About the Project
Introduction to O-Tū-Kapua
In October 2015 Diane Blomfield invited F4 Collective to join the TEMP project. TEMP is a creative initiative that brings together scientists and leading NZ artists to reframe and refresh climate science communication. TEMP has chosen to focus on five topics - water, food, shelter, weather and air - five artist(s) and scientist(s) teams collaborating to create high impact immersive participatory experiences. F4 was paired with NIWA (the National Institute of Weather and Atmospheric Research) together we were given the theme of AIR.
We were also given the only off site project, the other TEMP themes are clustered together under the umbrella of CEAC (Corbans Estate Arts Centre), TEMP-air was partnered with Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery in Titirangi.
This partnership opened up the opportunity to work with Te Uru’s Education Team, who has been integral to the development of the TEMP-air participatory projects, hosted by the gallery in 2016 and 2017.
From the outset the TEMP-air team focused on communicating with young people, even though climate change is an intergenerational issue that affects everyone, it particularly affects the young. Throughout their lifetimes, the current generation of children will increasingly have to deal with environmental and social issues related to changes in the world's climate. Yet scientific discussions around the mechanisms, impacts, and options for adaptation predominantly exclude the input of children. Climate science is perceived to be beyond the scope of children, often categorised as dry in both subject and methods. We believe participatory projects such as this can introduce atmospheric science to children in a meaningful way, using imagery, language, music and other creative activities that enable them to creatively converse, question and understand climate science and our interdependence on the environment around us.
The TEMP-air team began working toward this goal, by January 2016 it was clear that we had lots of ideas and were keen to create some pilot projects that engaged school age children in the West Auckland community.
Our aim has been to, make visible what is invisible.
O-Tū-Kapua / My Personal Cloud
My Personal Cloud was the first pilot the TEMP-air team attempted, designed as a participatory project it included;
A waiata (song) written about the climate and how strength can be drawn from personal action by F4 member, Mercy Williams, who is fluent in both Te Reo Māori and English. The waiata was written in both languages, Mercy then taught the song to students from two schools. The Play it Strange Jam Bus then recorded the waiata with the pupils and Mercy Alberta. http://playitstrange.org.nz
At the same time, F4 designed an art workshop hosted by Iona Matheson and the Education Team at Te Uru Art Gallery. Advertised as part of Te Uru’s regular schools outreach programme, My Personal Cloud was offered to local schools as an art science project.
My Personal Cloud engaged the students in making their own personal cloud, these were then combined in the adjacent gallery to create a temporal installation made up of over 250 individual clouds - after each workshop there were 25 new clouds to hang.
Students from three schools were also videoed holding their clouds. The video portraits and the waiata were then combined into a single video that was projected under the clouds on the wall of the gallery.
The arrangement of their personal clouds into a single installation emphasized the combined effect of each student’s individual endeavours.
My Personal Cloud sought to reconfigure the voluminous size and scale of clouds emphasising their ethereal qualities, the clouds became something that fitted into the personal space of the child - each cloud was unique and yet when they were hung together they made a compelling topography, the unknowable became something to be touched and shaped. This notion of a cloud, as something personal yet universal, created connections between our need for good quality air and the way we live in the world. The clouds became familiar, their mysteries revealed yet their mystical proportions remain undiminished - the knowledge gained empowered the children and they revelled in sharing it with family and peers. To such an extent that some of the parents volunteered to be part of the project, one mother was so taken with her son's love of the project that she volunteered to install the clouds in the gallery, giving many hours of her time to this activity.
O-Tū-Kapua and the AirScience Pilot
Toward the middle of 2016, NIWA then carried out an airscience pilot in two West Auckland primary schools.
The AirScience pilot sought to making connect the students’ perceptions about the air and the sky to atmospheric and climate science. Linking perceptual experience to data, NIWA engage pupils through considering their personal hunches, and data collection in understanding their immediate environment, opening opportunities for students to consider how simple climate science.
Emphasis was placed on the students understanding the relationships between their own (qualitative) data collection and scientific data collection. Portable instruments for measuring air quality were made accessible to the students; to be used when re-visiting the local areas they had explored in their qualitative survey. The return visit with the scientific instruments provided an opportunity for them to quantify the quality of the air in those areas, engaging them in a deeper understanding about the air in their neighbourhood.
My Personal Cloud and the AirScience Pilot provided the TEMP-air team with valuable opportunities to trial creative communication strategies. Enabling us to reflect on educational strategies that introduce an awareness of the environment whilst empowering the students to gain, and share their knowledge about atmospheric science and the environment.
This knowledge led us to the development of the final iteration of the F4 & NIWA (TEMP-air team) collaboration.
Nearly a year and a half later….we’ve created this event. O-Tū-Kapua (What clouds see) is an analogue (making), physical and aural Mixed Reality installation, that encourages you to play and use your imagination, the installation is infused with a basic understanding of air quality and climate science, set within a forest. With the support of a Curious Minds Grant from MBIE, the team set about finding lots of people to help realise our dream to create an immersive, participatory environmental experience for children at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery.
This project has been a huge undertaking, and only exists because of an amazing array of inspiring people!
We were very fortunate to be able to partner with Imersia (http://www.imersia.com), who embraced this journey wholeheartedly. Dr Roy Davies, the CTO of Imersia, has contributed much of his valuable time, ensuring you can participate in this, marker based, Augmented Reality experience. Working alongside Imersia has challenged us to imagine a whole new world of interaction and to confront the realities of what we can realistically achieve, in what has often felt like a very short time frame.
The TEMP-air team expanded to encompass Dr Claudio Aguayo and James Smith from The Centre for Learning and Teaching at Auckland University of Technology. Without Claudio and James this installation would not have the depth and breadth of content, in the year they have been involved in this project they have become invaluable creative educational partners. Involving themselves willingly in many aspects of the project, not just the creation of the O-Tū-Kapua app, which was their originally brief.
Composer and fellow researcher from Auckland University of Technology, Maree Sheehan, has contributed the aural dimension to the Mixed Reality experience. The haunting stories of Hauāuru (the West Wind), and the enchanting songs of the birds and insects of the Waitakere Ranges infiltrate the gallery through the Augmented Reality accessed through the app. A larger soundscape is created when the markers are activated by a multitude of users at the same time, bring the forest alive with stories and sounds.
The visual design of O-Tū-Kapua has been supported by the creative expertise of Graphic Designer and Masters of Arts Management graduate, Olivia Boyle, who joined the team as a postgraduate student and who has contributed to the vernacular of the handdrawn aesthetic which typifies this project. Working closely with F4 member, Susan Jowsey, Olivia has infused the visual dimension of the app design with lyrical energy. Her inquisitive snail has become our app store icon and symbol for a curious mind.
Once again, the success of O-Tū-Kapua, lies in teachers bringing their classes to participate in this event. This immersive experience comes alive with the contribution of the students. The hands on making of native birds and insects by the students during the workshops, designed and facilitated by the Education Team at Te Uru, create the heart of this event, throughout the months of March and April, over 16 classes of students from West Auckland will participate in populating the forest environment, their creative artefacts will inhabit the trees, and hang from the ceiling bring the artwork to life.