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Interactive Art in Aotea Square

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A view of the Auckland Live Digital screen, though not in the current Aotea Square position.

The teetering and lurching geometric forms are surprisingly unpredictable once you've spotted their human sources and then abandoned them to focus solely on the streamer-filling screen. You become enchanted by a form of depicted peripatetic, gently ambling, kinetic sculpture. After about 6-7 minutes the pastel lines (especially the closer ones at the bottom of the screen) start to fade away into the background darkness. In the murk we occasionally notice static polyhedrons rendered in black.

Aotea Square (Auckland Live Digital Stage)

Auckland

 

Shannon Novak and Jeff Nusz
I Extend My Arms
Curated by Norwenn Lacire


5 June - 19 June 2020

This week, some of the public events envisaged as part of the 2020 Auckland Arts Festival but which were abruptly curtailed by the Covid-19 lockdown, are now joyously resurfacing. The large portable digital screen—used by Auckland Live and backing onto the bars, foodcourt, and cinemas adjacent to Aotea Square—provides live animated entertainment, created by visitors crossing at different angles the wide open brick-lined square it faces.

With a minute or so time delay, and angled to one side so that the active movement sensors are not frontally positioned, rolling polyhedrons (several types, each one representing a mover) unravel ribbons of brightly coloured lines as pedestrians, pram-pushers, Zimmer frame clutchers, skateboarders, scooter-riders and furtive cyclists create impactful fluorescent trajectories: some diagonal and straight, others curving and arabesque. Seagulls and small dogs don’t seem to be noticed. Vertically seems a key trigger.

Selected by Norwenn Lacire, Shannon Novak (see this video here) and Jeff Nusz‘s project is hugely entertaining, and worth getting a couple of coffees to sip from a good overlooking seat at the terraced cafe amongst the theatres and booking office on the far left. Some of the people you observe, self-consciously create a sort of drawing with their movement. Others are unaware of the screen’s existence. People in groups are inadvertently quite spectacular through the way they randomly spatially interact.

Novak is well known in New Zealand for his interest in making symbolic abstract drawings in situ with coloured sticky tape on gallery walls, videos with slowly moving, coloured, delicate linear forms, and in his interest in synaesthesia—the unusual criss-crossing bodily links between colour, shape and sound. He is also interested in the history of LGBTQ+ artists, as evidenced by the title of this work which refers to the great photographer, writer and collagist Claude Cahun.

In Aotea Square, the large horizontal rectangle presents a perspectival space with exaggerated spatial depth, looking down via a three-quarter view so that the square is tilted and compressed, and seems slightly curved, but also leaning to one side.

The teetering and lurching geometric forms are surprisingly unpredictable once you’ve spotted their human sources and then abandoned them to focus solely on the ‘streamer’-filling screen. You become enchanted by a form of depicted peripatetic, gently ambling, kinetic sculpture. After about 6-7 minutes the pastel lines (especially the closer ones at the bottom of the screen) start to fade away into the background darkness. In the murk we occasionally notice static polyhedrons rendered in black.

The incongruity of translating walking human bodies into wobbly rolling geometric forms is pretty funny. There is comedy in undermining human dignity and pride. It is also a nifty way of democratically combining drawing, animation and dancing. It could be performance art as well, with large hollow cardboard objects inhabited by someone like performance artist, Mark Harvey.

Novak and (creative technologist) Nusz have made a fascinating work because the correlations between people active in the city space and the moving polyhedrons are not as quickly noticed as you might assume. It takes time to be able to follow the spatial connections, partly because of the time delay, and partly because of the unexpected angles. The images are enriched by their lack of immediacy, thus encouraging greater mystery and more reason to return again in a day or two.

John Hurrell

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