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6 Oct 2011

Preparations for Piki Mai begin

Michael Hodgson and his team of digital collaborators arrived in Nelson yesterday to commence the technical set up for Piki Mai, an audio visual artwork that will transform Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral and the Church Steps into a vibrant pulsing wall of colour and movement creating illusion on a grand scale.  Piki Mai weaves hints of the story of Nelson drawing imagery, text and audio from earlier times to create a narrative tracing the beginning of time to a world beyond.

The Piki Mai digital installation is the work of Nelson-raised video installation artist Michael Hodgson and digital artists Chris Macmillan, Dan Mace and Jay McDaniel. They have worked directly with local artist Lori Davis, her son Tom Patchett and the Nelson Provincial Museum to visually unlock various parts of Nelson’s history. 

The technology that is used to project these moving images and text onto the facades of the Steps and Cathedral is called visual mapping technology. 3D software is used to map key physical points and objects to create a 3D map of the surface. Artwork is made using this mask to take into account the 3D nature of the surface, then projected onto the structure to create amazing illusions.

Two giant projectors, each with a rating of 20,000 ANSI lumens and mounted on a 6m high scaffolding tower, will project the images and text. The technical set up will take the team 5 days to complete and test before the visual feast can be enjoyed for the first time on Saturday 8 October. Viewers can sit, relax and watch Piki Mai unfold in a specially-created Kiwiana-themed viewing area complete with picket fence and artificial grass.

Visual mapping technology was initially developed for the science and engineering industries. It was quickly adopted by musicians and DJs for live light shows at gigs, and has also been embraced by the advertising world for big brand product launches and promotions.

However, the technology really comes into its own when used for artistic expression in building projection where the real and virtual worlds intertwine. In the hands of the artists, the solid structures of the Cathedral and Church Steps become a fluid medium as moving images create stunning animated displays. Piki Mai brings snapshots of Nelson’s history to life as the Boulder Bank forms, Cathedrals rise and fall, war precedes prosperity, rockets fly and time is warped right in front of your eyes. 

This is the most ambitious building projection project that Hodgson has undertaken to date. Most building projections take place on a vertical plane on the exterior of a building, but Piki Mai is projected over a depth of 63m and rising up a staircase. “We’re really pushing the envelope on this project and taking building projection to the next level” said Hodgson. “It has been fantastic for us to have had so much creative freedom.”

The full audio visual launch will take place on Saturday 8 October, although the visual component of Piki Mai will be unveiled on Friday 7 October during the MORE FM Carnivale. Piki Mai is fifteen minutes long, and will run on a loop from darkness each evening until 24 October.  Created especially for the Game On Festival in association with the Nelson Arts Festival, Piki Mai is funded by the REAL New Zealand Festival and Nelson City Council.