Mary-Jane Duffy previews Light Nelson

Lighting the night sky

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Daniel Allen and Klaasz Breukel_5 Kathy_Pantling_11
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.

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June Art

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.

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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.

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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