6 August 2011

by Bi Lee

Video producer Lachlan Tetlow-Stuart pulled his striped hoody over his head while he stood on the step-ladder to set up the screen projector under the drizzle. Over his shoulder, the sunset continuum fitted like the backdrop in theatrical scenery, transiting slowly between intense orange to purple.

The crowd started to stroll in, passing by the video projected on the whitewashed wall of the building. Some turned left into the salon while others headed straight for the lounge sofas.


“It’s mostly locals who come here to relax after a long week. They want to go out but they don’t want to go all the way into the city,” video producer and curator of the Parlour Brian Cohen said.


Count yourself lucky each time you are present at the Post-Lantern Night Market and Exhibit at the Parlour, Preston. Held every first Friday of the month since June 2011, the event is named after the three post-lanterns erected on the iron fence that lights up at night.


The Parlour was initially an abandoned funeral complex before Mr Cohen leased the space and reinvented it into an activity centre for local arts and cultural initiative in mid-March 2011.


“Most art studios and collectives tend to focus on their individual practices and work in a close network. There is a demonstrated need for affordable studio, office and gathering space for the Inner North public,” Mr Cohen said in his office on the second level.


Spreading by word-of-mouth and social networking site, Facebook, the Parlour has since captured the interests of local music bands, theatrical plays, fashion photo-shoots and social celebrations.


However, Mr Cohen and his team of artists, photographers, graphic designers and video producers will have to find a new home within the next six months after the owner of the space successfully obtained a permit to redevelop the land into apartments.


In a recent report by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council, it concluded that public open space per capita is likely to decrease over time for almost all municipalities and recommended the Baillieu government to prepare a ''metropolitan open space policy and strategy that provides a long-term plan for public open space''.


“Culture doesn’t just happen; it needs the right environments to flourish within. Long term, it’s socially and economically beneficial for the government to implement considered cultural provisions around cultural activities,” Mr Cohen said.


Back in the salon outside the chapel, the lights were dimmed. Over the mahogany counter beside the open log fireplace, international student Hidzir Hamin ordered a packet of spicy nuts and red wine. The tantalising scent of vanilla and cardamom drifted around the air in the chapel where market tenants have set up their stalls.


“Until fairly recently, there hasn’t been much happening around Preston. We try to hang out here with our friends every month. It’s unfortunate that the Parlour is giving way to apartments,” Mr Hidzir said.


A sudden glitch that produced a screech on the guitar amplifier reduced the crowd to silence as their attention diverted to Seri Vida, performing first that evening. Strapped on an electric guitar and decked out in calf-high boots, she begun to strum the guitar strings while children performed somersaults and chased after each other on the grass patch that stretched across the area in front of the performance space and what used to be the mortuary.


Mr Tetlow-Stuart and Harry Aronsten, both video producers, have converted the mortuary into their workspace and utilised the freezer as storage. The exposed interior brick and high ceiling resembled closer to a loft common in Manhattan.


Outside at a corner under the patio heater, Mr Hidzir and his friends brought fourth a chorus of exclamations before clinking their wine glasses and toasting to a good weekend.

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