They pulled down the old Royal Women's Hospital on the corner of Swanston and Grattan Streets and built another sleek modern University of Melbourne building on the site. It includes the new Science Gallery. The first exhibition was delayed thanks to last years covid lockdowns but I finally visited this May. The Mental: Head Inside, with lots of interactive exhibits, provided fascinating perspectives on mental health. Being there in the last month meant that in some spaces I could see many traces of people who were there before me. Unfortunately it closed in June but here are some photos.
Thoughtforms by Dr Kellyann Geurts and Dr Indae Hwang
This was an amazing way to start thinking about mental health. By literally looking into the mind. The above computerised image show a constantly changing image based on my thoughts. It was generated by wearing a headset which is connected to the computer. I have never seen my thoughts in this way before! I was instructed to freeze the image while I was thinking a particular thought. This thought was 3D printed and I wrote my thought on a piece of paper to accompany it.
Unfortunately there was a backlog for the printing so I did not get to see the print-out of my thought. I wrote down what I was thinking but I can't even remember that fleeting thought. However there were many thoughts hanging around this exhibit with tags showing what each person was thinking. So many "three dimensional mementos of the mind" dangling from the beams!
Mirror Ritual by Nina Rajcic and SensiLab
Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the craziest of us all! If you stepped into a round curtained space and looked into the mirror it generated a poem based on the emotions it read on your face. So you can read the poem the mirror displayed for me and see what AI thinks of my mind. I found it so fascinating, I returned there a few times. I am not sure the poems made a lot of sense but they were different every time.
Even in Fear by Zhou Xiaohu
This exhibit was all about anxiety. We all know it ebbs and flows. It would grow from a shrivelled form in the corner of the room into a stretched balloon filling the cage (which I assume was a symbolised a mind. Then it would shrink again.
This demonstrated the pressure of anxiety trying to fill our mind and obliterate other more rational thought and then reducing to a harmless presence cowering in the corner of the mind. Watching it slowly breathing in and out was actually relaxing. Maybe it is easier to view the process outside of our mind than to manage it inside our own mind.
selfcare_4eva_2001 by Mary Angley and Caithlin O’Loghlen
This bedroom set-up was actually the residence of the artist for 2 weeks, during which time she explored self care and social media. I wish I had seen her there. It would have been fun to walk past the windows and look in at her life, though it seems she was on social media a lot in that time, exploring how we watch other people's lives in this online space and learn about the wellness industry.
Doing Nothing with AI by Emanuel Gollob
This odd shape seemed like a sci fi creature that was listening to our brainwaves via the headset and dancing to our brain activity. I think it did not move enough to excite me but perhaps I was in a bit of a hurry as I dropped in to watch it.
Wheel by Hiromi Tango and Dr Emma Burrows
Who does not love a rainbow striped hamster wheel! On the exhibition website it looks like someone is running on the wheel but when I was there, I was told to hold onto the bar and to look ahead as I walked. Each time you had a walk on the wheel it was recorded and compared to others' walks to see how far you got but it is too far away to remember exactly what was recorded. Being there at a quiet time was great as at times there were queues of people from visiting school groups.
Respite Space by Rosie Kalina with mural by Arkie Barton
This was set up as a safe space for First Nations people and the sign said that there would be mob-only events but it also welcomed everyone to take respite there. When I visited it was very quiet and it was relaxing to sit and contemplate the artwork.
Hello Human, Hello Machine by Rachel Hanlon
Although this was a bit of an unusual looking phone, it made me feel all nostalgic for old style telephones with a rotary dial, a chunky handset and curly cord. I think I might have checked the area at the bottom for returned coins because this is what we always did when going into a phone box!
When I picked up the handset and listened, a voice on the other end asked me questions about myself. We exchanged some information and then it unsettled me with asking if I thought it was a real person or a computer. The slight pauses made me feel it was maybe a computer. It turned out to be a person but pre-recorded and computerised to respond to my answers. Apparently there are some of these phones in other locations where people can pick up and talk to you.
Kind Words by Ziba Scott
I would have liked to have read every message but it was time to move on.
Portal by Rawcus with Lead Artist Prue Stevenson
I walked past this space and, though I did not go inside, I thought how nice it would be to have such a calming space at home.
Cushions? by Emily Fitzsimons
I had never thought knitting was an artform until I saw a Kate Just exhibition. These knitted cushions in the shape of pills was really cool. Leaning on pills or even holding them for comfort reflects just how we use them in our lives. If they had been for sale I would have bought one to take home.
Finally I stopped at the cafe to have a falafel wrap and a kombucha before riding home. The cafe was pretty basic with sandwiches and saldas but had some good food. I enjoyed my wrap even though it had a lot of quinoa in it that spilled out everywhere. But it was so large that I ended up taking half home.
I had great fun at the exhibit. It had lots of signts to delight me and ideas to amaze me. While this exhibition is closed, there is now an exhibition at the Science Gallery called SWARM that looks very interesting. I hope I can get along there some time.
University of Melbourne
700 Swanston Street, Carlton
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11am - 5pm