An abandoned ballroom becomes an epic time capsule
The rediscovery of the mysterious Flinders Street ballroom has fueled our imaginations in recent years. Its intrinsic connection to the history and fabric of Melbourne cannot be overlooked which is why the new TIME exhibition by Tyrone Wright, ‘Rone’ has been greatly anticipated. Wandering up the fabled corridors of the long-closed off areas of Flinders Street Station we reached the expanse of its mid-century ballroom, to find it filled with a large, ornate glasshouse, in dilapidated condition complete with overgrowing vines. Etherial music played in the background in complete harmony with the golden light that radiated through the glass. Looking out from the back of the glass is a large mural of a serene beauty in Rone’s unmistakable style. This ethereal mood set the tone for the rest of the installation.
This latest project is the realization of a concept that has been over three years in the making. Rone has created a time capsule of post-WWII Melbourne, honoring its mostly migrant blue-collar workers and their pivotal role in the rise of Melbourne.
“The station is such an Australian icon, yet the wonderful stories of its heyday are largely unknown to people today.” RONE states.
This is Rone’s most ambitious project to date which reimagines and takes over 11 rooms on the previously deserted third floor of Flinders Street Station. Each room encompasses elements of the building’s history while honoring many of the post-WWII era’s industries. There is a large typing pool, a sewing room, a telephone exchange, a library, an art room, a classroom, and more. Each room has been meticulously recreated and seamlessly blended into the original building, making it hard to distinguish the real from the imagined.
There is an overwhelming air of nostalgia and it is evidently clear that this project has been an absolute labour of love. Each room has been meticulously recreated and seamlessly blended into the original building, making it hard to distinguish the real from the imagined. There is an overwhelming air of nostalgia and it is evidently clear that this project has been an absolute labour of love.
Rone has a number of key collaborators on the project. Their all-encompassing work and meticulous attention to detail has helped facilitate this truly immersive experience. The haunting music in each room has been created by sound composer Nick Batterham, once a member of indie pop rock band the Earthmen. “I’m happy to leave those days behind” Nick tells us, when asked if he missed his band days. Nick has been collaborating with RONE on the sound throughout the entire 3 year process. Set builder director Callum Preston, set decorator Carly Spooner, as well as a team of more than 120 Victorian creatives and professionals were required to help realise every element of the exhibition’s vision.
It is difficult to take in all of the details in just one visit and there is much to appreciate. The set decoration and vast number of historical items is awe-inspiring, most that have been painstakingly weathered, aged and covered in cobwebs. As you linger in the rooms you notice subtle changes to lighting which flows with the lengthy musical score. I was impressed to discover the sound coming from high tech speakers hidden things like gramophones and vintage answering machines.
Each room is presided over by a large scale mural of an other worldly beauty, in this case Rone’s long time muse Teresa Oman featuring different expressions that convey a sense of sadness and reflection.
There are also a few Easter eggs, such as the retro Aspro Clear poster that hangs in the abandoned pharmacy. When asked if this was a nod to his previous project ‘Empire’, where he took over a mansion in the Dandenongs, once owned by the pharmaceutical company’s founder, RONE replies: ‘Nothing is accidental in this place’.
In the end, you feel like you’ve been transported to a different time and place. Somewhere between past and present and you’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey.