Dionne Christian is the NZ Herald’s arts and books editor

Aotea Square feels Affinity for Alzheimer's

Affinity is a massive light sculpture which will be installed in Aotea Square in September to raise awareness about dementia.
Affinity is a massive light sculpture which will be installed in Aotea Square in September to raise awareness about dementia.

Auckland's Aotea Square is to be illuminated by a large dazzling and interactive sculpture which aims to shine light on one of the country's most common - but frequently overlooked - health conditions.

Around 60,000 New Zealanders live with dementia and that number is expected to triple by 2050, but charities working to raise awareness struggle to attract attention to something commonly regarded as an "old person's disease".

But there will be no missing or ignoring the giant Affinity light sculpture to be installed in Aotea Square as part of September's World Alzheimer's Month. Rising 3.5m high and 13m x 13m wide, Affinity includes 400m of LED strip lights that form a web of vividly coloured orbs representing neurons in a human brain.

When viewers touch the orbs, it sets off a sound and light display showing rapid-fire transmission of messages between neurons. Personal stories from New Zealanders will feature, highlighting the world of those affected by dementia.

Visitors to Aotea Square are encouraged to touch the Affinity light sculpture.  Photo / supplied
Visitors to Aotea Square are encouraged to touch the Affinity light sculpture. Photo / supplied

Alzheimer's New Zealand says it is a fantastic opportunity to use art to educate the public about dementia, the term used to describe a number of diseases that affect the brain.

While the chances of developing it increase with age, it can affect anyone and Alzheimer's disease is its most common form.

Alzheimer's NZ chief executive Catherine Hall says around 60,000 Kiwis are living with dementia and when you take into account the impact on their families and carers, there are two in three people touched by dementia in New Zealand.

"We are seeing people start to talk about dementia more, which is a positive step, but overall our communities are still not as dementia-friendly as they need to be for those with dementia to be truly accepted in their communities and to live as fully as possible," Hall said.

"If everyone who interacts with Affinity thinks about how they can embrace that, we may take a big step forward in making New Zealand more dementia-friendly in our homes, workplaces and public facilities."

The Australian design team, Amigo and Amigo, worked with a technology group, and structural and electrical engineers to create and build Affinity, which was unveiled at last year's Vivid light festival in Sydney.

The sculpture has been brought from Australia to New Zealand by Auckland Live, which manages venues and spaces, including Aotea Square, across the region.

Artists Simone Chua and Renzo B. Larriviere say it started life as a commission from Alzheimer's Australia and they were surprised to learn dementia affects one in three Australians.

"Our intention was to create an installation that challenged the public and raised awareness about an important social issue," Larriviere said.

"From here, we began thinking about interesting ways to create an interactive installation that represented the human brain and featured memories and stories from families who have been affected by the disease.

Affinity opens at 6pm on Tuesday, September 6, and will be lit up in Aotea Square from 5-11pm until Thursday, 22 September.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 12 Dec 2016 03:11:33 Processing Time: 520ms