From trash to treasure … light-up installation transforms CBD laneway

By Brendan Rees

A colourful art installation featuring preloved dollhouses once destined for landfill has breathed new life into a narrow CBD laneway.   

Set in Corrs Lane, the pop-up light installation – called In Every Dream Home a Heart Ache by Melbourne artist Natty Solo – has left visitors in awe.

It is one of 40 artworks commissioned by the City of Melbourne and the state government as part of the Flash Forward project to revitalise some of city’s lesser-known laneways.

“It’s really nostalgic. When you see it, you dial up all the warm and fuzzy feelings which is pretty handy right now,” Ms Solo told CBD News this month during Melbourne’s sixth lockdown.

Ms Solo set about creating her installation over four months by “kerb-crawling” through her neighbourhood and picking through hard rubbish and reusing any children’s playhouses she could get her hands on.

“Just checking what people throw out says a lot about us,” she said.

“I paid for a few key pieces … but for the scale of the work, it’s really not cost me a lot.”

She also found items advertised for free on Facebook Marketplace which was “terrific rather than things going to waste”.

Described as part winter wonderland and part environmental horror show, Ms Solo said her installation was “like a pop-up outdoor sculpture held together with cable ties and milk crates”.

“Art galleries have a certain vibe about them and I really enjoyed being able to short-circuit that. People stumbling on artwork, walking down the street … it’s just a totally different thing really.”

By repurposing dollhouses, Ms Solo’s artwork explores concepts of suburban life, throw-away societies and the environmental impact of aspirational toys.

The idea of a house, she said, was also a key theme of her work because they had “become really front and centre because we’re now grid-locked into our homes”.

“Australia seems pretty enamoured with the housing market which is sort of a runaway train that seems to have no end.” 

Ms Solo, who is a professional sculpturist, said creating the installation was a “really great experience” and “because it’s preloved dollhouses we allow the children to touch and play with the work.”

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the installation had drawn many Melbourne families into Chinatown to “see the stunning and thought-provoking display”.

Cr Capp said the Flash Forward program was aimed at delivering artistic projects that “reimagine our city laneways” while creating jobs for Victorians who had been impacted by COVID-19.

“Melbourne’s laneway culture is internationally renowned and this investment will make our city more vibrant, more welcoming and more attractive, which will help local businesses once thrive when restrictions are eased,” she said.

Employment Minister Jaala Pulford said, “These projects are bringing new life to our laneways and generating jobs for workers in some of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic.”

Smythe Lane, Evans Lane, Drewery Lane, Corrs Lane and Royal Arcade are among the CBD locations receiving a spruce-up, giving new life to the laneways.

In Every Dream Home a Heart Ache closes September 5 •

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