Regular readers will know I am a great fan of light works — that is, art that makes light one of its subjects. My favourite example in Wellington is Bill Culbert’s SkyBlues on Jervois Quay. It’s a series of neon squiggles set on top of shiny aluminium poles, and is best viewed from the waterfront, but standing underneath it looking up is worth the trouble too…
What is it about a disco ball in a tree that is so lovely? More and more councils around the country have been decorating their botanic gardens over summer with lights. Our own council in Wellington lights up the botanic gardens over summer, and that’s always a good opportunity to visit the glow-worms. I’ve been to Blenheim at Christmas/New Year and walked around their gardens in the illuminated darkness. But my favourite park in summer is Pukekura Park in New Plymouth (in fact, the New Plymouth District Council may have even started this trend).
And such a trend. Lighting installations (like this year’s New Zealand Festival show Power Plant) give locals and visitors a reason to go to the gardens on a warm evening, but in winter this can be quite a different proposition. However, one of my highlights of 2013 was the Lux Festival organised by Massey University and the Wellington City Council. On a clear, icy Monday evening close to the shortest day, a bunch of other enthusiasts and I walked the city, maps in hand, hunting down the art that shone.
Meanwhile, across Cook Strait, the people of Nelson were doing the same thing in their civic gardens. This year, the Light Nelson festival will again light up three midwinter nights in Queens Gardens on 11–13 July. The selection of 30 works, mostly by local artists and collaborators, includes light shows, installations, video projections and interactive work — with an emphasis on low tech and simple.
Students and tutors from the local polytech, Nelson and Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), are well represented. Of particular interest is a collaborative work between poet Cliff Fell, artist Anne Rush and film-maker John Irwin called The Eel Pond Project. This installation pays homage to a site in the Chinese Garden where eels have always lived. Fell and Rush are also involved in another project using smartphone technology, poetry and light to tell the stories of the area’s heritage trees. The text is written by NMIT’s creative writing students.
I also like the sound of I’m Going Bats by Lori Davis, a group of glow-in-the-dark bats and their predators that hang in the trees, bat-style. Davis’ installation highlights the vulnerability of the native long-tailed bat. And in the spirit of community that dominates the festival, the bats are made by the children at a local art class. Other highlights include a collaboration between Auckland artist Philip Matthews and taonga puoro expert Richard Nunns, and a winter music festival organised by the Nelson School of Music.[info]
The Mata Aho Collective are currently on at Toi Pōneke in Abel Smith Street with their exhibition Kaokao. The collective is made up of four artists — Erena Baker, Sarah Hudson, Bridget Reweti and Terri Te Tau — who became friends during wānanga at Massey University. The exhibition responds to the upcoming First World War commemorations and explores the visibility of women in Māori and non-Māori histories using the metaphor of tukutuku and the traditional pattern kaokao, synonymous with Tūmatauenga, the god of war.[/info]
About Mary-Jane Duffy
Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essayist, and FishHead’s art columnist. She teaches poetry and academic writing on the Whiyireia Creative Writing programme, torturing students with half-rythmes and pantoums, zombie haiku, and line breaks, referencing and structure. Duffy has a background in museum and gallery work, making a lucky escape from the basement of the City Gallery Wellington in 2002 and opening the Mary Newtown Gallery with Paula Newtown in 2004. Art (across all the disciplines) feels like the closest thing she has to religious experiences — seeing, reading or hearing things that make her brain fizz.
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