The Melbourne Fringe Festival

8 October 2013

Written by: Ingrid Vaughan

The Melbourne Fringe Festival is an annual event that runs from late September to early October and celebrates independent artists, performers and musicians from around the nation. With tickets in hand, Erin Lyons, Ivana Krsteska and Emily Gook decided to explore life on the Fringe.

101 Vagina Book

101 vaginas hanging on wall. Who would have thought pubic hair and stretch marks would appear on them all. If you’ve ever felt self conscious down stairs, keep calm and read on. 

The Colour Factory in Fitzroy played host to one of the most confronting yet visceral experiences imaginable. The 101 Vagina Book aims to celebrate body image by breaking down the forbidden secrets behind a woman’s genitalia.

Entering a gallery containing 101 gorgeous black-and-white images of women’s vaginas isn’t your usual art experience. Initially, the exhibition was awfully confronting and somewhat uncomfortable. It was hard to know where to look, or where to begin.

Adding to the obscurity, every image was accompanied by a message written by each female about her genitalia. These supplementary stories challenged the ideas we have about the supposed ‘normality’ of vaginas and instead revealed our individuality and diversity.

Young women often have negative or anxious thoughts regarding their body image. However, the 101 Vagina Book aims to assist in overcoming those negative thoughts.

The rawness and honestly behind the stories grab you emotionally and it’s interesting how easy it was to relate to the majority of these written message, poems or letters.

Overall, the 101 Vagina Book was light-hearted, reflective, sassy and thought provoking. It was a raw and enthralling experience that aims to build confidence and teach you to appreciate your lady bits, because after all, they’re the only ones you’ve got.

Two of my favourite messages:

“My vagina has many fans, none greater than I”

“Don’t judge me, don’t change me, appreciate me, celebrate me”


This exhibition makes you think outside the box.

The organ that’s responsible for delivering babies is without doubt the most fascinating aspect of the female human body, and for decades it has been used to make women feel ashamed of themselves. Let’s face it, we all came into the world the same way, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Walking into the room, I felt confronted by the naked female genitalia staring down at me. It almost felt sinful to be looking at these images but after walking around and observing what this gallery has to offer, part of me became comfortable reading all the letters women had written to their vaginas.

One female said she hasn’t slept with anyone for years because her ex partner said her vagina looked like a turkey sandwich.

Another said, “I’m still unsure of both of our potentials but I am slowly beginning to feel womanly, sensual and full of inner strength.”

Philip Werner’s project teaches women and men to feel comfortable about vaginas, to not feel ashamed to look at them or talk about them, and even to celebrate them.

As a result, for the first time in my life, I was able to say the word out loud without feeling awkward.

Some more memorable messages:

“My only regret about my vagina is only having one. I wish I had two or ten…”

“Please learn how to use me properly.”

“When I was younger I used to think she was a coin slot! I could never understand why she didn’t deliver cheap toys or bubble gum when I fed her 20c pieces.”

“The external expectations and images in my mind of what a vagina should be like had faded away. I have moved away from the disease and towards beginning to realise the vastness of feminine beauty.”

Take a look at the full 101 Vagina book here and stay tuned for Penises 101 – coming soon.


Lighten UP!

A mix of modern art and obscure locations with pristine views of the Melbourne CBD.


Just off Swanston Street in the heart of the CBD, the Blindside gallery presented Lighten UP! This intriguing exhibition displayed the effects of light and space, as well as providing a fabulous view of Flinders Street Station and Federation Square.

Two Queensland artists, Susan Lincoln and Andrea Higgins, created a visually enticing exhibition by attempting to capture the diverse power of light and its effects.

This platform of modern art was unlike anything I have ever seen.

Susan Lincoln’s installation of numerous obscure white objects, scattered and hung throughout the gallery, took a minimal approach, yet it created a powerful image of light. A white sheet surrounded the objects as they glisten in all their glory around the confined space of the room.

Her artistic display was utterly refreshing and pure. I could have stood in that restricted white space all day, completely in awe of the hypnotic array of suspended white objects.

In contrast, Andrea Higgins demonstrated a different medium by exploring light and shape through dark, gloomy and patterned images. Her series of contemporary photograms tests the notion of modern photography by applying lace to her two dimensional objects.

The dissimilarity between the two artists was obvious, yet it somehow worked by creating consistency and variety.


Walking into Blindside was like walking into a murder scene from Dexter – minus the table.

Hanging from the ceiling was a big plastic sheet the length of the room with a strong natural light beaming through it. Behind the sheet was the exhibition – a compilation of clear plastic perspex panels hanging from the ceiling, held together by thin threads of fishing line. Different shapes and textures ranging from thick beads to thin pieces of plastic – with quotes such as “failure is not fatal” and “hope does not disappoint” – made the exhibition visually interesting.

Federation Square and Flinders Station were also reflected onto the plastic from the windows adjacent to the art work which added another element of interest to the piece.

Admirers or students of modern, contemporary art would appreciate the attention to detail in the work. Those who want a superb, uninterrupted view of the city would also love this exhibit. It’s not for those who like to know the reason or meaning behind a piece of art.

It’s not obvious but perhaps that’s the point of being on the ‘blindside’.



A secret show performed by two people to one person at a time for 30 seconds. Emily and Ivana took a risk with this Fringe Festival show and lived to tell their story. Question is, did they really see the same show?

confetti Ivana:

Big One Little One, the creators of this live art show, kept the description of the event a secret. Very little was known about the show except that it was a one person experience and it would take place behind a door.

At first, the thought of the unknown was nerve-wracking and terrifying, but it was instinctive to want to know what happens behind that door.

And we weren’t alone in our desire to discover the secret show. The room, which had been transformed into a laid back bar, was jam-packed full of unique individuals waiting to enter the chamber of secrets.

Like everyone else, we grabbed a helium balloon and waited to be called up.

Flustered, joyful and breathless were the most common expressions on the faces of the participants as they exited the room at the end of the show. As they walked out one by one, my anticipation grew more and more.

I knocked on the door and entered what was going to be one of the most entertaining experiences of my life.

The room consisted of:

– Bright colours, loud music and balloons.
– Vodka shots, spinning in circles and Piñatas.
– Chocolate cake, birthday candles and wishes.
– Two half naked girls, dancing and confetti.

As I walked out with an uncontrollable laughter and a sense of joy, I warned Emily to expect the unexpected.


Going down the stairs at the North Melbourne Town Hall to see ‘Confetti’ was an experience in itself. Suddenly we were underground, in a make shift bar complete with milk crates for seats and hipsters for company. The term ‘out of my comfort zone’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Unlike many people in the room, I didn’t have a bowler hat, I wasn’t wearing a vintage denim jacket and I wasn’t holding a silver helium balloon.

Screams from a black door in the corner of the bar led us to Confetti. Greeted by two smiling and silent men, we were given a silver balloon and told in sign language it would be a 20 minute wait for us to experience the 30-second secret show.

We sat close to the door witnessing, one by one, everyone’s anticipation and subsequent elation when they barged out of the black door.

Expressions of laughter, shock, surprise and confusion were the most common; all simultaneously etched on Ivana’s face when she emerged from the black door.

Not giving anything away, peer pressure got the better of me and I nervously walked up to the door, knocked three times and held my breath, praying it wasn’t some kind of kinky make-shift porno.

Luckily, it wasn’t. It was a few minutes of pure chaotic madness with two girls twirling me around, screaming in my ear to the beat of some psychedelic tunes. Piñatas were smashed, lemonade was skulled, selfies were taken, cheeks were kissed and confetti was thrown.

It was sweaty, fun, hilarious and ridiculous and, surprisingly, I loved every bit of it. If you don’t like surprises, you must do it.


The Invisible

The meaning behind this exhibition was certainly ‘invisible’ to the three of us. Erin Lyons was the only one conceptual enough to make sense of this rather obscure animal fur filled gallery. 


Held underground in fortyfivedownstairs gallery in Flinders Lane was the most bizarre, uncomfortable and confusing display of art I had ever seen.

The Invisible was an exhibition by Melbourne based artist Janice Gobey whose array of unusual artworks, including oil paintings and fur objects, explore the stages of post-traumatic stress disorder.

After spending three months in Berlin, Gobey was inspired to start her own collection of haunting paintings and fur objects.

Out of the three exhibitions I attended, this was by far the most uncomfortable and eerie excursion. The room was nothing more than a vast open space with old creaky floorboards, and an unforgettable number of oil paintings containing animals and dark imagery which created an spooky visual experience.

The most confronting aspect of the entire display was the life size fur suit that we were encouraged to try on. I found it too antagonising and decided not to try.

It’s sometimes hard to comprehend conceptual art. Although it was quite daunting and confusing, I appreciated its rawness.


Sex Booth- Sloppy Seconds

Would you be willing to disclose the details of your latest sexual encounter with a complete stranger in exchange for a personal poem? This fringe-goer was…


Located in the corner of the pumping 90s party was a small booth with the sign ‘Currently busting one out.’ As I stood around biting my nails, I was unsure if I really wanted to do this. But as soon as it flipped to open, I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride and entered the Sex Booth.

I sat down awkwardly as all the blood in my body rushed to my cheeks. My hands felt sweaty and my heart was racing.

Despite the description given upon entry, the consultation session lacked detail and there was no flirting whatsoever. Instead, the writer required the guest to write down five adjectives that describe the last time they were intimate with someone.

Passionate, sexy and hot would have been some of the common descriptive words used.

I wrote down words that had nothing to do with sex: helicopter, scent, secrets, hands, illicit.

25 minutes later, here is what I received.


Passionate grin

as though your lips were leaking secrets

without speaking.

Somatic, I listen to your scent…



though a little bit repetitive

I coast the waves of your c**k.

Crashed against the rocks,

water in the engine

I spit on your neck. Your eyes reply – “contest”.


I catch my breath as your flip me,

Quick hands make light of your work, sweaty.

I submit, a little bit,

then you manage my c**t.

You hover like a helicopter above oceans



The quivering of my scent,

tells stories illicit.

Somatic, your sail rises but crashes,

Bodies smash into the sheets.

Storm residing,

I calm you with a kiss.

Author – Dosh Lukwell


Eccentric, fun, unforgettable and free, the Melbourne Fringe Festival made one hell of an impression on the three of us.

For more information on shows from the Melbourne Fringe Festival click here.

If you didn’t get a chance to see what Melbourne had to offer this year, no fear the Adelaide Fringe Festival is just around the corner with over 900 events.


 Erin Lyons is a third year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student and a staff writer for upstart. You can Follow her on Twitter, @erinmaylyons.




upstart image

Ivana Krsteska is a third year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe and a staff writer for upstart. You can follow her on twitter: @Ivana_Krsteska




Emily-GookTHUMBEmily Gook is a third year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and a staff writer for upstart. You can follow her on twitter: @EmilyGook