11 March 2014

Festival 2014: Power Plant

On Sunday night I caught my one and only glimpse of the arts festival with a late-night visit to the Botanical Gardens to take in the Power Plant sound and light installation. Taking over most of the gardens, the exhibition comes alive after dark, and hundreds of Wellingtonians were out to enjoy the spectacle. It was the busiest I've ever seen the Cable Car terminal (the first time I've used the new, flashed-up top teminus) - more than a hundred were queuing patiently for their timed 10-minute entry slot. Mine was at 9.10pm - a late night for me these days!

The exhibition draws heavily on skilful use of neon lighting to create dazzling nocturnal imagery intertwined with the features of the gardens, but also injects sonic interplay with weird electric chimes, rhythmic drum machines, spinning gramophones playing peculiar objects and startling static bursts. Smoke generators are used to good effect, conjuring a spooky atmosphere worthy of Macbeth's witches, and when this is coupled with the multitude of unpredictable sound-scapes the gardens become a treasure trove for the imagination. It was a perfect, still evening when I visited, but I can imagine if the Wellington wind had been gusting the gardens might have been even spookier.

Power Plant was a great night out, and provided some lasting memories. Even still, I can't help but wonder if the children living in houses across Glenmore St from the gardens will be having some particularly inventive nightmares over these past few weeks, listening to all the ghostly sounds emerging from the dark.

The organisers asked for no photography (not just 'no flash') but I interpreted that liberally to mean the opposite, as long as I didn't get in anyone's way or disrupt things with light from the camera. Out of respect for the rules I'll only post one of the pictures I took: let that encourage you to take in Power Plant yourself if you're in Wellington. It closes on Sunday night (16 March).


See also:
Art: California Design, 2 October 2013
Art: NZ posters by young German artists, 30 June 2012
Art: Leonardo: not just for nuns, 24 February 2012
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