You might think contemporary artists who use the latest technology to design virtual and augmented reality games would find little inspiration in objects like a 1940s bronze lamp, a semaphore signal light from the 1850s or an old bicycle lamp.

You'd be wrong.

Content specialists DOTDOT - Jacques Foottit, Kate Stevenson and Chris White - are among the artists working with Motat on a new light show for Matariki which demonstrates the old can be made new again.

For this weekend's Night Lights, artists were asked to re-interpret objects in the museum's heritage collection to create new light installations. It's about showing the dynamic ways traditional and contemporary can be combined to make different types of high-tech, often interactive, art.


Regular visitors to the Museum of Transport and Technology since childhood, Foottit, Stevenson and White couldn't believe their luck when given an assignment which required them to spend time pouring over objects in Motat's collection.

Stevenson says researching how the objects were made and originally used can prompt new ways of using them in other mediums. For example, the old semaphore signal light inspired Foottit to create a three-player game featuring a control panel which looks like something you might see in Dr Who's Tardis.

"I was fascinated by the idea of light as a medium for communication," he says.

White used the brass carbide bicycle lamp as the starting point for "cycle cinema" where visitors peddle bikes - there are four of them - to see a video projection on the wall of Motat's pumphouse. He's also found historical film footage, courtesy of Nga Taonga Sound & Vision's archives, of yesteryear bikes once rode in New Zealand.

Stevenson says the Art Deco 1940s lamp, in the shape of a woman and featuring a decorative flower-shaped lightbulb holder, prompted her to draw on her dance background. She's created a "lotus pond" projection where digital flowers open as visitors move around them.

The trio picked lesser known objects, saying the challenges included making the extraordinary out of the ordinary within a strict time period. But Foottit describes the project as one driven by a passion to create something original and breath-taking.

"That's what we do," says Foottit. "We'd rather take on more challenge to achieve what we set our minds on achieving; it's driven by the idea and desire to create something great."

Other installations explore the significance of the stars of Matariki and on the New Zealand flag through Maori musical instruments, performance and moving image. Lustrous, an installation created by a group of architecture students from Unitec, uses recycled materials to give waste a new lease on life.

The installations are complemented by light activations such as a dazzling tunnel of light by La Lumiere, projection mapping, heritage trams festooned with fairy lights and floodlit heritage buildings. Visitors can also try illuminated poi and hula hooping and see the interactive exhibition, Sunlight - Ihi Komaru, which is new to Motat and tells the science-based story of sunlight.

What: Night Lights
Where & when: Motat, Friday - Sunday, 6-9pm; tickets through the Motat website