Here we are in New Zealand enjoying national lockdown number 2 - valiantly fighting the delta variant and basking in our "isolated dystopia". Thanks Matthew Lesh for these inspirational words which I think Tourism NZ should use in a future ad. It is always fascinating seeing how New Zealand is portrayed in the world's media. The things that grab their attention. No more so than with this current lockdown. Is New Zealand attracting criticism from the glitterati of public health and communicable disease medicine? Umm no not quite, it is the arm chair critics - the columnists and politicians. It is a bit hard whilst still in the middle of the pandemic to identify which strategy was best in the long term and I have strong feelings about how we collectively in New Zealand handled the last eighteen months.
Whilst we won't know for a while what impact this current lockdown period had on the economy at the moment unemployment is back down to 4%. In comparison to other OECD countries the percentage change in GDP for the March 2021 quarter was similar to Australia and the United States, way better than Europe and the UK. The world has seen 214 million cases of the virus whilst we have had 3297 with 26 deaths compared to 4.46 million. On the vaccine front it has been slower than many other countries but the percentage of those fully vaccinated is not that far behind the world average (26.2% versus 27%) and very similar to our cousin Australia. The truth is no country is doing well in the vaccination stakes until the world is highly vaccinated and that is quite some way away. Below is a pie chart for each of these statistics as a percentage of the international total for eleven countries plus other (the rest) but some numbers are so small it is difficult to make the country visible in the pie chart!
New Zealand also produces its own comedic content at the 1pm stand up hosted by the Government and the Ministry of Health. Public speaking is not easy and we are so quick to mock. A tiny mistake made by the Honourable Chris Hipkins (Minister for COVID-19 Response) achieved world wide notoriety last week. For any who missed it here is a clip kindly put together by The Guardian. For me the more impressive part is Ashley's ability to keep a straight face.
So now I have got that off my chest here is the real purpose of this post a review of the fabulous World of Wearable Art Up Close Exhibition at Te Papa the highlight of my Valentine's weekend away in Wellington.
What is WOW?
The World of Wearable Art was created in 1987 by Dame Suzie Moncrieff a Nelson sculptor. It was a means of promoting a local co-operative art gallery by taking art off the wall and displaying it on the moving body. It has come a long way from the marquee in rural Nelson but it still brings together a combination of art, design and fashion into a theatrical performance. Today the annual World of Wearable Arts competition attracts entries from more than 40 countries with the finalists coming to life on a stage in Wellington. Every year the show is different, a spectacle to rival Cirque du Soleil. Last year the show was cancelled and this year's has just been postponed because with lockdown they won't have everything ready to open on 30 September 2021. So it seems fitting that I take you on a small journey of discovery of the magnificent WOW costumes.
The exhibition closed on the Sunday I finally got to visit and was what drove my desire to stay in Wellington for Valentine's weekend and have my beloved travel up to join me. He enjoyed some people watching whilst I did the guided tour of the exhibition. The guided tour was excellent and really enhanced my experience of the exhibition. We had a thorough tour of the exhibition with the guide and then had time to wander around on our own absorbing the exhibits. Not my first visit to an exhibition of the garments from WOW but definitely one of my best.
|Underling by Gillian Saunders, New Zealand|
EVA, hot glue and acrylic paint
2018 Open Section Winner
The Supreme Award (and runners up) Winners
Of the award winners I have three favourites two for their simplicity and the third its ingenuity.
Woven In-tent by Kirsten Fletcher is for me a fabulous form and use of colour, which took over eight years to make. Amazing that such inspiration should strike leaving the muddy campground of Glastonbury with all its abandoned tents. These two powerful female guardians of her imagined tent after-life are made from over 500 tents gathered from three music festivals over five years. Her vision came to life thanks to a basket weaving class and she threaded sustainable cane through tubes of her tent fabric before weaving them.
I have seen the Lady of the Wood on many occasions and I am awed by the skill of David Walker, an Alaskan carpenter, to make an eighteenth century ballgown from wood. He starts with sketches which become patterns and then sees how far he can push his materials to create the vision. This piece was the first overseas entry to win the Supreme Award.
Chica Under Glass is one of my favourites for its seeming simplicity. Peter, a boat builder from Motueka near Nelson crafted this dress by hand for more than 300 hours over seven months with not a mould in sight. This was Peter's first entry and he credits WOW with starting his creative career, attracted by the ability to dream up artistic pieces only to please himself.
Ernst Haeckel's Bride by Nika Danielska, Poland
Horridus by Lynn Christiansen, United States
Persephone's Descent by Stuart Johnson, New Zealand
Ornitho-Maia by Nadine Jäggi, New Zealand
Woven In-tent by Kirsten Fletcher, Australia
The Lady Warrior by Rinaldy Yunardi, Indonesia
Lady of the Wood by David Walker, United States
Gothic Habit by Lynn Christiansen, United States
Open section winner, Supreme Award runner-up 2014
Chica Under Glass by Peter Wakeman, New Zealand
Avant-garde section winner and Supreme Award runner-up 2003
The New Zealand entrants
None of these are particular favourites. You have to applaud the imagination of their makers to create fantastic costumes from many ordinary materials and whilst I can appreciate the effort taken (creative and physical) none of them inspired the awe that draws you in and keeps your gaze for wondrous moments.
Underling by Gillian Saunders, New Zealand
EVA, hot glue and acrylic paint
2018 Open Section Winner
|Mantilla by Fenella Fenton and Jeff Thomson, New Zealand|
Aluminium, printing ink, bolts, nuts
Open section winner 2013
|Firebird by Susan Holmes, New Zealand|
Hand dyed stretch nylon, sticks
Fold section finalist, WOW factor award winner 2009
Axminstress by Kate MacKenzie, New Zealand
|Inkling by Gillian Saunders, New Zealand|
EVA foam, paint
Costume & Film: Creature Carnival section winner 2013
|Templa Mentis by Daniella Sasvári, New Zealand|
Silk, polyester, silk scraps
Creative Excellence: Architecture section finalist, Sustainability award winner 2015
The overseas entrants
My absolute favourite of the exhibition was Kaleidoscope by Tess Tavener Hanks. Why I am so attracted to brightly coloured laser cut and engraved pieces of plastic (acrylic) I have no idea but I am. The way the light catches on the various colours reflecting back from the mirrors and the acrylic itself. It had real presence in the large gallery space. Is it a coincidence that I loved twirling the bottom of my kaleidoscope as a child mesmerised by the changing patters?
One that touches the heart is the second piece by David Walker Beast in the Beauty. Once again made from wood but with a much more personal back story this time. This garment was made whilst his wife was undergoing cancer treatment, representing the struggle to maintain dignity and beauty through treatment. There is a mirror on the ceiling above this piece so that you can look up and see the full effect of the radiation symbol skirt. The costume is inlaid with cancer treatment symbolism: the working mechanism of syringe, knife and IV system on the back representing the monkey on the back; the warrior helmet made using smooth blond wood for the hair loss caused by chemotherapy; with the blinders at the side of the eyes to highlight there is only one direction to go; the removal of the breasts replaced by radiation symbols; a small heart inlaid into the chest (his wife's idea) to represent the soul and heart within the warrior's armour; the boots symbolically laced with pink ribbon and a thorn through the sole for the pain endured.
|Escaped Pods by Lynn Christiansen, United States|
Open section finalist 2019
|Spirit Bone by Guo Ziaotong, China|
Reflective Surfaces section finalist, Weta Workshop Emerging Designer award winner 2019
|Human Nature by Saar Snoek, Netherlands|
Hand dyed wool, cotton, silk, polyester
Aotearoa section winner 2017
|Beast in the Beauty by David Walker, United States|
Maple and Padauk wood veneers, aluminium
Open section finalist, International award winner 2012
|Gemini: The Twins by Dawn Mastow & Ben Gould, United States|
Latex, rubber, plastic
Avant-garde section third, International Design Award - Americas and overall winner 2019
|Kaleidoscope by Tess Tavener Hanks, Australia|
Acrylic, dowel, nylon line, fabric
Creative Excellence: Architecture section finalist, Cirque du Soleil Performance Art Costume award winner, Student innovation award winner 2015
|236 Maiden Lane, Lynn Christiansen, United States|
Felt, wood, metal
Open section finalist, Wearable technology award winner 2018
The White Section
This section had real impact as you first entered the exhibition hall and was a great start to the journey.
|Renascence by Ma Yury & Fang Siyu, Donghua University China|
PC solid sheets
Open section winner 2016
|The Blomar by Akhilesh Gupta, India|
Acrylic sheet, sun board
White section second 2019
The Bizarre Bras
At the end of the exhibition as you left past the gift shop was a selection of Bizarre Bras. The Bizarre Bra section does not feature every year but it is always a favourite part of the live show, seeing these creations dance and prance about the stage.
Clockwise from top left:
- Prickly Heat by Wendy Moyer from Mexico, a fabric plastic and paint creation from 2010;
- Epicentre Divas by Claire Third from New Zealand, taxidermy hedgehogs, fabrics and jewels from 2012;
- Hands Off by Mark Crocker from New Zealand, a bra of kitchen utensils, nuts, bolts and bicycle inner tubes from 1998;
- Renewal by Alexa Cach, Miodrag Guberinic & Corey Games from United States, a cicadas, crystals, wire, brass, Worbla bra from 2016;
- aBRAcalypse Now by Wendy Moyer of Mexico a recycled clothes, silicon, gourd and wire bra from 2012;
- Fried Eggs by Kelsey Roderick & Rhys Richards from New Zealand, using utensils, sponges, fibreglass and rubber from 2016;
- Venus Fly Trap by Leon Vaz & Noel Braganza of India, a sequin, felt, fabric bra from 2010.
The travel wardrobe
Tuesday: Elk Valby navy stripe dress
Thursday: Elk Janeke Maize Plaid top and Peggy Yellow Flint Trousers
Shoes: Navy Trippen sandals
Friday: Style Arc Palermo navy boucle jacket; V8710 KT Happy Place Bicycles top; Cone Mills Loomstate mustard denim Flint trousers; and navy Trippen sandals
Saturday: Maison blue check linen top; Cone Mills Loomstate mustard denim Flint trousers; and lemon Camper Right Nina Mary Jane flat
Sunday: Elk Janeke Maize Plaid top; Cone Mills Loomstate mustard denim Flint trousers; and lemon Camper Right Nina Mary Jane flat
Monday: Elk Janeke Maize Plaid dress
Tuesday: WORLD Pink Mustard Black Stripe Positivity Tee and Peggy Yellow Flint Trousers
Wednesday: Elk Collage Print top and Peggy Yellow Flint Trousers
Thursday: WORLD The Break Up Dress
Shoes: Navy Trippen sandals