“Wind-grass” by Kon Dimopoulos
Wind-grass has recently been installed in Featherston. It was created by Konstantin Dimopoulos who had very close ties with Wairarapa for the decade or so that he lived in Wellington. Dimopoulos is now resident in Melbourne and works all over the world as a public sculptor. Since 2001, when Pacific Grass was installed near Wellington airport, Dimopoulos has made many similar works. Seven of these ‘grass’ sculptures have been installed in New Zealand and fifteen overseas. In 2012 ‘grass’ sculptures have been installed in Palmerston North NZ, Seattle USA, and now Featherston. All the different installations explore different aspects of the idea because of their particular locations and arrangements. Each work has its own unique character. These and more of Dimopoulos’s work can be seen on his website (www.kondimopoulos.com).
Featherston’s Wind-grass is made up of a series of closely spaced, brown topped, yellow rods made of a carbon fibre composite material. The rods are between six and eight metres high. They wave in the wind and bang together making an irregular and engaging ‘clacking’. Because of Wairarapa’s wind, the rods are most often moving. The intensity of that movement or the rare quietness with no wind will become the way local residents will measure the weather.
I imagine this sculpture will become a reference for directions, a meeting place, a conversation point, a much photographed tourist attraction and a source of constantly changing visual enjoyment for all. The sculpture is bold and striking both visually and audibly but also, because of its proximity to pedestrians, invites passers-by to touch it and feel the resistance of the material by moving the rods to understand their strength.
Featherston has a unique and, I think, particularly successful version of Dimopoulos’s wand sculptures. Many of the twenty others he has made cover a much larger area and become a feature of the landscape, which encourages appreciation with the eye only. The Featherston work covers only a couple of square metres but maintains the proportions of a tall, standing figure. It could be a guardian of the town. This human proportion makes it much easier to identify with and relate to. Its proximity to the audience – just beside the pavement – means that little children will be able to play in it, and bigger people will touch, feel and test the material it is made of. They will get to know it in more ways than by just looking at it.
The sculpture has been funded entirely by private donation and fundraising. Although the South Wairarapa District Council now ‘owns’ the work for maintenance purposes and provided some help with its installation, no public money has been spent on the sculpture.
Public art differs from ‘everyday’ art in being required to contribute to the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of the community in which it resides. It contributes culturally and socially through the stimulation and enjoyment of the citizens and visitors and through displaying the diversity of cultural production to encourage open-mindedness. It supports economic goals by promoting innovation and creative investment. Wellington City has a very well expressed and comprehensive policy, which outlines the ways public art benefits the community and the criteria for support it must fulfill. Wellington Council, together with the Wellington Sculpture Trust and other sponsors, has raised some millions of dollars for public art projects all over the city. This investment has resulted in Wellington being acknowledged as the cultural capital of the country.
I could find no policies or comment about ‘public art’ on the websites of our Wairarapa District Councils except for Carterton’s which, interestingly, came up with ‘Waste Management’ as a search result. It seems that at least for cultural well-being, Wairarapa residents might be better off joining Wellington rather than going it alone in the upcoming local body reshuffle.