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For the Birds

March 21, 2016

For the Birds
Mark Anderson, Jony Easterby, Kathy Hinde, Marcus Mcshane and Tane Upjohn-Beatson, Johann Nortje and Cameron May, Ulf Pedersen, and Esther Tew
Otari-Wilton’s Bush
Friday 11 March 2016

Otari-Wilton’s Bush is a special place even on a normal day. It’s a little patch that’s been relatively isolated from human destruction and contains amazing things like an 800 year old rimu tree and of course an abundance of birds. This event/installation worked with the aura of the bush and created a series of lovely spaces that included humour, fear, beauty, and most importantly a whole lot of wonder.

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Although it’s called ‘For the Birds’ and there were plenty of bird-themed installations, I thought that mostly this was a very human interpretation of birds. In other words I don’t think any birds would have enjoyed it! The artists involved turned the 2km track into a sequence of different zones that exploited the darkness in all sorts of ways. Some parts made use of the forest and the landscape, especially near the start and the section along the river, while the later parts in the rock-garden area were more like an outdoor art gallery.

I loved the variety of things that the artists put together. Some were sort of expected, like the areas that were filled with artificial bird songs, but these were done in wonderfully cool ways. There were strange little machines to create small whistles, music boxes, and weird processed recordings. Some I guess could have been expected, like the areas where the darkness was made into something frightening and you remembered that you were actually deep inside a forest late at night. And others were very weird yet fabulous, like the rotating feathers plucking gigantic amplified strings to create a threatening throbbing sound track.

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The whole thing was very well paced and laid out with all kinds of variety. The static was contrasted with the energetic, the beautiful with the strange, the slow with the fast. As the walk continued there was never a feeling that you’d seen all the tricks or that things were getting repetitive. I was constantly looking forward to whatever was next while having no idea what it would be. It made me laugh, gasp, lean in trying to figure out strange machines, stand and watch things endlessly.

I’m not sure there’s too much point trying to describe everything in detail. It was a very special night which gave that rare feeling that despite how successful it was I really wanted to see what else could be done in the format. By the end I was just feeling so serene and full of joy, and there’s nothing more I could have asked for.

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