Particle physics art

Strings-based exhibition linking art and science spreads to Napier

Installation artist Gabby O’Connor with an earlier version of The Unseen, which is now on display in the Oceanarium at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Photo / Braden Fastier

A string-based exhibit linking art and science is set to spill into classrooms at the National Aquarium of New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay for Seaweek.

Installation artist Gabby O’Connor’s collaborative sculptural project, The Unseen, is on display at the National Aquarium’s Oceanarium for three months beginning Friday, March 11.

O’Connor’s goal for the artwork was to raise awareness of the connection between the marine environment and environmental change.

She was inspired by documenting sea ice and working with an ocean physics team from the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

“Ropes and cable ties are the essential tools of oceanographers. I have seen measuring instruments on ropes being lowered into the sub-zero ocean through a hole in the sea ice. As ‘they were going down, the rope was drawing like patterns on the surface of the water. That’s when I saw the potential of rope as a drawing material,” she said.

The project has been in development for five years, where more than 1000 participants, including school children and their whānau, have helped to work on it.

Previous versions of The Unseen have been exhibited in Nelson and Tauranga.

Schoolchildren in Hawke’s Bay will have their own opportunity to ‘draw’ with ropes and cable ties as aquarium educators extend the artwork to classrooms for Seaweek.

All student contributions will be added to the main piece until it leaves for its next screening in June.

The National Aquarium also plans to integrate it into the April school vacation program and hold public workshops.

If laid out in a straight line, the rope used for The Unseen would stretch for 12 kilometres, more than half the distance between Napier and Hastings.

Executive Director Rachel Haydon said it was new for the National Aquarium to exhibit a work of art, let alone one of this scale.

“But Gabby’s message and methods are so engaging in helping people understand some of these larger issues facing the ocean. We can’t wait to see how it will be received.”

A Napier City Council spokeswoman said in a statement that used rope will be recycled for other projects and community groups who have expressed an interest in reusing the parts, while cable ties will be donated to a charity program. design of recycled plastic that transforms plastic waste into new objects.

Seaweek is an annual national week organized by the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education, which runs from March 5-13 with the aim of helping New Zealanders connect and celebrate the ocean.