State Library opens major 40-year Fringe Festival exhibition: ‘The Rest Is Up To You’

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State Library opens major 40-year Fringe Festival exhibition: ‘The Rest Is Up To You’

A major exhibition celebrating Melbourne Fringe Festival, the city’s longest-running multi-arts festival, opens today at State Library Victoria.

The Rest Is Up To You: Melbourne Fringe Festival 1982–2062 captures 40 years of unforgettable Fringe experiences through sound and video installations, and ephemera collected by the Library, while inviting exhibition-goers to dream of what the next 40 years could hold. It’s part of Melbourne Fringe Festival’s 40th anniversary celebrations, tieing in with this year’s theme: ‘About Time’.

The exhibition draws on the Library’s Fringe archive: thousands of letters, posters, programs and flyers, telling the story of the Festival’s shaky beginnings, and the four glorious decades of performing and visual arts, film, writing and comedy that have followed.

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From the very first meeting where three people turned up to the infamous Brunswick Street Parade, Fringe Furniture and the Waiters’ Race, The Rest Is Up To You tells the story of how Victoria’s independent artists demanded to be heard by creating their own movement in which to perform, provoke and protest.

Visitors to the exhibition will be greeted by a cacophony of sound – the recorded memories of artists and creatives. These oral histories will be preserved by the Library, breathing new life into the State Collection’s archive of Fringe memorabilia.


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Fringe Co-Founder Arpad Mihaly recalls the Festival in the early 1980s: “Everything was exciting, everything was new. It was like stepping onto a roller coaster. And you would get up to the first hill and then it would go flying down and you go WOW, this is incredible. And then it would go up to the next one and it would do it again.”

“I was living in Melbourne and there was a queer and underground club movement that was really exciting,” artist and creator Moira Finucane adds. “It was the mid-1990s, there were all kinds of political performances going on, there were a lot of act up performances and HIV AIDS performances. But there was also an incredible body positive identity, positive sex, positive women’s performance movement, and it was all in nightclubs, and I got swept up into it.”

State Library Victoria curator Kate Rhodes said this is an exhibition of people and their experiences of the Festival: “It allows us to see the projects, artforms and venues of Fringe, as well as the political movements and social changes interwoven with its programs. In looking back at the past to see its effects on the future, the exhibition is part time machine and part time capsule.

“Our title, ‘The Rest Is Up To You’, is from a 1984 Festival newsletter reminding artists to practice and promote their work along with Fringe. Nothing has changed about the intense labour of making art but today we might read this instruction more broadly: that cultures live through everybody’s participation in them.”

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