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Valhalla Melbourne International Arts Festival Arts Centre Forecourt

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a majestic, enormous martial hall housing the chosen dead.

I didn’t know this fact when I entered Valhalla, Callum Morton’s new work for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. I knew that the desolate, pock-marked, concrete crumble was a three-quarter scale replica of Morton’s childhood home and I knew that some lifts would be involved. But when I pushed open the frosted glass door, I saw a janitor lying motionless and spread-eagled face down, as if he’d been bludgeoned from behind. I was so shocked that I froze and forgot to take a photo – and by the time I’d gathered my senses he’d already stood up to start mopping the floor, push lift buttons and swing backwards in a plastic chair.

Valhalla Melbourne International Arts Festival Arts Centre Forecourt

After that, I stood in the corner and watched the reactions of the other people as they entered the claustrophobic corporate-style marble foyer. People faced the lift doors in silence, carefully avoiding eye contact with each other or held whispered conferences in pairs. Everyone’s reflex was to stare up hopefully at the flashing lift lights at the sound of the lift’s ‘ding’. It was amusing to observe that even though people knew that the lifts didn’t exist, everyone still reacted to the space as if it was their reality. I met some other visitors outside and we all started laughing at our experience.

Valhalla Melbourne International Arts Festival Arts Centre Forecourt

Read The Age’s interview with Callum Morton here