Astrolabe - Whakaterenga is an immersive creative work that combines virtual reality, dance, sound, light and kinetic sculpture.
This mind-expanding experience was created by digital artists, musicians and dancers from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, China, Singapore and Spain.
It was first shown at the National Museum of Singapore in late 2019.
The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora is proud to support the reimagining of Astrolabe-Whakaterenga online for Matariki 2020, with special thanks to Creative New Zealand's Arts Continuity Fund.
You can explore the work by using the navigation keys on your device (up, down, left, right arrows), or you can use a VR headset if you have one.
How to describe Astrolabe - Whakaterenga?
Daniel Belton, New Zealand Arts Laureate, says:
“Almost every element on Earth is formed by particles from space, including our bodies. Astrolabe seeks to reimagine our perception of body, space and time with the support of digital technologies. Astrolabe’s unique visual and aural scenarios created for VR and expanded cinema installation invites the audience to experience different perspectives of space and time - travelling to augmented realms inspired by ancient star charts and maps.
"This multimedia project enters into a dialogue with methodologies developed by early Asian and Pacific Island astronomers, and suggests a philosophy of the movement of celestial bodies - acknowledging the oneness of all life.”
Sound in Astrolabe - Whakaterenga from a Māori perspective
Nigel Jenkins, sound artist on this project, is a direct descendant of Chief Kaniua and Hine Pipiwai of the Kaiapohia Pa (Ngai Tahu). His work on Astrolabe – Whakaterenga incorporates new recordings of hollow stone flutes from North Otago, and embeds sound from the Otago Peninsula. Of his work, Nigel says:
“We are playing the land as an instrument or as part of the instrument voice of the work. Using the natural acoustics of the land to enhance, reflect and colour the sounds that we make now … When you get nature making a low frequency such as a wave crashing into a cliff - nature is literally playing nature - the sea is playing the land.
“The land has a resonance, and it’s almost something you feel rather than hear … In urban spaces your awareness is distracted by all the other activity and sound, and you can’t hear or feel the land so much. This is why I love Central Otago, because of the silence. The silence allows you to be aware of the presence of the land - the energy of the land is a subtle resonance.”
Boomerang motif from an Australian Aboriginal perspective
Aboriginal master craftsman Joseph (Joe) Ian Skeen Snr gave permission for his black wattle boomerang to be used by dancer Janessa Duffy in the work. Joe is from North Queensland, Birri-Gubba-Bowen on his father’s side and Kuku-Thaipan on his mother’s side.
In Astrolabe – Whakaterenga the beautiful form of the boomerang is rebuilt digitally and becomes a central mofit, representing the celestial waka. The trees from which the waka and the boomerang are made symbolise rootedness in culture; they connect people to the land.
This explanation of the boomerang comes from Elder Ama Rose (Barbara Guthrie):
“This Boomerang comes from a sacred and ancient tree lineage for the Aboriginal people. Ama held the Boomerang and felt its great energy. She felt the energy well up and she spoke ‘the Boomerang represents a gateway to the Aboriginal people who made it - a gateway to their space family origins.’ She said it was like a cosmic stirrer, for stirring space. She held the Boomerang and talked in the old language and said ‘this one is made of sacred tree wood that runs back through time, many generations of tree. The memory and knowledge of the rituals and sacred rites of the tribes has been observed and archived by this ancient tree line. The wood comes from this family lineage’.”
The original project was supported by Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa and the National Heritage Board Singapore. It was led by Daniel Belton and Dunedin-based Good Company. Collaborators included Xiao Ke and Zi Han, Janessa Dufty, Jill Goh, Christina Guieb, Jac Grenfell, Patxi Araujo, Stuart Foster, Donnine Harrison, Nigel Jenkins, Michael Askill, Richard Nunns, PerMagnus Lindborg and Joyce Beetuan Koh.
Te Matatiki Toi Ora extends its heartfelt thanks to Daniel Belton and Good Company Arts (goodcompanyarts.com) for reimagining Astrolabe - Whakaterenga for online audiences.