The multi-layered history of an iconic Melbourne marketplace is proving valuable fodder for the imagination of a Footscray artist.

Steven Rhall is one of 13 artists selected from more than 150 applicants to take part in the inaugural Public Art Melbourne Biennial Lab.

The two-week project, focussing on Queen Victoria Market, has Rhall working with the lab’s co-convenors, Situations UK director Claire Doherty and Deakin University visual arts professor David Cross, to develop public art projects in an intensive laboratory setting.

“It is a range of artists with different backgrounds and disciplines who are coming together to respond to the site in an artistic manner,” he said.

Rhall said his preparation had taken him deep into the history of Queen Victoria Market site, much of which has been developed upon a former cemetery.

“Post-European arrival, it was first used as a cemetery and has slowly been seconded for use as a market,” he said.

Rhall said the history lent a “curious morbidity” to the site and an opportunity to consider the often taboo topics of death and the afterlife.

The project will result in public art installations being unveiled at the market in October to coincide with the Melbourne Festival.