Friday Nights at the NGV are a wondrous affair merging two forms of art under the one stained glass ceiling. Click to read the short story by set in Melbourne


“I overheard that girl before saying she didn’t like cats,” said Olivia, turning away from the big screen. She and Rob were standing in “Studio Cats” – the kids’ section of the Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition. The room was an homage to the tiny feline, with kitty wallpapers, chairs with fluffy cat tails and computers with cat ears. The space was mostly dark so that the big screen theatre could be viewed without glare.
“What girl?” asked Rob, looking around.
“The blondie over there,” said Olivia, motioning her eyes towards the far wall.
“Ugh, she looks like a dog person,” said Rob, “I refuse to associate with animals that do not know how to clean themselves. If you’re that far down the evolutionary chain that you require help bathing then hand me some hand sanitiser and move away.”
“Disgusting creatures!” Olivia laughed. She looked back towards the big screen, realising she had missed parts of the film. When she had looked at it a moment ago the screen still showed clips of cats; now the screen flashed She called Andy ‘Candy Andy’. Olivia wondered who she was.
“Olive, let’s go into the photo booth,” begged Rob, tugging at Olivia’s sleeve.
“No the line’s insane! And we haven’t even looked at the main exhibition space yet,” protested Olivia, looking back towards the exit to the great hall. She still wanted to see Part 1 of the exhibition before Ngaiire started playing.
“But how will anyone know we were here?” asked Rob.
“I’ll take a photo of you by the cat wall,” said Olivia, taking out her iPhone. Rob posed by the wall pretending to pat the cats.
“Oh god, you’re looking too sexual with this cat!” said Olivia. Rob walked towards her and took the phone out of her hands.
“Ugh, the lighting is terrible, I look like shit, delete,” he said as he deleted the photo.
“Come on,” said Olivia, “we can check out all the hip clothes.”
The two walked through the main hall towards Part 1 of the exhibition.
“Wine first!” said Rob pointing at the bar. Walking over, Olivia stared up at the great stained glass ceiling, watching the lights flicker in purple and blue tones above them. She steered towards the wall to look at the placard that hung just a little distance from the bar. The placard explained that the ceiling had been made by Leonard French. What a brilliant name, she thought.
“Their red’s a Merlot blend,” Rob said, appalled.
“I am not drinking any fucking Merlot,” yelled Olivia.
“Sideways!” exclaimed Rob, recognizing the quote from the movie.
“Dammit Rob, one of these days I’ll get you,” she said.
“Unlikely,” replied Rob.
“Did you know that the decade after Sideways was released Merlot sales went way down and Pinot Noir sales went up?” asked Olivia.
“Understandably, Pinot is like a thousand times better than Merlot!” said Rob, “So should we get a bubbly then?”
“Yeah sounds good,” replied Olivia.
The two ordered a bubbly each and wandered into the courtyard. It was surprisingly warm outside. The NGV had laid out beanbags on the porch and there was water mist being sprayed over the little bridge that lead the way towards the garden areas; it was very inviting.
The two chose a pink table in the garden, after Rob had insisted on a photo of him walking through the mist on the bridge. After a little conversation about the movie “The Lobster,” and Rob’s failed date with William, (a case of too-small hands), the two wandered back to look at the rest of the exhibition.
They came across a dark room, which had beanbags scattered across the floor. A few people were lying in them staring up at the ceiling. Olivia and Rob moved two free beanbags closer together in the centre of the room and copied the other onlookers. The room gave the impression of being inside a giant snow globe. Against the ceiling, walls and floor were projected images of Andy Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable.”

The Pop idea, after all,
was that anybody
could do anything,
so naturally
we were all
trying to do it all.

Nobody wanted to stay
in one category;
we all wanted to
branch out into
every creative thing
we could do.

“Olive?” said Rob, perking up on his beanbag.
“Mmm,” she replied, still looking at the ceiling, the images now listing the band members of the Velvet Underground.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked Rob.
“I don’t know,” she said, sitting up on her pillow to look at Rob, “what do you want to be?”
“I don’t know, just more, you know,” he said.
“More than what you’re doing now?” asked Olivia.
“Yeah,” he said and shifted back down into his beanbag and stared at the ceiling. Images of Lou Reed came onto the walls. “His memorial in New York was three hours long and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Patti Smith,” said Rob, motioning towards Reed’s face on the walls.
The images projected all over the room often flashed and were speckled with white marks. It was relaxing resting their bodies on the beanbags while being entertained. But also disorientating, for whichever way you looked there were dancers, singers and silhouettes. To Olivia it seemed like an endless Snapchat video. The kind you receive from a friend on a Saturday night, or a Sunday morning if you missed out on the fun. You might enjoy watching it if your friends make regular cameos, but otherwise it’s really just images of parties; of people moving around, their bodies swaying to music, their eyes unfocussed on their surroundings except to sometimes look at the camera, smile, make an appearance, show they were there, to whoever was watching.
Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?
“What would you say at my funeral?” asked Rob.
“Your funeral? Hmm, I’d say… Here lies Robert Fartham, a man of impeccable wit, style and egoism.” Olivia received a firm elbow in her side. She continued, “Known amongst many for his ability to correctly quote any English spoken movie since 1973, his memory will follow us each time we enter a theatre or cinema. We will forever hold him in our hearts.”
“You haven’t spoken about what I have accomplished,” said Rob.
“Apologies, Robert Fartham, of course, is known to most of you by his screen name Robbie, just one name, like Beyoncé. His film career, with its humble beginnings in Melbourne, was sparked by a short movie filmed on nothing more than an iPhone6, which became a YouTube sensation and provides us all with the hope that we too can do more, and find fame in 15 minutes. His last film, which won him the Oscar for best director, was the film he dedicated to me, his lifelong muse, who he knows he’d be nothing without,” announced Olivia.
Another elbow in Olivia’s side, “Hey!” she yelled. Rob blew a kiss in her direction and Olivia moved her beanbag closer to him and let Rob put his arm around her. They continued to stare at the ceiling, allowing the images to reflect back into their faces.
“Yes Robbie,” she answered.
“Do you think we have any control over who we become?” asked Rob staring blankly at the ceiling. The images were mirrored in his pupil but he saw without observing.
“What do you mean?” said Olivia.
“Do you think we have control over becoming a Mapplethorpe, a Redford, a Plant or a De Niro?” asked Rob.
“You mean who decides which Robert is going to be famous?” she asked.
“Not famous,” said Rob, “just great, better, more than others.”
“Well, I think hard work goes in for sure but also a hell of a lot of luck,” said Olivia.
“And if you don’t have any luck?” questioned Rob, almost more to himself.
“Well then I guess you try harder,” she said, “or you give up.”
“Do you think I should give up?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Olivia earnestly, “but don’t give up making films.”

– The End –

Note: Words in indigo are Andy Warhol quotations.

National Gallery of Victoria
180 St Kilda Road
Melbourne, VIC, 3006

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