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Step into the Melbourne Fringe Festival time machine at State Library Victoria

Media release

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Thursday 06 October 2022

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. 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.

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.

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.”

Artist and creator Moira Finucane recalls how she was drawn into Melbourne Fringe: “I was living in Melbourne and there was a queer and underground club movement that was really exciting. 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.”

State Library Victoria CEO Paul Duldig said the Library is proud to partner with Melbourne Fringe Festival for this exhibition.

“Fringe and the Library have much in common: we are both open, welcoming, safe spaces for all, we both nurture storytellers and we both want people to participate – not just observe,” he said.

“In celebration of its 40th birthday, we honour the transformative role Fringe has had in opening up access to and participation in arts and culture in Melbourne. And what better way to do this than through collaborative storytelling?”

Melbourne Fringe Creative Director and CEO Simon Abrahams said he is looking forward to this year’s festival.

“We are excited this exhibit is amongst fine company in our biggest Festival ever comprising of over 450 events including the introduction of the Runaway Festival Park at Queen Victoria Market and the return of our iconic Fringe Parade.”

The Rest Is Up To You: Melbourne Fringe Festival 1982–2062 opens in the Keith Murdoch Gallery on October 6 as part of the 2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival and will run until July 2023.

About State Library

State Library Victoria is Australia’s oldest public research library and one of the first free libraries in the world. As the custodian of Victoria’s history, the Library has a rich collection of physical and digital items such articles, artworks, photographs, manuscripts, books, journals, artefacts that are accessible to the public via exhibitions, online catalogue searches, podcasts and videos.

About Melbourne Fringe Festival (6 – 23 October 2022)

Melbourne Fringe empowers anyone to realise their right to creative expression through the Melbourne Fringe Festival, year-round venue Fringe Common Rooms and a range of sector leadership programs. For 2.5 weeks each year, the Melbourne Fringe Festival allows audiences to discover the unexpected with art being made and created across the city in theatres, galleries, venues, public spaces, homes, studios and everywhere in between. Its open access framework means that anyone can register to be part of the Festival, bringing voices from the margins and amplifying them across the city. Melbourne Fringe believes that access to arts and creativity are fundamental rights, and encourages artistic participation through large scale public artworks, experimental children’s art, design exhibition Fringe Furniture, Fringe Common Rooms at Trades Hall and late-night Club Fringe programming. Melbourne Fringe keeps access and inclusion at its heart, actively working to remove barriers to participation and develop artists skills through First Nations commissioning program Deadly Fringe, Deaf and disability arts programs, mentorships, workshops, residencies, forums, awards and touring support.