really interact with a huge creature of the night.”


White Night will bring a number of glowing installations to both Geelong and Bendigo.
Heavy Metal turns car-crushing into art, backed by heavy metal music and pyrotechnics.
'Unplugged' from Airena will allow audiences to walk up close and examine a giant, silvery brain.

White Night 2022 highlights

Heavy Metal

In Geelong, Heavy Metal will no doubt be one of the highlights of the White Night events, with cars crushed every half hour while musicians provide a live soundtrack of heavy metal. The work is inspired by the construction and machinery in the city, as well as Geelong’s automotive past. 

The performance is the work of JOF himself, who has teamed up with a sustainable steel business to source the cars and recycle once they’ve been crushed.

“It's a wild crazy work,” he says. “The city of Geelong wouldn't have seen anything like it before.”


Commissioned from Airena and artist Felipe Reynolds specifically for White Night 2022, Unplugged is a giant, silvery brain which audiences can walk right up to and see themselves reflected in, while also watching ‘neurons’ bounce across the sculpture’s surface. 

It’s a visually engaging work that belies a deeper meaning. 

“That’ll be the work where people will definitely want to have their selfie taken, but also kind of think about the human brain and its development in terms of social media.”

Colouring in Competition

Showing in both Geelong and Bendigo is Colouring in Competition, a projection artwork that puts the art of children in the spotlight. Artist Jim Coad of Video Architecture worked with 250 primary-aged children across both cities to create artwork, which will then be projected on key buildings during the festival.

“This whole event is about creating memories for our audience and for the people in the city,” JOF says.

“If I was a grade six, and I got to design an artwork that sat in the program alongside all these professional projection artists, I’d never forget that.”

Find out more about White Night Bendigo and Geelong by visiting the White Night website.

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