Friday, July 19, 2013

New Plymouth

Like many "new" things in New Zealand, New Plymouth is not exactly new. It's new in relation to the England and Europe its name springs from but with many buildings dating back to the mid 1800's and claiming the oldest cathedral in the country, it's an old town at least by Antipodean standards. Quaint, pre-capitalist cottages abound throughout the wider Taranaki district of which it is the main urban hub, and altogether the place exudes a resistance to the pushy capitalist take 'n' make, buy 'n' sell mantra, drawing artists from around the country as a result.  And where would we be without art...

Christchurch-born artist Len Lye's Wind Wand in New Plymouth  captured earlier this week by yours truly. "A narrow red fibre glass tube, 200mm in diameter, the Windwand stands 45 metres high... Weighing approximately 900kg, the Wind Wand can bend at least 20 metres. At night, a light at the top of the Wand emits a soft red glow."
For instance... It must have been a great artist indeed who happened to be visiting the town on this pristine day, so abundantly blue, its famous Wind Wand could be clearly captured bending down to kiss the crescent moon. I only wish I'd also captured it lit up at night on our arrival when record high winds were testing its engineering ingenuity to the max, looking like Mad-Eye Moody on a bender.

Like much of New Plymouth itself the wand suggests a successful marriage between something old and something new; between art, science and nature, surely the basis for all the best marriages.

The politics of the place, the location for the brutal Taranaki land wars between Maori and Pakeha, are decidedly less happy. But that's politics, it seems. Still, a curator at the old cathedral, that turns out not to be quite so old with only one wall left of the original tiny church, informed us that reconciliation between the local Tangata Whenua and descendants of early Pakeha settlers in the region has made significant progress in recent years.

This 1960s picture, on life-size display in the entrance of the local museum for people to stick their heads through and photograph, I'm not so sure about... In fact, I'd say it's an example of art, science and nature at war, no doubt thanks to the interference of the profit motive,  being sponsored by a local photographic business. 


1 comment:

  1. Wind Wand photo is unreal.
    Shame about the defaced swimmers – perhaps they drifted to Auckland or beyond…