Sian’s Light Boxes

A transcript of a recording made at the installation

I was asked by Pip Adam to go down and look at the light boxes on Courtenay Place. An installation by artist Sian Torrington, installed into a series of municipal lightboxes in Wellington, New Zealand. I went in the evening and took photos of them while they were illuminated.

I was taken with the obvious community involvement with the light boxes, that there were hand written notes that expressed various concerns of members of the community but also there were references to historic events such as the Devotion parties. While looking at the sketches on one side of the light box, the ones facing the road, I wondered if they had been put there deliberately.

There were some vaginas, which I always appreciate, and you don’t often see vaginas on public art on Courtenay Place; which is an indictment of the conservative culture of Wellington. Then, by chance, I ran into the artist herself, Sian, and Creek. Sian talked to me about the process of creating the artworks and that it was all her work, although she had had workshops with community people where she’d got the notes.

There were drawings, which she called consensual life works, and that she gave the people serving the opportunity to move around and do what they liked as opposed to maybe traditional life drawing where the artist posed the model, and that can be very uncomfortable for the model which I’d just that afternoon had some experience with sitting for my portrait by Tatyana Kulida.

She said that she had thought about the directions that the light boxes faced in, and also that some of the art work had been placed higher up and facing the street, because people would be more likely to see these from buses. She also said that there was a chronological progression from the law reform to 30 years later, someone booing John Key on the stage at Out in the Park.

She was there, I guess, to say goodbye to her artwork because we discovered that once the light boxes are disassembled, they are destroyed; that the works are printed on vinyl and adhered to the light boxes and they’re basically scraped off with scrapers.

Accompanying the work is a 60 minute sound track that I was offered the opportunity to listen to, but I didn’t really want to do it [laughter] right then because, obviously, they were in the middle of doing a ceremony and I just wanted to get my photos and come back and get the writing done.

So, yeah, it was pretty significant, actually. It was sad looking at an artist saying goodbye to her work. And I guess we’re coming to the end of 2016, which is the end of 30 year celebration of law reform. And we are certainly in very strange times now, so I wonder how the light boxes would look in another 30 years’ time.

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