Light festival rejuvenates Tauranga’s CBD
After Dark Urban Light Festival took over Tauranga’s CBD in early May for ten evenings. Illuminated artworks were scattered across the city centre, transforming buildings and reinventing public spaces.
Visitor numbers to Tauranga’s CBD have been decimated by ongoing construction works as large swathes of the CBD undergo seismic strengthening. This has been further compounded by COVID and the cancellation of events such as the city’s annual JazzFest. The bars and restaurants that line the attractive downtown harbourfront needed all the help that they could get to bring back the crowds. Creative Bay of Plenty, the region’s umbrella organisation for arts, culture, and heritage, working with events company Knock Knock Events, came to the party with the concept for an urban light festival ‘After Dark’.
Rose Treadwell, Creative Bay of Plenty’s Marketing Coordinator explains, “The After Dark Urban Light Festival aims to support the rejuvenation and revival of commercial spaces, civic venues, and parklands in and around the CBD, with the potential to become an annual showcase event on the city’s calendar.” Using the theme ‘Connection – to people, to nature and to culture’ the request for submissions was well-received by exhibition-hungry artists, and eleven works were selected.
Visiting on a cold windy Sunday evening, After Dark seemed to be successfully drawing in the crowds, with numerous families exploring the installations. We take a close up look at three of the installations.
Road Cone Wonderland – Goff van’t Hof / The Production Co
Paul van’t Hof, better known as Goff from The Production Co, used After Dark as an opportunity to give Road Cone Wonderland its second outing, first installed in downtown Auckland. Following lockdown and an elongated period of not being able to do anything indoors, Goff, inspired by the easing of COVID restrictions, focused on creating an outdoor experience for the then hundred people limit. “There was a moment in history, shared globally, when we all took our tentative first steps to re-engage on a larger scale as communities. Road Cone Wonderland was born out of this moment. I wanted to create a safe, fun space where people could rediscover community and find joy and good vibes. I chose the road cone as the instrument for this concept as the cone is generally viewed with disdain. It diverts us off motorways, leads us into testing and vaccination centres. The cones had a hard COVID too and they needed to party!”
Goff used technology that was already around but put a different slant on it, “We time coded content to the songs and use ONYX as our control gear, with wireless DMX. The lights themselves are ShowPro Apollos. The soundtrack is classic disco and funk with a purposeful nod to our Maori and Polynesian cultures.”
Goff chose the Apollos as they are readily available country wide, “We can do a display in any city, hire the lights locally and just ship the control gear. Part of our kaupapa on this project was to share the love with suppliers around Aotearoa and make it really easy to deploy on a local level. We can also have displays running concurrently in multiple locations. The Apollos are a great solution with in-case charging taking the pain away.”
Nick from Show Technology, who provided the lights, was blown away by the concept, “The Production Company’s Road Cone Wonderland is brilliant. It’s creative, innovative, and uses the Apollo’s small size and wireless control to its full advantage.”
Ether – Kaysha Bowler, kinetic artist, creative technologist and musical interface designer
Kaysha Bowler, with a background in music and art, explores the interactivity between light and sound through developing immersive experiences to re-establish connections with the physical world. The brief for After Dark inspired Kaysha to further explore a previously developed work ‘ether,’ with no set theme, other than the aesthetic visualisation of the concurrent light fibres that draw connections between objects, places, people, and matter.
Kaysha has recently embarked on a journey to explore multidimensional forms of light by giving life to a static phenomena, through her experimentation and applications of technology and electromechanical devices. Kaysha designs and engineers her work at her home workshop in Wellington, where she creates her own custom-built hardware and software for creative projects.
Previously, Kaysha has worked as a touring lighting designer for Neil and Liam Finn’s tour of New Zealand in 2018, and more recently, with Estère on her ‘Into the Belly of Capricorn’ arts festival performances. Kaysha’s work, ‘expanse’, a custom-built interactive kinesthetic light dress, was the spectacle feature of Estère’s live shows, which Kaysha designed to enhance bodily movements, depth and dimensions of light with the organic kineticism of the human body.
Another Ocean – Blob Collective
Blob Collective are a team of three: Melody, producer and UX designer; Min, art director and animator; and Peter, creative technologist. Together they merge art and technology to craft meaningful digital experiences. Drawing on After Dark’s theme of connectivity and Tauranga’s connection to the sea, they were inspired to create ‘Another Ocean’. The installation aims in their words, “To invoke visions of a seascape both familiar and foreign, immersing visitors in a meditative data visualization of Tauranga’s weather.”
Peter, by day a software engineer, used real-time weather data for Tauranga to control a particle simulation running in Unity, “Essentially it is just a shader manipulating and interacting with the trail of particles. The weather data simply changes the particle and the noise parameters, so a change in wind direction can be seen and heard.” Committed to engaging the spectator, the Blob Collective team are also encouraging viewers to manipulate the particles, “The audience can use their smartphones to read a QR code on the floor or wall to access our website and swipe to take control of the trail.”
For Min and Melody the challenge has been relinquishing artistic control, “We have no idea what the weather will do, or people, so it will be a journey of discovery and surprise for us too,” laughs Melody, “We have optimised it using historic weather data for May in Tauranga, but who knows!”
The other challenge has been catering to the number of simultaneous users, “With an art installation of this nature you know numbers won’t be too large but in future we will look at further customisation to enable larger crowds to be able to see who is who on screen.”
The Blob Collective are keen to share ‘Another Ocean’ more widely, “It is easily scalable, we can change the data depending on the location, and we can remotely set it up anywhere in the world.” They have big plans, “Currently the Blob Collective is our side hustle but we want to build bigger and better, developing the immersive and physical side of our artwork.”
Discover Blob Collective at www.blobcollective.co.nz
After Dark Credits
‘After Dark’ was developed by Creative Bay of Plenty, funded by Creative NZ, Trustpower and Simpson Grierson, delivered by Knock Knock Events, sponsored by Tauranga City Council, Priority One, Downtown Tauranga, and Veros Property, with partners Te Tuhi Mareikura Trust, Toi-O-Ohomai Institute of Technology, SunLive and MediaWorks.
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