Several Hiab cranes were used in the making of the biannual Headland: Sculpture on the Gulf exhibition. Several boatloads of wood, iron, wool and masking tape had to be sailed over to Waiheke Island.

Concrete plinths were poured; artwork shelters and bunkers were hammered in - all of them robust; even Gregor Kregar's fanciful Mughal-Empire-meets-Victorian-England pallet pavilion was concocted artfully enough in six days to win the Lexus Premier Award.

Six burly men carried Peter Lange's large double optical illusion, made of the artist's customary bricks, down narrow steps.

These are solid pieces; it's heavy work. If you squint, an exhibition like this is a modern-day equivalent to medieval cathedral building - different specialists working together at great expense to create something sublime.


But instead of being built to last for centuries, all this effort, of hundreds of people, is for only three short weeks of critique, inspiration and loveliness (the exhibition ends on February 17). And then it all disappears.

A "luxury", as artistic director Nansi Thompson says - all the more wonderfully decadent for its brevity.

Drawing attention to the fleetingness this year are Delicia Sampero's "Temporary" road signs. But it's not only the artworks which are impermanent, as sign placement makes clear. Beside a raupo-filled wetland - Temporary. By a rocky outcrop - Temporary. By a patch of gorse (wishful thinking?) - Temporary.

There wasn't a road sign beside Matthew Muir's miniature bach - its tiny comfortable shabbiness representing a New Zealand rapidly being consigned to nostalgic memory - but it felt temporary anyway, thanks to its precarious perch on a slope our own shoes were helping to erode, as we peered inside to get a better look.

But Lange's kitsch sea-view backdrop entitled "Every home should have one" raised the point that not everybody is privileged enough to have memories of shoreline property, and even fewer of us can actually own a bach.

This thought created ambiguity for Bev Goodwin's ostensibly unmistakable message shaved into a grassy cliff in 8m-high letters, visible from the ferry: "Not for sale." According to the guidebook it "protests that land is sold on a grand scale to foreign interests and multinational companies who want to ... pollute Aotearoa".

But it could also be about indigenous rights, or our general ambivalence about what owning shoreline means. Some might argue that New Zealanders themselves aren't that great at looking after their own land.

Is Goodwin's message also temporary? Is everything actually for sale? An orange forest of signs - temporary temporary temporary - precedes a protected piece of bush. But the bush nicely frames a view of the Matiatia Wharf; this too shall pass.


Fatalistically, I felt comforted by the reminder that neither the world nor myself is permanent. Let's make hay - swim, picnic, walk and experience art - while the sun shines on Waiheke.