For a brief shining evening we felt like we knew something others didn’t, finally...
We’d made it to the Inn-Club.
We figured we were smart, we’d followed an arcane map of images. (admittedly, this perhaps took longer than it should) We were welcomed with copious personalised notes and instructional drawings.
We watched the little people queue outside Hot Star.
We wondered what was so great about Large Fried Chicken, knowing all the while that common food was no longer for us, we sipped Cristal instead.
We stumbled and crawled about.
We cursed the locked rooftop door.
We lay down, content in the knowledge that finally....
We’d made it to the Inn-Club, and we were the only people there.
We loved the intrigue of ‘discovering’ the hotel, of not knowing what or where we would be.
For people that are frequent passengers of the city, for work or play it was a unique experience to become part of the city in another way. To sleep amongst it, and camp in it.
Up from Poowong for the weekend, and after getting a taste for Melbourne’s vibrant arts & cultural scene at the White Night festival, we decided we’d take the plunge and sample the much anticipated HØTEL experience by creative masterminds Linda & Catherine in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. So, after an enjoyable Sunday afternoon of bitchin' beats and boutique beers at the nearby Melbourne institution which is Section 8, we signed our waiver, collected our HØTEL key and information booklet, and followed the directions to our lodgings for the night. After Finding the Place, Locking the Door and Sealing Ourselves In as instructed, we began exploring our new surroundings. A large, open space with commanding views over Swanston Street and Chinatown unfolded before us, the vastness of the interior interrupted only by a scattering of exposed concrete columns and an immense, makeshift bar-cum-bathtub. Upon further inspection, we discovered a more intimate niche tucked around the corner, in which the previously regular ground plane curiously folded and undulated, provoking the question, what lurks within? Our curiosity piqued, we would have to wait for our anticipation to be fulfilled, however, as despite locating apparent access hatches into this intriguing construct, we had as yet found no means of prying them open! Frantically searching the space for a clue, we finally noticed a small, unassuming key hanging on our guest keyring, and immediately our eyes fell on the tall, locked cupboard standing silently in the corner …
Thank you Linda, Catherine & Toot Fanute management for a memorable Melbourne experience – everything was to our satisfaction, and we particularly enjoyed the complimentary beverages, gigolo apparatus and reading material provided for us on our arrival.
It is Valentine's Day. I don’t usually go in for the hype - roses, hearts, chocolates etc. However, I am a hopeless romantic, but the key to it all is really surprising me with something adventurous, original, special and above all worthy of a good re-telling. This V-Day I am fortunate enough to receive an adventure that really goes down in my personal history book.
My fella takes me to an inner city bar where he liaises mysteriously with the bar staff, they all occasionally look over to me and smile knowingly - it is clear that there is something known here that I do not, I am curious. He returns with a key and a little book. The book looks like something that you may find sitting on plinth in a gallery, or accompanying a new designer's trade, it is called simply HOTEL and on closer inspection its contents reveal images that are taken from the nearby surroundings. A building cornice here, a sign there, a distinctive landmark… There is no text. We follow these clues on our own treasure hunt and find ourselves up a suitably seedy looking alleyway, all bins, smoking restaurant workers, grubby walls and a unobtrusive, so plain as to go unnoticed door. We try the key - I am thinking that we have maybe made a mistake with our clues and am already rechecking our visuals but the key turns in the lock and presto - in we go. The door is heavy and falls shut deep behind us, there is a dark stairwell which we climb somewhat gingerly that leads to a heavy steel door, and another visual match in our book-of-clues. In we go. The door opens onto an expanse of space, industrial, inspiring, huge sash windows that look out across Little Bourke and Swanston. This space has the feeling of things occurring, events passed, dancing long gone and parties. There is a bath tub and beer prices, wires hang from the roof, crates spill about in corners. I love it and embrace the space for what it is, still shrouded in mystery, I cannot tell yet exactly what our purpose but would be happy just to occupy this space for a while. We wander down, exploring…
We find a doorway and look through - we are not alone. At the end of this new space stands a girl. She appears to be hovering at first, but then my eyes adjust and I realise that she is elevated by the floor. This amazing blue floor slopes upwards in geometric peaks, to its highest point in the corner of the room. The girl announces that she has some poems to read us. We shuffle about and sort of swap spots with her, taking our seats on the geometric sloping blueness whilst she steps back down to reality. By know I am delightedly sitting with my mouth slightly ajar with wonder, I have succumbed to that fabulous childlike feeling of joy at the new and unexpected. We laugh as the girl reads us poems, sweet and funny about vegetables and spoons. Romantic poems, but soft, easy to receive from a stranger in a derelict room in the middle of the city as the sun is setting. The girl finishes and then announces that she will be leaving. She does. We sit, unsure of whether perhaps another 'performer' might materialise from the woodwork, wallpaper, windows. No one comes. We talk in a whisper but our voices get louder.
We start to explore. I start asking questions. It is delightful and hilarious, exciting and mysterious. There is a trapdoor in the blue floor, my fella suggests that I open it, hesitantly I do and looking down I see a soft yellowness that invites further inspection. Just as I lower my head into the trapdoor - and discover a secret yellow room under the floor not a metre high lit with fairy lights and complete with a pristine white bed and filled with white helium balloons - my fella opens another blue floor trapdoor causing a pull of air to suck these fifty or so white helium balloons out of the yellow room and into the main room, bringing the magic out. Yes, this was definitely a 'moment.' We manically start exploring, bent on discovery and we are rewarded! In old wood panelled cupboards we find two blue camping chairs, some fun and suggestive anime, champagne and a couple of glasses. Oh, chilled champagne. After much exclaiming and running around up and down under and over, testing the bed, peeping through trapdoors it is time to sit in our camping chairs ala the blue rinse set out the front of their camper when parked in the desert and by the open window watch the trams roll by and sip some bubbles. Divine. Like we have been allowed into our own secret penthouse ala industry and squat sensibility, our window to the world feels a little bit mischievous, a little bit privileged, definitely a lot of special. We hear buskers on the street, eavesdrop on people's conversations, sit bathed in an ever-changing coloured light and feel the heady lull of champagne and joy wash over us.
Happy Valentine’s Day? Um, yes. You bet.
My take on Hotel was an experience of travel that was both literal and figurative.
We were stumbling around in the street with arms full of takeaway Chinese and wine, collaborating to try and follow something that was like a map, but wasn’t quite one, trying to find something; we didn’t know quite what.
When we pushed through the door into the cavernous, faintly lit space we were greeted by a stranger reading a poem. It sounded like coded instructions, like something overheard in a language I don’t quite speak, in circumstances I don’t quite understand. Something which may be understood by context and inflection as much as by literal meaning.
I was in my hometown city centre but looking at it (quite literally) in a way I never had before - down from a first-floor window in the crosshairs of Little Bourke St and Swanston St. It looked familiar but differently tilted, like a foreign city where the people and cars and buildings seem recognisable, but aren’t.
And so began the discovery of the space. The exploration of the unfamiliar, the unseen, the possible. The locating of the toilets (mostly by smell). The eating in street-light-lit twilight, until we found the buzzing neon. The informal taking of inventory...what’s here? What do I wish I’d remembered to pack? Did you even see a mattress? How will we amuse ourselves in the absence of life’s usual distractions? (Mock ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ to Pat Benatar, and Prince.)
I was there with my travel friend, with whom I’ve shared strange experiences and strange beds in all kinds of strange places. Bedding down with her on a blow-up mattress under a kind of false floor was not identical to any of those other strange beds, but it was like them in its strangeness.
Like travel, Hotel tickled that part of my brain that doesn’t deal solely with literal understanding of signs, symbols, language, the known and the familiar. Like travel, I liked Hotel. I love that shit.
I wanted to write something really funny. So I Googled ‘funniest hotel review’. I found really disturbing accounts of holidays. Some of my favourites were: I gave my kids a bath and found pubic hairs on them (it didn’t say how old the kids were, so I am not sure if the hairs were attached or not); the beach was too sandy (I have always hated those too sandy beaches); they spat in my hair (it didn’t actually say who or where); only go if you like butterflies (doesn’t really sound that sinister to me). I was beginning to despair and then I came across a review that said, ‘weird, but how can you not go?’ Sure, that review was talking about a hotel that houses a penis museum (‘they even have a room with folklore creature dongs’), but really HØTEL wasn’t that different… minus the zombie cow and troll dongs. Although, that might be a great remodelling addition (I claim that as my idea). Now I am going to go back and name this review given that I have inspiration. ‘Weird, but how can you not go?’ is taken. So I will call this ‘Don’t not go.’ I love a good double negative.
So… back to HØTEL.
HØTEL was a bit challenging. We didn’t know what to do. We walked around for a little while. We got the lay of the land. I mapped it in my head. We went up the stairs (ah-mah, bad, I know) and checked out building. I sniffed the urinal. I counted the milk crates. Then I counted the foil covered milk crates. Then the ones without foil. I calculated ratios and percentages of foil to not. We tried to figure out a pattern for how the balloons were placed, or what they were tied to. Was that a clue? For what we were here for? As it started to get dark we found how to make the lights go. Then when it got dark we made them go. I was a bit confounded by the space. By the fact that there wasn’t much to do. But at the same time there was much to do. And what was with the oranges anyway?
I made it my dare to do what ever I wanted. Thereon followed a series of strange engagements. Perpetual ping pong (PPP), where the one rule is that the ball just doesn’t stop. Ever. The whole space converted to a court. Actually, two rules: you get imaginary points (that aren’t scored) if you hit a foil milk crate hanging from the ceiling (ah, damn they weren’t included in my ratio calculations). PPP was taxing. We sweated and grunted around the space. Slaving towards… what? There was no winner. Instead we threw oranges at the open hatches of the-whatever-the-fuck-you-call-that-thing. My hands smelled like oranges all night. As we threw the oranges we took deep breaths of helium and talked to each other like munchkins. We made a castle out of milk crates while humming the GoT theme really loudly (I totally watched it from season 1).
It was a strange place with a surprisingly comfortable mattress (take a blanket) and the pounding of Little Bourke Street felt like it was right inside my head. It was a hard space to engage with. But interestingly I laughed until my ribs hurt in the bathroom and I cried on top of the roof (ah-mah, bad, I know). Was it HØTEL? I don’t know. It was weird, but how could you not go?
Fantastic location! Excellent (non-intrusive) service!
You could say it felt like we shouldn’t have been there - but by all accounts we should have – and THAT made it special and unique. You could say it made me want to roll around in the place, because it felt like it was ours for a moment.
And with that excitement came a touch of the unfulfilled.. no matter how much we rolled around in there, we couldn’t have it all. Like a walk in the garden in the dead of night.
AND SO you could say I left feeling fuller, but emptier (and that liberating sensation of being confronted by the paradoxes we know reign within).
Like it had widened some internal space, without being able to fill it as much. Yes. You could say it creates a little chasm in your insides.
As we have both been so busy of late I had not put much thought into the experience that we were about to have. Armed with a rolly bag full of sleeping bags and wine, we were not fully equipped to tackle our overnight stay in the natural CBD environment after dark. But for the saving graces of a credit card and some bottled water we may not have survived the wilds of our natures, deprived of wifi, alone in a confined space.
We have been talking about going camping for some time now, but never seem to find a free weekend with the smalls. As I looked around the space in the evening I wondered where to put the camp fire for marshmallows, this is not a campsite for children. As a recurring nightmare for many kids is being trapped under the floor. Camping under the floor however is the modern cities dwellers solution to the boutique hotel and for us a romantic mid week retreat. How many spaces are being under utilised!!
Spending the night in an unfamiliar bouncy airbed, wrestling and rustling our way through the night, crawling in and out of the hatches I was reminded of so many camping trips, but this time I did not have to worry about the rain, I didn’t have to worry about cooking on a camp stove (Cookie is just round the corner), or whether I had forgotten the toilet shovel. Hotel thank you! Who needs to be out in the open anyway.
How to set the bar for a first date. Invite someone to sleep in the floor of an empty bar. A maze of a map to locate Hotel. A bottle of champagne and fine spread waiting upon check in. Look over the city at dusk, picnic on a rooftop, sleep on a camp mattress.
Relax. The bar is set. Next one is on them.
Arriving in the dark, we were greeted by an urban poet, reciting a limerick written especially for our stay. We listened attentively, and on the poet’s disappearance, the space was plunged back into darkness.
Without a torch, our visit unfolded as a slow exploration of light switches. The large room came alive, courtesy of an ever expanding bank of fluros. This now vibrantly illuminated space (complete with a sparkly fridge of blue(red) bull) said just one thing -a dance number . After chinese takeway (including the now GLOWING prawn crackers) we set about our own dance revival –the audition scene from Flash Dance, a blast of Staying Alive before finishing with an imagined role in So you think you can dance. Fatigued, we crawled in the space craft and set the controls on autopilot, aiming for the moon.
Re-entry was disorientating. Uncurling limbs, we commando rolled down the skin of the space ship, halting with a jolt. Carefully we picked our way through the valley of the twisted ankle before finding ourselves back on Swanston Street at dawn. The city appeared different. We had been somewhere but not quite sure where and for how long. The Hotel of Ambiguous Time and Space.
Art Hotels have never been cooler!
We found our way through a maze of China Town alleyways to stumble across a Bohemian/Squatters paradise in the middle of cosmopolitan Melbourne. Genuine 'urban' feel, complete with Manga porn, a sumptuous 90's food pyramid and dusty concrete floors. A must for any hipster looking for a night out to brag about to their friends.
I really loved the experience for a whole series of reasons.
The sense of squatting, in the middle of the city.
The different behaviours that this inspired - the cheekiness of a child in particular... have always loved opening doors and exploring places...
More to come...
No sleep, make-up Digiclowns, Animal Farm and Deleuze, Karaoke, community theatre readings, Tinder chat, a cave, a beach shore, meridian stretches, crying with onions, dawn city investigating. Champagne.
We ran a muck and felt like strangers in our own city. Nothing was overly defined and and it was difficult to say what was and wasn’t an extension on the hotel experience. We really liked the performance and feeling like we were somehow performing ourselv...
More to come...
B: They are here
B: Yes deep long slow breath
L: Check surroundings
Shall we begin to move?
B: Draw up right leg
L: rest right wrist on knee
Scratch left forehead
B: Let’s move to right corner to finish
L: Your right my left. Swanston st far corner
Left foot up
Deep breath x 3 own time
Let head drop
L: shuffle to closest corner a bit
B: hug knees
Head on knees
L: left cheek left knee
B: kick legs out fast
L: stretch ankles
Slide out from wall. Head on wall
B: Shuffle but so lie on back head still against wall
Tap feet together
L: Feet on window sill
B: Let feet go
Roll over onto tummy
L: On elbows. Sag spine between sholders
B: Lick lips
Wiggle backwards towards window like baby learning to crawl
B: Roll onto back then tummy fast
L: Chin to floor
B: Lick floor
L: 3 push ups
B: Draw knees in so but in air
L: find sill with bum. Like bum is nose sniffing
Polish edge of sill with bum
B: look at different points in the room
L: get bum close to window with knees on floor still
B: look out windows
L: sit on sill
L: torso between knees
B: in centre
L: stretch like baby t-rex
L: elbows on knees. Look at fly on ground
B: strike a pose like Olympia
L: peer out window like Helen of troy
Remember a funny joke
B: come to standing like an angry old gnarled man
L: bend knees more
B: Balance on toes
Turn away from window
Is there more?
B: You are made of clay and being sculpted
L: into a gargoyle
Facing each other
B: blob over like a gargoyle move towards corner
L: Face is serene
B: backs to each other
L: Rock gently
B: come to stillness slowly
Then let’s go
L: Ok 1 2 3 go