A quick 15 minute drive from downtown Wellington, Zealandia Ecosanctuary is an oasis amongst the craziness of Wellington city, and a welcome reprieve from the weekly grind. The history and story behind Zealandia is intriguing; as the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, it has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, 6 of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. This all in line with their extraordinary mission to restore Wellington’s valley forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state.
The fence of Zealandia allows a remarkably rare blend of birds, reptiles, insects and more to thrive and flourish, living wild within a ruggedly gorgeous jungle valley stretching across one square mile. Keep your eyes peeled, and your camera at the ready, as you never know when you will confront a red-beaked Takahē sidling along down the path (I never did, sadly). Don’t get me started on the insects… let’s just say you most likely hope you do not have any run-ins with these knarly dudes (how do insects that big even exist?!)
After being plopped into one urban jungle after another (and loving it of course), I always jump at the chance to immerse myself in some real nature, even if just for a little while. Walking through this wonderland of green, sweet silence punctuated only by breezes and a wild symphony of bird calls and insect humming, watching the sunlight stream through feathery ferns – I could stay here for hours.. and hours. You may want to! Whether you are a seasoned bird watcher or a Wellington drop-by visitor, Zealandia has something for you – there are many different pathways and combinations thereof, so you can make your trek as long, short, challenging or relaxing as you like, and just revel in the pure loveliness of this very true sanctuary.
Find more info about the park at http://visitzealandia.com
STAY WILD xxx
Brisbane’s renowned Gallery of Modern Art is turning 10!! Happy Birthdayyyyy to GOMA! Several striking exhibits are claiming a home at GOMA for the celebration, and they are not only incredible, intellectual and meaningful, but pure fun – I visited GOMA twice within one week in Brisbane and would keep going back and back to see (and hear!) more of this unique museum.
Sugar Spin – You, Me, Art, and Everything
Headlining the celebrations of GOMA’s 10th birthday is the exhibit ‘Sugar Spin,’ featuring over 250 contemporary artworks exploring light, space, architecture and the senses. Large scale and immersive works invite visitors to interact with and appreciate these incredible works of art that fully plunge one into an exploration of our complex connection with the natural world. An effort to reach deeper understanding of the art leads one into meaningful discovery, while the installations themselves are necessarily fantastic and fun even superficially. Here are some of my favorite experiences of Sugar Spin:
Stroke the furry wall:
Entering GOMA, I was immediately confronted by an expansive FURRY WALL-literally. This thing crawls up the wall to a height of about 15 meters, and it looks a bit like Monsters, Inc. exploded everywhere inside the museum. Aka, IT IS F*@#ING AMAZINGGG. Go stroke the furry wall, just get involved. Snuggle it, cuddle it, pet it… whatever you feel like, but just enjoy it! This oasis of happiness is made of multicolored synthetic hair (a lot of it), by Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (Shoplifter) and is titled Nervescape V. Bright, strange, immersive and even grotesque, this fuzzy phenomenon will draw you in and keep you for a while, if nothing else for some of the best insta pics you’ll ever take.
Be a bird watcher for the day:
A room on the second floor of GOMA has been reserved solely for one of the most peculiar and lovely exhibits of GOMA’s 10th birthday- the finch room. This live work is the magic of artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, who initially trained as a musician and composer before turning his hand to the visual art, perhaps the clear impetus for this very sonically-oriented work. The cheerful chirping of colorful finches, flitting back and forth between wire hangars and little wooden boxes, permeates a mellow soundscape, creating a meditative and pleasant sound and surrounding. I could have spent hours in here, mesmerized by the beauty of the birds and the sound itself; this artist knew what he was creating indeed.
Sleep with giants:
WOAH- wait, what?! This was more or less my initial reaction when walking into the exhibit room hosting In Bed, by Ron Mueck. A life sized (psh-NO-bigger, much bigger than life-sized!!!) woman lies in a bed on the floor and I swear she just watches you as you approach her. Is she content, tired, troubled… even pained? Not quite sure, and neither is anyone else. The plaque explaining the work actually examines these very questions, and comments on how the realistic nature of the work allows the viewer to perhaps interpret the work as they will, but leaves the true nature of the woman’s mood a mystery. Let’s just say it’s incredible, but I wouldn’t want to be alone with this one after hours… let’s not relive Night at the Museum.
Wheeeeee! Meet you at the bottom!
Slide down one of two tube slides that connect the third floor to the lobby – c’mon, you know you want to. Just don’t be carrying your cameras or pet poodles- they won’t let you on with too many loose objects. Artist Carsten Höller is behind this installation, with a purpose to reexamine expectations about art, i.e. what place does a giant slide have in a serious art museum?? Well, who cares. It’s awesome.
Stare into the depths of Anish Kapoor’s works – either the giant red circular piece, occupying its own room on the gallery floor – or his more minimal blue piece in the same room as a giant dragonlike snake skeleton, alongside several other striking works.
Dance with magical horses:
Immerse yourself in Herd, the fantastical group of horses brought to life in a backdrop video and through human performance. This vibrant room is brought to life by sculptor and performance artist Nick Cave, and is one to spend some moments in. Walk down the rows and look closely; each horse is so unique and beautiful, and just from a short glance, I experienced so many different observations of the art, from interpretation to feeling and even noticing how the different fabrics of the horses’ headdresses are reminiscent of several specific cultures.
Revisit your childhood love of LEGOs!
On the top floor of the gallery, thousands of white Lego pieces have been joined by visitors to form and reform an imaginary and spectacular cityscape; you can place the Legos however you wish and can build any shape or structure that you want, thus creating and re-creating the idea of cities in Olafur Eliasson’s interactive The cubic structural evolution project.
Go on, check out GOMA and wish it a Happy Birthday while you’re at it! Summer is a fantastic time to visit, but Sugar Spin is amazingly worth the visit. (Ok, ok, I am indeed overly obsessed with the giant technicolor fuzzy wall, but WHO ISN’T?!) This place is on Trip Advisor’s top ten list for a reason, but that doesn’t make it a tourist trap. If you are remotely interested in art or just want to have some fun with a few hours in Brisvegas, I would highly recommend a visit.
I would love to hear in your comments below about your own experiences at GOMA or how you feel it compares to other modern art houses, and what your favorite aspect of art and museum viewing in a foreign place is; what is the meaning of traveling to see art for you? Is it meaning, experience, visual, or something else?