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  Phil Dadson: Akau Tangi

Phil Dadson: Akau Tangi. Image by Shaun Waugh

Stunning new artwork completes New Zealand’s biggest public visual arts project.

A magnificent new kinetic sculpture opened on Cobham Drive, Wellington on 6 May 2010 by the Governor General completes the Meridian Wind Sculpture Walkway 10-year project.

The total Walkway has five major artworks, each of which responds to Wellington’s notorious wind in a unique manner. The five are Pacific Grass, Konstantine Dimopoulos (2001); Zephyrometer, Phil Price (2003); Tower of Light, Andrew Drummond (2005); Wellington Urban Forest, Leon van den Eijkle and Allan Brown; and now Akau Tangi, by Phil Dadson (2010).

The whole project has cost $750,000, and represents the largest visual arts project in the public domain in New Zealand. Speaking at the opening of Akau Tangi, Trust Chairperson Neil Plimmer, said, “We now have a set of kinetic artworks which is without precedent anywhere on the globe. Individually each is an amazing sculpture to be proud to have in Wellington; collectively we have an asset without peer, providing a stunning entry to the city from the airport, and locking in Wellington’s reputation as the creative art capital. In this galaxy, Akau Tangi is a bright star.”

Speaking of the new work Neil Plimmer said, “Phil’s work has many features and layers of context. It has 10 coloured poles marching as sentinels out of Evans Bay, up the beach and across Cobham Drive. They may look like Maypoles to some; certainly they have come to celebrate, not menace. “On each pole is a cone that visually reflects the windsocks of the nearby airport. And some see in them references to the beaks of the seagulls that swirl around the area.

“Each cone does marvellous things. They pivot on their pole, reflecting the wind direction of the moment. They spin in the wind showing the wind strength by their speed of rotation. They make light for internal illumination at night. And if that is not enough they make sound, which is what gives the work its name, again uniquely harnessing Wellington’s wind. I suspect you may all have to get out of your cars and walk to the site to hear this symphony of the wind.”

The poles vary in height from 6 to 8 meters. Two are in the sea of Evans Bay, six are on the beach and the seaward (north) side of Cobham Drive, and two are on the landward (south) side of the roadway. The poles, cones and most components are fabricated of marine-grade stainless steel. The light features in each cone are LED lights activated by a wind-powered device. The sound devices are similarly wind activated and can have the volume and tone adjusted.

Most of  the audiences for the sculptures will be on vehicles driving by on Cobham Drive, but the Wellington City Council has developed a walking track linking the five sculptures with seating and signage and agreed to the naming, Meridian Wind Sculpture Walkway.

Meridian Energy has been the principal sponsor of the project since its inception. Its Chief Executive, Mr Tim Lusk, says the new work completes a collection of wind-motivated sculpture that celebrates both Wellington’s climate and its dynamism and creativity.

“Not only is Wellington using its best-known natural characteristic as a source of clean, renewable power,  it is using it in an artistic and creative way to give life to a collection of wind-powered sculpture that is unique in the world,” he said.

For more information on the artist and this work please visit www.sonicsfromscratch.co.nz

(updated May 2010)


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