Art matters: Splore's art is a do touch experience

By Nick Atkinson

Splore has a musical focus with art woven in. Photo / Amy Potenger
Splore has a musical focus with art woven in. Photo / Amy Potenger

Delivering a successful outdoor music festival is an ornery task, but it's not only the staff at an event like Splore that get wrung out. The art takes a battering too.

"The Splore audience is up for a really hands-on experience," says the festival's art programme curator, Ross Liew. "There are percussion-based sculptures that've been beaten to death each night. Karl Sheridan and Cinzah Merkens created a 3D character called The Music Man built from found objects and recycled instruments. They had to put him back together every morning."

Amanda Wright founded Splore in 1998 with an emphasis on performance, sculpture and mixed media that took a good dose of inspiration from what she'd seen at the "experiment in art and community" that is Burning Man. Splore's mission statement is similar to that of its Nevada-based grandad, but during the years the live music and DJ line-up have become the chief draw for the festival, though it retains a significant programme of art and performance woven into the seaside multi-stage set-up.

This year, 32 projects by more than 70 artists will be on show.

"One of the things we've been mindful of in recent years is expanding the idea that the art isn't put in a corner. In the Splore vernacular there's something called the arts trail. That suggests it is just over there," says Liew, who is constantly looking for ways to decorate and invigorate the site with installations and paintings. "We're trying to cover fencing. If there's a bottleneck inside the festival, there's often a way that art may distract from the congestion."

He's particularly excited about a piece taking shape in the studios of the Yes Collective, not far from Coco's Cantina on K Rd.

"They're providing a setting with a dressed stage with food-themed, improvised instruments with an emphasis on audience participation."

Jane Park and Amy Potenger are the team behind the work.

"I come from a graphic design and spatial design background and I'm also a classical musician so I'm always looking at ways to bring those things together and Splore gives us a chance to communicate with a larger group of people," says Park, who hopes attendees will explore their bodies as musical instruments with their Play With Your Food installation.

Another aspect of Splore's personality are the roving performances that can vary from troupes that appear to have escaped from the circus to post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque vehicles festooned with dancers and musicians.

Anything not married to a stage or a particular site has its own team controlling the barrage of madness and they are part of more than 1000 staff, vendors and volunteers who make the festival tick. Yet all that sound and vision has trouble upstaging the real star of the show, Tapapakanga Regional Park, which is easily the finest site yet found for a festival in Aotearoa.

- Weekend magazine

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