For the Birds

The last NZ Festival in 2014 included an event called Power Plant which was a trail of light and sound installations set up in the Wellington Botanical Gardens. It was a well recieved and popular event so there was a follow-up organised for this years festival called For the Birds. As the name suggests this new event had its influence in our feathered friends and overall it was a more thoughtful and relaxed experience while still encouraging interaction and cultivating a sense of wonder.

Books, birds and bird houses

Books, birds and bird houses (Cuckoo Ensemble – Artist: Jony Easterby)

 

Talking, glowing eggs

Talking, glowing Huia eggs (Nests – Artist: Marcus McShane)

 

Now extinct

Now extinct, the eggs of the Haast’s Eagle (Nests – Artist: Marcus McShane)

Initially the installations were mostly static with small moving parts and subdued lighting. The bird houses above had small bellows that sounded in cycles, mimicking somewhat mournful two note “cuck-oo” calls. The glowing eggs I found very engaging and very relevant. There were a number of nests containing eggs, each set representative of a species of New Zealand bird now extinct. The eggs glowed in time to an audio track of conversation between the birds inside the eggs and their hunters, for instance the unhatched Huia bemoaning that people would want their feathers when they look much better on the bird as intended. There was a lot of humour in the conversations as well which I found helped with the engagement.

Mysterious birds

Mysterious birds (Owls & Kingfishers – Artist: Mark Anderson)

Movement began to be introduced with installations traversing large areas. The mysterious calls of the Owls and Kingfishers piece came from small devices attached to long wires that were strung between trees and above the stream bed. We’d turn as we heard one approach and then watch as they came towards us and then disappear as the lights dimmed at the end of their path, only to spark up and pass back again a short time later. Alayna found it a little disconcerting but that was understandable for a 2 and half year old up well past her bedtime. I just wanted to find a space where I could try and get some photos without interrupting the constant flow of fellow visitors.

The glowing tunnel

The glowing tunnel (Feather Arch – Artist: Ulf Pedersen)

A glowing tunnel gradually formed as we walked up a slope, first appearing as lights in the distance and then becoming ephemeral walls and ceiling around us as the light source was approached, light becoming stronger and then fading as the smoke was pushed across the path. It was a beautifully still night so the smoke moved and dissipated slowly keeping the structure of the tunnel very well defined as passers by waved their fingers through the projection.

Birds through the wires

Birds through the wires (Piano Migrations – Artist: Kathy Hinde)

A crowd had formed in from of the Piano Migrations installation watching as shadow birds fluttered through the upended piano strings, their movement apparently touching on strings to make a strange music. Is was quite mesmerising, attested by the amount of time people stood by and took it all in.

Bird house silhouettes

Bird house silhouettes (Shadow Birdcages – Artist: Jony Easterby)

 

The bird arch

The bird arch (Lapwing Display – Artist: Jony Easterby)

 

How it works

How it works (Shadow Birdcages – Artist: Jony Easterby)

We came out of the forest into the dell that is the Troupe Picnic Lawn with a number of works scattered around. The Shadow Birdcages attracted a number of people who often posed to have their own shadow portrait captured with the bird cage silhouettes. Keryn and Alayna were immortalised in kind as evidenced at the top of this page. Stepping around the screen the birdcages could be seen and provided a separate interesting sight, hanging suspended while bathed in light.

Off to one side the silent outlines of lapwing flew up and then down into the still surface of the stream that defined the lower edge of the dell. The reflections completed the loop, an endless mirrored flight.

Looking at the spinning feathers

Looking at the spinning feathers (Feather Dervishes – Artist: Mark Anderson)

 

Cello and nightingale

Cello and nightingale (Nightingales with Cello – Artists: Kathy Hinde & Jony Easterby, Cellist: Elena Morgan

The path then headed upwards and opened out as we neared the Cockayne Lawn and rock gardens. Alayna enjoyed watching the Feather Dervishes and was quite keen to touch them as well, something we had to quietly dissuade. A number of large white feathers were spinning while lit by bright white lights and made an intriguing spectacle. All around the trees and vegetation was lit in an array of dusky autumnal colours providing a warm and inviting atmosphere. There was a variety of installations and near the end we stood and listened as cellist Elena Morgan played counterpoint to a recording of nightingales.

All up it was a wonderful walk full of interesting and thought provoking sights and sounds. We can’t wait to see what amazing event may came along during the next NZ Festival.

Lux is back

A beautiful and calm winters evening last Friday saw the return of the Wellington Lux festival for 2015. I’d read about a free workshop for creating fairies in a jar so while
Keryn went and signed us up Alayna and I took a quick trip to Moore Wilsons to buy a suitable jar. The workshop was set up in a shipping container at the Lux Festival hub in Odlins Plaza. Constructing fairies in a jar was simple. There were a variety of glow sticks on hand and we selected a couple and then emptied them into the jar followed by a generous amount of glitter. With the jar sealed there was some vigorous shaking and then we were done, a jar filled with sparkly, glowing fairies.

Keryn and Alayna admire their work

Keryn and Alayna admire their work

Looking at the lights of Odlins Plaza

Looking at the lights of Odlins Plaza

We had a good dinner from one of the many food trucks encircling Odlins Plaza and then wandered along the waterfront checking out a few of the Lux installations. Alayna enjoyed walking across a bridge and peaking through the holes in the structure.

Blue Bridge Alayna

Blue Bridge Alayna

The neon bridge (TENSION)

The neon bridge (TENSION)

The Feed the Kids too was being treated as a mini-maze by the passing crowd with a constant stream of people pushing through the strung up lunchboxes. The susurrous made by the constant movement was a background soundtrack punctuated by laughter and giggles as children raced around the central tree.

Watching people wandering through FEED THE KIDS TOO (CAPITAL)

Watching people wandering through FEED THE KIDS TOO (CAPITAL)

We watched a woman walking around wearing an outfit that seemed to resemble a neon deep sea jellyfish, the organic bouncing of the glowing dress adding to the oddness.

Jellyfish girl

Jellyfish girl

We joined a crowd mesmerised by the sights and sounds of Aura. Stepping into the open container individuals would face a glowing speaker on a stand and conduct an orchestra of sound and light by moving their hands in front of the open speaker face. Quiet and delicate, loud and brash, the emanating audio and pulsating glow would change for each different person and their gesticulating.

Staring at the AURA

Staring at the AURA

Conducting the AURA

Conducting the AURA

There were many interactive installations and the Spreading a Little Sun wall have a magnet for those passing by. A wall of miniature suns that were turned on and off by the crowd the warm glow was inviting and drew everyone in (when they could reach it through the pressed mass).

The crowd interacts with SPREADING A LITTLE SUN

The crowd interacts with SPREADING A LITTLE SUN

The last spot for us was the cicle of lights called Circular Ruins. Alayna stood by one of the pillars and touched the lit surface, perhaps trying to figure out what it was. Soon after we were back at the car and then heading home, Alayna quickly asleep after her late night. We’ll be back for another visit.

Alayna inspects one of the CIRCULAR RUINS pillars

Alayna inspects one of the CIRCULAR RUINS pillars

NZ Festival: Power Plant

Power Plant is a light and sound installation being held in the Botanical Gardens as part of the NZ Festival. I went along on Tuesday night which was lovely and mild with little in the way of wind. I arrived at the Cable Car terminal in the gardens to find a vast crowd of people all waiting their turn to wander through the defined path that Power Path had been installed along.

In the end those of us in the 9pm start group started walking around 9:30pm. Obviously fair weather meant that everyone decided it’d be a good night to attend. This meant that for the whole experience (I got back up to the cable car at 11pm) there were crowds of people and on the narrower parts of the path queues. In the end I think it was a good and bad thing. Good in that it meant all the installations were interacted with and there was never enough people that I couldn’t get up close to have a better look at anything. Bad in that it was slow going and none of the installations seemed intimate, and it wasn’t possible to spend a lot of time in any one place due to the constant flow of others passing by. I would also have liked to have experienced the event with smaller numbers as I think being alone of nearly alone with some of the works would have raised the atmosphere level considerably.

One thing that was not mentioned on the Festival website or the booking website (or the tickets) was that photography was not allowed. As there was no warning a lot of people had turned up with cameras and for the most part people ignored the photography directive. I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked but this was more due to the crowds, its just impolite to stand in the middle of a path and take photos. However, as I had come prepared for photography I took a few photos which you can see below.

There can't be many nights in Wellington calm enough to allow hanging smoke outdoors. Tonight was one such night.

There can’t be many nights in Wellington calm enough to allow hanging smoke outdoors. Tonight was one such night.

The crowds were able to move more freely as we approached the duck pond. The DJ choreographed fire show was worth stopping for.

The crowds were able to move more freely as we approached the duck pond. The DJ choreographed fire show was worth stopping for.

Lamps were on the path and tucked away underneath trees. They pulsed and glowed as the eerie music emerged from the darkness.

Lamps were on the path and tucked away underneath trees. They pulsed and glowed as the eerie music emerged from the darkness.

The lights and music combined wonderfully.

The lights and music combined wonderfully.

One of the last installations and visually one of the more impressive the neon highlights and multicoloured spinning lights combined again with unsettling music for a spectacular impression.

One of the last installations and visually one of the more impressive the neon highlights and multicoloured spinning lights combined again with unsettling music for a spectacular impression.

Power Plant was worth a visit though having now experienced it with a large proportion of the Wellington population I can’t quite recommend the experience. Compared to free installations such as the annual light show in the Botanical Gardens for the summer festival and the Lux festival held in Wellington last year I think the Power Plant experience was generally better overall but the effect was spoilt by the crowds.

A clear night

Wellington’s Carter Observatory is currently running a photography competition under the theme Light & Dark. I’ve been getting more interested in trying astro-photography over the last year and recently bought a new lens (a Samyang 14mm f2.8) that should help me better explore the night sky and last night was the first time I have managed to get out and put it to use.

Once Alayna was mostly settled I was allowed out of the house around 10pm so drove north on the Paekakariki Hill Road. My destination as the lookout on the Kapiti side of the hill which overlooks Paekakariki and in the distance Kapiti Island. It was a mostly clear night with little wind and the waning gibbous moon was rising into the sky. Because of the presence of a bright moon I wasn’t able to get the sky full of stars shots I was aiming for (the bright light reduces the visibility of distant points of light) so instead I just tried out a few different things and got to learn some more about the new lens.

Kapiti coast at nightPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Looking northward over Paekakariki, Kapiti Island and Roumati/Paraparaumu.

Paekakariki Hill Road glowPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Looking to the hills east of the viewpoint, timed to capture a car passing along the hill road

As Alayna and Keryn allow I’ll be heading out for more evening shots over the coming weeks, I just need a well positioned and timed coronal mass ejection to light up the south coast skies with the Aurora Australis now :)