Art Lecturer Invades Space at Te Papa

11 May 2016

The Wellington waterfront has recently been upgraded with a touch of Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

Kereama Taepa, a lecturer of the new Bachelor of Creative Technologies, is the latest artist to have his work selected, commissioned and featured by the Wellington Sculpture Trust as part of their biennial 4 Plinths Sculpture Project.

Standing in the forecourt of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for the next two years, ‘a (very) brief history of aotearoa’ includes four giant symbols of New Zealand’s colonial history: a Māori meeting house representing Māori habitation; a mitre representing the missionaries and early European settlement; a crown representing the Queen and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi; and a beehive representing the current government. 
Perhaps the most striking and attention-getting feature of the installation is that the symbols have been styled into pixilated aluminium figures reminiscent of the iconic 1978 “Space Invaders” arcade video game.
“I grew up around video games,” says Mr Taepa, “so this was about trying to make these really big issues in our history – like colonisation, assimilation and appropriation – approachable by using something that appeals to a wider and younger audience than the history university lectures I had to sit through.”

The meeting house, mitre, crown and beehive loom above giant QR codes, enticing passers by to interact with the sculptures by using their smartphone to scan the code that takes them to a mobile app with icons matching the artwork’s sculptures.

“What was hard case was that at the project’s installation, all the shapes were laying on the ground and all these youngsters were telling their parents what they were. It was pretty rad that these 10-year-olds knew what the “Space Invaders” aesthetic looked like and could relate to it, yet that game is older than me!”
Mr Taepa says he is proud to be the fifth artist featured in the high-profile series and to have his creations on display heading into the initiative’s 10-year anniversary.

“My goal is always just to be finalised, that in itself is an award. But to actually come away with such a prominent project is just awesome.

“What’s more, this project has everything to do with our new Bachelor of Creative Technologies. The creative process is essentially what this qualification is all about; we’re teaching people how to be creative and how to develop both their creative processes and practices.”

The Level 7 degree focuses on developing the next generation of artists’ creative and business skills in order for graduates to be able to survive professionally under their own label.

“Contracts, deadlines and all sorts of crazy stuff boil down into projects like this. You have to wear your creative, project management, business skills and accounting hats all at once to ensure a project like this can get to fruition. Through examples like this we can illustrate to students exactly how multi-faceted tomorrow’s artists must be.”

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