Speaker by Various Artists


Splore: Making art in nature's frame

by Ross Liew

If you have ever been to Splore it’s inevitable you would have had an encounter with what has become an art programme of some reputation: a passive experience that soothed, a chance encounter that surprised, or a moment of humour, wonder or nostalgia.

I’ve experienced all of that and more. I’ve also had the opportunity to see a range of audience responses to my own work that would never happen within a gallery, or even within the city perhaps. This year, I'm Splore Arts Coordinator.

The art of Splore is a feature of the festival for an 8000-strong audience that has come to terms with the experiential, tactile and often interactive nature of the projects that are exhibited in a stunning natural setting.

The sitelocated in the Firth Of Thames looking across to the Coromandel Peninsula and featuring rolling grass fields, classic east coast pohutakawas, a sandy beach and a fresh water lagoon, offers much in the way of a environment that wants to witness the remarkable.

But while it lends a hand to making the work look good, and provides the potential for more profound moments, it presents its own set of challenges. It's an hour from Auckland City, essentially on a beach, exposed to the elements and has no existing infrastructure. But that desn't stop the production of works that at times would be scarily tech heavy within a well resourced  gallery environment.

This contrast between bare feet and bits is evident in the work TV Tree, a collaborative media work making use of MIDI and physical triggers to feed six monitors and 12 speakers the work of video artists, musicians, designers, illustrators and animators. All of this is embedded into one of the rather grand pohutakawas overlooking the beach.

The integration of technology and art continues in Love Creatures, a work by Kim Newall and AUT’s COLAB that has been designed for the Splore community. An augmented reality project, it gives the audience an opportunity to interact with one another through art, digital technology, and smartphones. If you're heading to Splore you can attend their Pecha Kucha talk and roll straight in to their digital marker-making workshop at the Living Lounge on Saturday afternoon.

There is something inherently interesting about employing the devices often touted as causes of social fragmentation, within a work that is about shared intimate experiences within a physical space. And it’s an idea expanded by the piece Relatives of Long Ago Lovers.

The work of UK collective Circumstance looks to provide unexpected experiences and explores the role of site as an integral part of their projects.

Relatives Of Long Ago Lovers is an intimate trilogy of audio works that explore how our understanding of the world and ourselves changes as we age. Each piece is for two people to experience together, and contains a mixture of narrative, an evocative music score and instructions to follow, so that you become the performers creating a miniature cinematic experience. From the 10th of Feb, Splore attendees will be able to download the collection of pieces in mp3 form or do so on site via the Telecom wi-fi hot spots.

In contrast to the tech, Brydee Rood and Indian artist Chiman Dangi present their work Jaan Temple. On the back of a series of collaborative works, their performative piece looks towards the collective establishment of a cumulative tribute dedicated to the concept of Jaan. Jaan is an Indian word meaning love, air, life and energy. In the creation of a Jaan temple the audience is invited to pay an interactive tribute to the dedication of time, energy and object around the idea of love. Starting from scratch and drawing on the natural environment for found objects to establish their temple, it is a work that simply requires the presence and engagement of other people.

And for those who really just want their sense of perception tested, and an opportunity to simply buzz out, the work of Angus Muir and Alexandra Heaney from Out Of The Dark will tick this box.

Fresh from Sydney’s Art & About, their work Field offers hundreds of new perspectives on the truly beautiful site of Tapapakanga. Field is a meditation on the nature of perspective, asking us to reflect on ourselves, those around us, our past, and what is just around the corner. See it at night for special bonuses.

In addition to these works the programme features communal crafting projects like The Street Loves Nana and Sew Some Love. Performance and storytelling form a big part of Marcus McShane’s Nag, Raylene Beals’ Camp Curious and Ka Kitea - Pita Turei and Tracey Tawhiao’s project that incorporates oratory, song, dance and star charts.

With 29 projects in all, the programme covers a lot of territory and even includes a wee bit of painting.

In a location that really does quite well without any enhancement, the sensory and emotional layers that the art programme brings to Tapapakanga really makes for a special experience. If you never have, then make an effort to get along and see for yourself, there happens to be some pretty  good music happening too. And for those who have been before, try visiting when there aren't 8000 people on site and wonder at the magic of how this picturesque coastal retreat could possibly play host to such a party.