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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Exhibition Week 7, 7-11 Sept 2020

Catch up, website, logo, visiting Wellington Museum staff and Thomas King Observatory site, mentor session and artist exhibition Marci Tackett


We had a meeting Friday 3rd September to catch up with everyone as a team. Darnah has started working on the website ( and included a page for each artist which includes the videos made last week, artist statement from the proposal, a gallery of work in progress and links to individual social media pages. It looks great and will be the basis for our promotional strategy and Plan B. She has also set up an email address and instagram account. We need to provide photos and social media details to Darnah. Anoushka is working on a logo and just needs to get some photos of the observatory to complete.

website : ? instagram : ?

exhibition location : Thomas King Observatory

exhibition dates proposed : Fri 25th Sept - Wed 30 Sept

Tasks to do (assign names?) -

  1. Print off Brief and tick off items as suggested by Kingsley

  2. Rewrite project plan to include promotional activities, website etc

  3. Each artist to provide images of work in progress and social media details to Darnah for website

  4. When we meet Violette at the observatory on Monday arvo ask about - floor plan - bring measuring tape - lighting - hanging systems - ask about ladders and equipment for installing - check floor is level - get photos for logo and help with installation plan - opening night : evening okay? tables? restrictions on attendance? - Suzy clay from gardens to use in installation

  5. Advertising - need to compile a list of online and other advertising options e.g. ad in a magazine, Google ads, friends of bot gardens etc - Another idea?! What about making invitations for opening night? Ideas - face masks, a leaf or little tote bags with invite details screen printed on?

2.MENTOR MEETING Summary of discussion with Kingsley on Tuesday 8th Sept -

  • what is the link between inside and outside (i.e. where is nature in our exhibition if it is just in a gallery?)

  • how can we use the transition between gathering/social location and walking up to the gallery?

  • how will we engage audience in the show (given we are process driven artists can we include them in making an artwork)?

  • what does the logo mean?

  • what is the meaning of absurd in artmaking - research it, words are important

  • role of website and publication - where is the why of the group theme/exhibition rather than individual artists? - catalogue on website? - blog ongoing to drawn potential audience into led up to exhibition?

  • how will we advertise on social media

  • how will we use the video content on the night?

  • recognising the role and value of the whole team i.e. increasing profile of Anoushka and Darnah

  • challenge ourselves and asking why/how we are doing things - question everything

  • document everything

The idea of the absurd has played around in my mind since Kingsley's provocation - the idea of absurd being more than a folly or humour, rather the notion of holding paradoxes and opposing ideas all at the same time e.g. the idea of holding in one hand the notion of chaos and in the other the notion of order. This is something we do all the time - trying to continuously balance these two states within our lives and our inner being. It also seems to me that the Thomas King Observatory is a part of this chaos/order paradoxical absurdity i.e. standardising and normalising time throughout New Zealand to overcome the variation of 20 minutes observed in local time along the length of New Zealand. This standardisation of time was important with the beginning of maritime activity to export our produce internationally and the Thomas King Observatory played a significant part in the process.

Matthew Crookes, in his research essay The Purpose of the Absurd in Contemporary and Recent Fine Art Practices describes his investigation of the absurd as a function within the making of Fine Art... "By ‘absurd’, I am referring to a subjective state of being, centred on the individual, which allows for logical inconsistency and contradiction. This absurd was initially identified by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, in reaction to the systemic and objective philosophies of Hegel, Kant and others; and which in turn was elaborated upon by later writers such as Albert Camus and Maurice MerleauPonty. It is often associated with, but discrete from, Existential philosophy...(and) a necessary part in enabling certain kinds of contemporary Fine Art practice, notably in the way that the detachment from a universal logic permits an inner rationale to emerge in an artist’s praxis."

Here's a great article from The Stranger in 2000 by Emily Hall, That's Absurd! A Meditiation on Paradox and Uselessness. It describes a number of artists who use absurdity in their art practices e.g. "A more binary paradox--that of attraction and repulsion--is at work in Leslie Clague's Prototype for Comfort Enclosure, which presents an upholstered chair made of industrial felt and enclosed around the top so as to effectively blind the person sitting in it. Like those pod chairs from the '60s, it's patently anti-social furniture. The lobe-like seat is disconcertingly genital-looking, and the work is hung from the ceiling in such a way that it would dump you out if you sat in it (by the way: don't try). Here is an object completely divorced from its primary function, now something only to contemplate, even to fear: a looming, not particularly benevolent presence."

3.THOMAS KING OBSERVATORY VISIT On Monday a group of us met at the Wellington Museum with Violette, who will liaise with us during the exhibition process. Wellington Museum is keen to activate the space and open the buildings up to the public so we are very fortunate. There is opportunity to piggyback off their marketing activities (email advertising, posters) which will be very helpful and Violette suggested we view it as an opportunity, not just to engage our audience with the exhibition, but also the wider park and its facilities. It was arranged that we would meet at the observatory on Wednesday morning to visit the site. Kingsley, Breena and I came from our group and three from Noah's group.

These are my observations while walking to the building from the Cable Car (Kingsley said notice everything) -

(i) The Cable Car

  • Links the city center of Lambton Quay with Kelburn (Victoria University, Botanical Gardens, NZ Meteorological Service and Observatory buildings and residences)

  • Construction began in 1899, involving three teams working around the clock

  • Opened 22 February 1902 with over 425,000 passenger trips on the cable car in the first year

  • View history of cable car - History of the Cable Car

  • June 2015 Coloured light display added to tunnel, still going Burst of Colour

  • At top of Cable Car the promontory offers stunning views across Wellington Harbour and the surrounding hills that frame the harbour. There is a telescope and map to get your bearings.

  • Plantings, path and signage led you to the Gardens and Observatories

(ii) Walking from Top of Cable Car to Thomas King Observatory

  • There's not a lot of signage to direct you to the Botanical Gardens but what greets you as you walk along the path and come to a crossroad is a giant round tree which is very sculptural and references the Botanical Gardens !!

There is a giant golden bucket tree standing like a sentinel rooted deep into the earth It marks the spot where two paths cross - do you follow the green path to the garden below, or an unmarked path into the sky above?

(iii) Carter Observatory and Space Place

  • Continuing along the path, we passed the Carter Observatory and Space Place


  • Carter Observatory, opened 1941, is NZ’s longest serving observatory and a base for astronomical research in New Zealand

  • Work began with solar investigations and when new staff joined during the 1970s, it expanded to include variable stars, galaxies and asteroids. Carter Observatory became New Zealand’s National Observatory in 1977. In 2005, a government report recommended that Carter Observatory be transformed into a world-class visitor attraction, paving the way for Space Place.” (website above)

(iv) Thomas King Observatory - outside

  • From Carter Observatory, veer uphill to the right and climb a short distance to the Thomas King Observatory

  • The building is sited on top of a promontory that commands views of Wellington harbour and the distant hills that are an iconic framework for Te Whanganui a Tara or the great Harbour of Tara.

  • History of the great harbour of Tara

  • There are a number of artifacts placed around the outside of the building that serve New Zealand’s geodetic system (a network of control marks that serve as physical reference points). There is a black and white trig beacon and a sculptural piece with a steel pin set into concrete. These survery marks link to trigs on the distant hills. This area plays an important part in the scientific measurement and recording of Aotearoa by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) [previously Land & Survey Department]

  • NZ geodetic-system

  • The site is flat and the area wind blown! There are cupolas everywhere, in the graceful curve of the trees, the rain chiselled mountain tops, and the ephemeral forms of clouds billowing and dispersing in the skyscape.

(v) Thomas King Observatory - inside

  • The building itself is a small rectangular wooden structure built in the 1910's style reminiscent of a scout hall i.e. sparse features, baton and board painted white and green, 2 original multi-paned, opaque windows, 2 wooden doors, and corrugated roof with the resplendent cupola in galvanised steel (reroofed?). There is outdoor lighting but we couldn't find the switch

  • Access to the building is by a side door which leads into a small entrance which has a plaque showing information about the building. This entrance opens into the main room (approx 6x3m) which has 3 doors and 2 windows so there isn't a lot of large wall space, but there is good lighting. The floor is carpeted with an extraordinary blue patterned carpet (sadly)

  • Four steps led up to the observatory which is breathtaking - a square room of black walls that support the wooden cupola above. A metal window (covered with white paint) with the original pulley system is set within the cupola and Kingsley asked if it could be opened. An old wooden stepladder/stool was placed on a black plinth to access the window. This may be an original item. There are four lights (2 red for night vision and 2 white)

Images from Breena

(vi) Wellington Botanical Gardens Established in 1869, it is the oldest botanical gardens in New Zealand and includes 25 hectares of protected native forest, conifers, plant collections and seasonal displays. The land was unlawfully confiscated from Maori (read more at Museums Wellington).

One of the primary roles of the Botanic Garden was to trial the planting of overseas plants (and animals) to see which would be suitable for growing in New Zealand. This informed settlers on their own domestic choices of plants but also provided the basis for plantation development throughout New Zealand. Between 1870 and 1871 trial plots of newly discovered conifer species from North America, India and Japan were planted. These trees were planted throughout the country forming the seedbanks used by the Forestry Department in establishing New Zealand’s forestry industry. Today, the Botanic Garden has some of the country’s oldest surviving Pinus radiata trees.”

There is a lot of poetry and plaques in the gardens , here's a lovely one - FALLEN OAK We love your love of the horizontal, we wish that we too could fall down in a Garden, stay fallen, and still thrive. (By Dinah Hawken, Poet in Residence 2004)


Energy and Matter, by Marci Tackett at Solander Gallery

Solander gallery is located on Willis St, with a glass frontage that allows works to be displayed directly to passers-by and entice them up the steps and into the gallery.

The gallery has a high stud, with large white walls and one portion of a wall is painted black behind the reception desk. The room proportion is somewhat awkward given the height in relation to the small space of the gallery; this requires careful curating to showcase an artist's work well.

Overall there is too much work on display in the room. Two large tables, positioned in the center with large folders of non-exhibiting artists' work, distracts from the reading of the exhibiting artists' works. Maybe one lower coffee table with seating by the window might be less intrusive while allowing for the necessity to showcase other works given it is a commercial business. A small reception table with computer is placed in the front left as you enter, which again distracts from the reading of the works and takes up valuable space that could allow works to talk to each other across a room. The desk should be relocated to the back of the room.

Lighting is on tracks to allow a degree of flexibility to display works on walls and there is a shift in natural light from the front, which has a large window, compared to the back which has only artificial lighting. More thought could be given to this as the back area feels under lit.

Marci's works are unframed and hung using a Japanese sticky paper and discrete pins. This thoughtfulness of approach suits her works as they cover the entire paper and go to the edges. Frames can cause a distance between the viewer and work, causing shadows and reflections. There is generous space between grouping of the prints and consideration is given to which works worked together well i.e. pattern, colour, texture, transparency. This is important as Marci's works are complex with many layers and invite close inspection. Unfortunately, two works are grouped together that have a dominant pattern repeated; possibly one of the works could have been rotated to break the pattern and be less distracting.

A catalogue of the artworks and their pricing was handed to us as we entered but there was no numbering on the walls so was a little confusing.



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