I am running a free workshop on Saturday

To all in Wellington with kids. I’m running a free workshop at the National Library from 10.30am-12pm. Come and make some paper icebergs and bergy bits with me-and then go check out the exhibitions.

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The icebergs are queuing

Sorry, a picture heavy post. I have just finished the 3 berg bottoms and two little bergy bits from some edited sections. Now they are queuing up to leave the workshop to be installed at the close of day at the National Library of Nz. Also on today’s to do list is to gently peel off the wall and transport the avalanche work from 2007 which has been in storage at Toi Poneke for all these years. But now, it is time for lunch.

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Greetings from Christchurch

Today has been spent in Christchurch attending some meetings and having a good walk about the city and the site of a new artwork. So much in transition. Growth and decay coexisting and the din of construction vehicles and machines inescapable. There is something extremely exciting about all this flux. I know it probably isn’t that enjoyable when you are living with it and when it impairs the basic neccessities, but you can also see so much possibility and potential.

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The top image is a building that is in the process of being demolished brick by brick [after the asbestos was removed] It is situated opposite the site where I will be making a large out door artwork/facade for Icefest 2014, just off Cathedral Square, next to the old Post Office whose fate is not yet known. Most of the other images are of the site itself and small moments within it. The final image is the plinth where a statue of Robert Falcon Scott once stood until he was rumbled off his pedestal with a broken ankle.
I can’t say too much about what it is that I will be building just yet, but once it is finalised, all will be documented on the blog.
In the meantime, I have some icebergs to complete and install at the National Library but a separate [overdue] blog update is required.

Behind the scenes

Last week I began re-assembling three smaller icebergs that were first installed at the North Wall gallery, Oxford, UK in 2011.
Here are some links from the first time they were being made:
https://gabbyoconnor.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/how-to-make-a-berg-for-sarah-and-katharine/
https://gabbyoconnor.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/what-lies-beneath-the-return-the-north-wall-install-week/
This new reconstructed set of submerged icebergs will be installed at the Alexander Turnbull Library gallery that is located on the first floor at the National Library of New Zealand in Molesworth St, Wellington from the 7th July – right upstairs from Order Structure Pattern #2.
I am very fortunate to have the support of the staff at the National Library as I am now working from their gallery workroom for the next week and a bit. It is almost like an unofficial artist residency but it is out of necessity as the completed icebergs would not be able to be transported whole – especially in Winter and with the projected wind forecast.
Instead, I get to assemble and adjust the icebergs in a lovely neutral temperature controlled space and then will either transport them in the lift or we can carry them in a procession like way to the gallery upstairs next friday after hours.
Another historical work : avalanche will also be installed alongside a collection of books, posters and ephemera from the Library’s collection exploring Antarctica from a distance.
Anyhow, here are some images of my temporary studio space at the National Library…

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Research research

Despite the appearance of inactivity there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. In between finishing a small commission

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I have been attending meetings, creating plans and attempting to map out my art activity for the next six months.

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A project has changed shape which requires me to go back to the drawing board and get back to the library thumbing through real books!

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I’ve been focusing on photographs of Antarctica by Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. But in the process of revisiting their depictions I stumbled upon someone new : George Murray Levick who was a surgeon and zoologist and survivor from Scott’s final expedition. His notebook and photographs feature in the book: A gun for a fountain pen. I didn’t have my library card to borrow it but here are two of my favourite images from the book

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Imagine interacting with such an unknown landscape so boldly.
The next few months are going to be particularly busy with exhibiting a couple of older works as well as creating an entirely new work that will be out doors! Yes, this is a bit of a leap for me and has a whole new set of problem solving and drawing to deal with. And all this will happen inbetween deinstalling and making some new 2D works as well
as a bit of dreaming of some new research directions. Watch this space!

Talking

On Sunday I presented my second Pechakucha talk in Wellington.
My first one was two years ago and I pretty much gave an artist talk about the relationship of the sea to my work. And as I tell myself each time I have to talk publicly about my arts practice – “I am the only expert on me” [as selfish as this sounds] and for some reason, this reduces the anxiety and once the first slide begins, the adrenaline takes over. For those who aren’t familiar with Pechakucha, they are a night of talks where each speaker has a set of 20 images that are displayed for 20 seconds for each image. It is all automated and there is no opportunity for pausing or correcting errors. It is exciting, thrilling and scary [for the speaker] and incredibly entertaining and interesting as an audience member.
Sunday’s Pechakucha night was themed – Futurenauts. Most speakers were academic researchers – maths, sciences, arts as well as a couple of artists including Michel Tuffery and myself. Check here for the full list of participants.
This was the most consistent and impressive bunch of talks that I had seen. No-one flopped or freaked out or were shyly talking into their notes rather than to the audience. In fact, I was pretty overwhelmed by some speakers abilities to memorise their 6 minutes and 40 seconds of text word-perfectly.
This rattled me a little as although I had prepared what I was going to say, I am not one for memorising and I was the second last speaker.
I was also a little nervous as I wasn’t just presenting an artist talk, but proposing my personal opinion on where and how arts/sci works successfully. To do this, I started with some gratuitous self promotion – showing the works that are currently in exhibition and worked backwards to the first work that had real art/sci content – ie I had talked to a scientist whilst developing the work – What lies beneath. These works can all be referred to as art/sci or however you want to label it, but they are also just starting points to greater conversations whether it is about art, science or making stuff as kids. I suppose sometimes I can be accused of ‘hiding behind the science’ as I find it unnecessary to discuss the art theory conversations that I am having whilst making as I find they can get in the way of the multiple ways my work is going to be read and enjoyed.
My main point in the pk talk was that the real art and science happens during the classroom outreach/workshops that I have been developing with oceanographer Craig Stevens. The workshops bridge art and science and expose kids to a wide variety of topics without them realising.
These projects have many other learning outcomes other than art and science. Geography, maths, team work, story telling, history. The bonus is them being a part of the making a contemporary art work – and my bonus is a whole marketing team of school aged art/sci collaborators spreading the word about what they have learnt, but also about the exhibition to their own communities. This is more effective than printing leaflets and invitations to an event.
I am not going to go into too much more detail as I am still formulating my theory – but there is something very magical that happens in the classroom and it leads to another point that I failed to make on Sunday – in all the excitement of talking about collaboration – from my notes:

“I can’t deny the power of collaborating with other people from your own and other disciplines. You can extend audiences, engagement, dispel myths and work with much more honest but also excited audiences.
It is also very cost effective science communication.”

I think on the night I sounded like I was trying to desperately pitch for more collaborators and this was not the intention. I get so much out of collaborating with others and I know this is reciprocated by the two scientists that I have worked with so far. Not that I’d immediately say no to any offers, but there has to be enough commonality to make it work too. The timing has to be right too.

So that is enough from me today – it is possibly my most ranty/wordy post. I hope it makes sense and once the talk is up on youtube or the Pecha Kucha site, I’ll pop a link up on the blog so you can make up your own mind.

And in the meantime, I am considering this ceiling where the next installation will be hung.

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Heavy Water Timelapse

heavy water from Gabby O'Connor on Vimeo.

Ok, so last week was a complete write off – a sick kid can do that and I am only now slowly catching up again. I think this will be a never ending theme.
So here’s the video of the work going up over a 4 day period…and here is an image of the finished work thanks to Jonno Woodford-Robinson for taking some great shots and thanks to Murray for helping with the timelapse.
You can see Heavy Water at Expressions in Upper Hutt, just 20-30 mins out of Wellington until June 15. There is another lovely exhibition in the gallery next door to mine: In to the woods

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