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.

Arquitectura de Feria

It’s been another NZ Festival year and included as part of the events this year was a travelling playground named Arquitectura de Feria (the Architecture Fair). Originally from the Catalonia region of Spain and created by performance group Antigua i Barbuda the fair consists of traditional fairground rides and entertainment but created out of scraps and spare parts. So there is a small ferris wheel with seats made out of toilets, a roundabout with seats made out of children sized vehicles like a small tractor, a plane and a rocket and a swing set where the seats are re-purposed sleds. And all of the rides are people powered and in most cases the people come from the audience. Alayna loved it.

We’ve visited a couple of times and Alayna never wants to leave. If it wasn’t for the popularity and the queues to ride she’d stay on each one going around and around (or up and down or forwards and back) indefinitely I’m sure. Everything is simply but fantastically made with wonderful detailing. For the ferris wheel a simple crank is hooked up to a tyre and a rubber belt connects to another tyre that pushes the wheel around through friction. There is a person sitting behind the seats at the bottom of the wheel and they provide instructions to the volunteer cranker via a tube and traffic cone. It’s also their job to add weights to each seat to balance out the wheel. Each child is weighted and gets a chalkboard hung around their neck with their name and weight so there is a bit of maths to help decide who sits where. Generally it was larger children on the toilets and smaller on the alternate metal seats.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

Brendon powered

Brendon powered

Alayna also had a run around the existing playground at Frank Kitts Park and enjoyed climbing to the top of the lighthouse to then take the slide. This was fine until one particularly fast decent which got a little out of control at the bend in the slide and Alayna bumped her head. An ice cream was offered as a distraction from the head bump so we wandered along the waterfront for Kaffee Eis.

Ice cream time!

Ice cream time!

We wandered around a bit and checked out the flags that made up the Fly Me Up to Where You Are New Zealand project by Tiffany Singh. We also spent time on the city to sea bridge where Alayna got to climb over the various wooden seats and booths before heading back to the playground for more rides.

Under the flags

Under the flags

On the bridge

On the bridge

Back for more

Back for more

Arquitectura de Feria has now ended in Wellington and will continue to travel the world. If it pops up near where you are I thoroughly recommend a visit.

The roundabout

The roundabout

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.

Autumn in the city

It the first day of autumn and a little cool with a breezy southerly but it was still a good day for a walk in the city. The NZ Festival for 2014 has recently started and the weekend saw a number of events taking place on the waterfront. Keryn was getting a haircut so Alayna and I had some time together checking out the sights.

IMG 5635Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Perfectly innocent shipping containers.

Beside the statue of Solace of the Wind eight shipping containers had been placed in two rows of four. Approaching the containers there were strange sounds emanating and one of the containers had an open door. Inside was a strange sight.

IMG 5624Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sorting the hair while the frozen fish wait for their icy prisons to melt.

At the back of the container a woman sat at a table and she was using tweezers to pick up hairs from a heaped pile and delicately straightening them before laying each hair in a new pile. Between her and the open door there was shelving which held blocks of ice each lit so a fish could just be made out suspended in the frozen water. There was no explanation to be found (that I saw) so I shall assume this was a scene stolen from an unshot Terry Gilliam movie and transported to a random corner of Wellington.

IMG 5627Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Do you have Metaphobia?

Nearby was a complex of shipping containers with a variety of weird and wonderful goings on. There was an open container with two LCD screens facing away from each other in the center and cameras set up so that each screen reflected the view from the other side. It would have been easy to look around each screen to see the same view but the camera and forced disconnection allowed people to act up where they normally would have no reason. I can see why there were signs up warning about metaphobia.

IMG 5630Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Container drip.

There were a few water features; one container on its end with a shallow pool at the bottom and a constant drip coming from above and another being constantly flooded by an overflowing bath on its roof (the bath was occupied the first time I walked past).

IMG 5631Photo by Brendon & Keryn


There were a few different takes on weaving and knots. The container seen above had a constantly working group of people, both site workers and the general public, tying knots and creating a messy web. Another container seemed to house a project management group who had their planning displayed on the walls and chalkboards to the side asking for more lemons. The goal seemed to be to sew lemons together, I’m not sure to what purpose.

There was also what could have been a death reformation group (“help us change our ways!” on the sign next to the sythe propped up against the container wall, the blade replaced by brightly coloured balloons. I’m sure there was more to puzzle over as well.

IMG 5641Photo by Brendon & Keryn


Heading back towards the city I came upon a small circus act. Alayna and I watched juggling, a rope gymnastic piece and an entertaining finale involving members of the public (hairy man, big man, family man, wo-man), more juggling, a strong man performance and a couple of unicycles.

IMG 5647Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Frozen dancers.

WE met up with Keryn again (with her lovely haircut) and promptly headed back to the container quarter to show her the sights. Returned past Te Papa a group of dancers had appeared. They were still when we came on the scene, frozen in place. Then the music started and one at a time they came to life with short dances, each perhaps themed on a different Pacific culture.

Reaching for the lens cap

Reaching for the lens cap

WE then grabbed some lunch and headed to the botanical gardens to eat and feed Alayna. As we had out lunch Alayna sat quietly in the pram, idly chewing on what parts she could grab. My lens cap became a good distraction as I tried to get some photos, Alayna duly rewarded by some chew time (and then a better chew toy, Sophie the Giraffe). It’d be good if every Saturday was this pleasant.