Hidden upstairs at Flinders Street Station lies the abandoned third-floor wing and ballroom that I had only heard about for years but did not believe existed in my own city. Cut to 2023, and not only had I finally stepped into this space, but I visited at the most opportune time where it had become a canvas for Melbourne artist Rone’s latest work ‘TIME’.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For someone who relishes in art and music, I shamefully had not seen Rone’s work before this event. So, after lining up outside briefly and entering the venue, my session group were under the instructions to not touch anything or sit anywhere, no matter how tempting it would be. And while I thought these were strange instructions, as soon as I entered the exhibition area, I understood.
After being directed to the elevator and stepping onto the third floor, my ears were greeted with music and there were several rooms that I could enter in any order (although the ballroom is recommended last), wander around freely and witness.
The lemony yellow and cream coloured hallways had their windows covered with old newspaper, and while the articles were fascinating to look upon, the rooms themselves were even more enthralling. In total, I believe there are about 11 rooms, but I was so captivated by them, I didn’t exactly count.
Transporting attendees to a fictional post-WWII Melbourne, these unique distinctly themed rooms were filled with original period objects and what they couldn’t find they recreated. With haunting lighting and sound design, accompanied by beautiful music being played in every room, this is something that needs to be seen to be believed.
If anything, the music made the experience more immersive, when normally in any other gallery setting, I’d be used to the chitter chatter of patrons while trying to read the information on the walls that accompanied the artworks. But there was nothing to read on the Level 3 floor of Flinders Street Station. And I just needed to trust the process and let my eyes and ears take in the wordless story that Rone had presented before us.
As I wandered through all the rooms, I couldn’t help but admire how the art suited the façade, making it look like all of this he had created had always been there. I also, at times, forgot that it was an art installation, and I found myself wondering what happened to the people that once worked here while I studied the cobwebbed typewriters, an abandoned toy train, forgotten sewing machines, unfinished drawings on easels, and old rotary telephones. People that never really were.
A portrait of a woman would majestically be the focal point of every room, whether it be on a chalk board, on a wall, on various books, or even a transportation map of Victoria.
The attention to detail is also so astounding. The light flickering on the old switchboard, the mail room with letters and envelopes scattered everywhere and igniting my curiosity to get closer to read their contents. Even in the library, all the book spines had on them, ‘Rone. Time. Melbourne.’. Everything was just so thoughtfully created and it was all extremely clever.
My favourite moments were walking into The Clock Room, hearing a piano being played and doing a double take at the piano in the room to see if its keys were moving or not. I also adored the lighting in the hallway going off in a row, like it was eating the light, and then when the lights turned on again, it was like the light was chasing away the darkness.
I recall gasping in awe at The Library. As a child, I was a real bookworm and although I don’t read as much as I would like due to time restraints, I still love reading and books, so I felt very much at home in what was my favourite room of the exhibition. Everything about that particular room was wonderful.
The pièce de resistance of ‘TIME’ though was The Glasshouse. A beautiful arched glasshouse with vines covering parts of the archway, making it look like it had always been there. In its centre a picture of a woman is displayed, with the lighting from outside and the lights framing her face perfectly. It’s stunning.
There’s just something so exquisitely beautiful about ‘TIME’. An unspoken bittersweet love letter to Melbourne, ‘TIME’ is the perfect combination of modern art and an admiration for classical beauty inspired by history. These themes and ideas marry magnificently with original music specifically composed by Nick Batterham. I didn’t even realise that there were 10 beautiful songs, as everything felt and sounded so cohesive, no matter which room I entered.
‘TIME’ not only shows us artfully executed installations that feel like time has been frozen. But the entire exhibition is also a powerful reminder that time, like life, is finite. Considering that like Rone’s other works I have only heard about but will never see, everything will cease to exist and be gone forever once this phenomenal exhibition is over.
TIME • RONE is exclusive to Melbourne, located on the Flinders Street Station third floor until April 23.
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://rone.art
Photography by Grant Alexander.