TEZA 2013

#7 Day Four: Friday – What Does Occupation Look Like?

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Mose from Positive Directions Trust commandeered a space, spending the day painting.

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The Positive Directions Crew getting their morning briefing from Jay before heading out (and the tireless Jay getting a kip after doing the night shift on site security).

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Meanwhile: Sophie Jerram and Kaliya Ward at the beginning of another day of hosting.

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Lets not forget the politicians. Here’s Renew Brighton’s Rebecca May protesting with Labour hopeful Poto Williams. 11-04-03_29-11-13

Mark Harvey tries out some skipping strategies.

Lunchtime saw a presentation from our latest arrival artist Trudy Lane, Matthew Galloway and Kura Puke and Stuart Foster.

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Late in the afternoon we were invaded by 60 after-school teenagers, brought with the Youth Alive Trust. Broken into three ‘lively’ groups they worked with Dadson, Harvey and Barlow in turn, moving from a bio-plastic workshop in wharepou, to a music-making circle and out into the street trying out productive strategies.

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Friday 6pm saw the launch of Kim Paton’s website Deadweight Loss. Launch is a fancy word for a beer at the pub during Happy Hour with some really cool postcards.

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Take away the art projects and you still have what is a core part of the project – the exchanges that occur with those moving through. The site is a valued public thoroughfare so there is a sense of ownership, and when you’re hosting at the front of the site it’s a constant steady stream of interesting public conversations of great diversity. Here’s Richard  with John.

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For the evening discussion ‘What Does Occupation Look Like’ we welcomed Simon Kaan and Ron Bull Jnr straight in from Kaiapoi where they workshopped with Ngai Tuahuriri, including making flags, some of which were added to our entrance. The discussion also saw presentations from Tim Barlow and Barnaby Bennett. The day ended with a karanga from Te Urutahi Waikerepuru and a welcome into the illuminated wharepou, with Te and Kiwi Henare’s AIO now shining over it.

Also another night of Hinatore with Kura Puke and Stuart Foster.

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TEZA 2013

Response #4: Gradon Diprose

What Are We Worth?

When I was a kid my parents used to take me on Christian beach missions. We’d show up in a small beach town, pitch our tents and try and evangelise to all the holidaying families through rock music, puppet shows and bible crafts. When I first got to the TEZA site I was faintly reminded of these missions – from the tents to the New Brighton beach, to the desire expressed in many of the TEZA projects of connecting with local people. The art writer, Claire Bishop[i] has been relatively critical of some social/relational art, suggesting that in certain circumstances the artist or curator can come across a little like a patronizing cultural elitist fueled by the self-belief that their particular project is a worthwhile intervention in a certain community. So in other words – they can act a bit like a Christian evangelist.

In reflecting on these kinds of criticisms a friend and I have been having ongoing discussions about how we should think through the effects of social art practices. Not in an aesthetic art school sense (because neither of us have a fine arts background), but more in a social usefulness kind of way. We have been wondering about how you understand, or even try and trace the effects of participatory social art projects like TEZA that blur conventional distinctions between ‘art’ and ‘community’. But the very nature of most social art projects (including those of TEZA) often makes this tricky. Unless you are doing constant, tedious surveys of participants and the ‘community’, how would you ever know? And increasingly I wonder whether such questions around effect and impact reflect two other interrelated issues. Firstly, the wider audit and evaluation culture enshrined through neoliberal discourses tied up with funding criteria. And secondly, whether these questions are actually more about justifying our own anxieties around the usefulness of this kind of work in wider society.

On the Letting Space Facebook page there have been questions and discussions asking for clarification around what TEZA actually is, and what it is trying to do. There have been concerns raised that TEZA is locating itself in a community already stretched from the recent earthquakes, in a suburb suffering from two decades of socio-economic decline and dis-investment. I’m not really sure how to address these complex ethical and material questions in such a limited word count. So instead in what follows I focus on some interactions I participated in which illustrate what I believe to be the strengths of some of TEZA’s projects.

During a session on Thursday evening, artist Kerry Ann Lee held a discussion on ‘how to make art and media together’. Kerry Ann’s project for TEZA involves creating a Zine using a mixed methods qualitative research approach with local New Brighton people and others. She posed a number of questions in her session – but what interested me most was her question about what people wanted for New Brighton. One woman suggested that even having such a conversation was difficult. Yet people talked about a whole range of issues, from generational disputes between different New Brighton community groups, rebuilding issues associated with new flood planning restrictions (linked to climate change predictions), to what to do with grey silt in one’s backyard. One person mentioned a radio host who had suggested ‘putting a bomb under New Brighton’. This woman described how she ended up engaging with the radio station over this and they have asked her in for an interview. Like people, places also get demonised and hated on, yet here was a space where people were expressing their commitment to New Brighton and telling a different story. What struck me about this conversation were the ways in which people talked about the need for a new place story for New Brighton that exceeded anything too specific or fixed. A place story that went beyond the historical narrative of consumption and weekend shopping and exceeded the somewhat classed nature of east Christchurch versus west. For some in the session it seemed important to just state: ‘New Brighton will never go away’. Or in other words, we will endure and not be annihilated.

In another session entitled ‘what are you worth?’ a range of artists including Mark Harvey, Ryan Reynolds and Kerry Ann Lee spoke relatively personally about the ways more dominant societal discourses devalue their labour as artists and how they negotiate this. This session provoked discussion around how certain forms of labour are valued more than others and how alternative exchange systems like time banks can work in practice.

Unlike more formal political processes and conventional community meetings which tend to prioritise achieving measurable outcomes or actions, most of what I participated in at TEZA was not really about creating products or outcomes (although some projects definitely produced specific art-objects). Rather, the projects appeared to be as much about the process as anything. The process of being in a certain place with others, listening to artists talk about their work, and hearing about people’s hopes for, and frustrations about the places they value. Given the current political climate in Christchurch and wider Aotearoa New Zealand which has been characterized by a distinct lack of listening from politicians, I would suggest that these listening spaces facilitated through TEZA are perhaps more significant than they might first appear.

As a cultural geographer it was fascinating to see some of my discipline’s key concerns around identity and place playing out through Kerry Ann’s project and others. Yet I was also somewhat uneasy, knowing that for some New Brighton people still living in quake damaged homes and battling EQC for payouts, such discussions might seem insubstantial. However I am also mindful that the need to reflect on one’s frustrations, losses and hopes and to have these witnessed by others, can also be incredibly important. The democratic spaces I participated in and observed at TEZA were so much more open-ended than any of the beach missions I went on as a kid. And for this reason I would suggest that many of the projects managed to avoid the evangelistic overtones that writers like Claire Bishop are so critical of.


[i] Bishop, C. (2004) ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October 110, Fall, pp. 51-79.

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TEZA 2013

Response #3: Andrew Paul Wood

TEZA is, at first glance, not necessarily the easiest thing to describe. It reminds me somewhat of the Festival in Charles Stross’ Singularity Sky: an anarchic, nomadic civilisation of uploaded minds cum an alien godlike information plague. One that, originally intended to repair galactic information networks, drifts from world to world and, in return for information, even stories (it announces itself to an oppressed colony deliberately kept by its patrons in a feudal state by dropping cell phones and asking to be “entertained”), can literally give you whatever you want, resulting in total social, economic and political disruption. The Festival also contained within it (in stored form) a species that has evolved into a niche as critics providing commentary. A defence system of automated Bouncers. The chaotically dangerous Fringe which uses the planet itself as an artistic medium and thinks nothing of inducing a solar flare to paint an aurora.

TEZA though of course is far from omnipotent, lacks the scary elements, and is considerably more sensitive to its place in its host community of New Brighton – a beach-side suburb in quake-battered Christchurch East, which even before the ground intervened seemed caught in a downward economic spiral having once been a major commercial centre in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The intention seems to be to use artistic strategies to engage with the local community – creating a temporary special zone with its own rules of interaction and transaction. Like the Freetown of Christiana in Copenhagen more so than quarantined economic laboratory Hong Kong is to the People’s Republic of China. The vibe is optimism, sharing on all levels, provocative and perhaps a wee bit utopian. The theoretical structure might be loosely described as Ironic Pragmatist a la Richard Rorty in that no one is out to solve the world’s problems or even offer band aids. Rather, the intention is to provoke some thought about possible outside-the-box strategies for getting there, and the role of the arts in disrupting the received assumptions and hidebound socio-economic systems.

Interestingly TEZA also coincides with a feverishly contested by-election in Christchurch East, and so there are plenty of pollies roaming around kissing babies and pressing the flesh. One can only hope that some of the optimism, enthusiasm and lateral thinking may rub off on them. Fingers crossed – even the ACT rep paused briefly.

My TEZA tour of duty began Wednesday afternoon, by bus. For the more central suburbs, New Brighton is a bit of an unknown quantity – “here be dragons” and all that, which is a shame because it’s actually very nice and not at all the Zombie Apocalypse of popular imagination. I arrived part way through a very stimulating discussion about art, media, communication, fanzines and identity facilitated by design lecturer/ zine queen Kerry Anne Lee and local printmaker Kim Lowe. The evening culminated in a really amazing and informative presentation/discussion about nature, waste and recycling by a number of specialist businesses and community groups like Our Daily Waste, Rad Bikes, and the new Brighton Community Garden.  This was an eye-opener, finding out that some of the things we do under the impression that we are helping the environment are in fact not sustainable and mostly feel-good, but perhaps leading to a more enlightened approach in general.

In and around this were opportunities to watch Steve Carr’s short film Burnout in the mobile and miniscule Picture House – an A-frame billboard converted into a cinema for two by Heather Heywood and Tessa Peach – and a wonderful nocturnal artwork, Hinatore by Kura Puke and Stuart Foster where glow worm-like trailing strands of LEDs encoded in their natural frequency various enigmatic soundtracks to be picked by on headphones. It was magical.

The Thursday was even more intense, starting at 10am with an impromptu visit by Central New Brighton school for a Thank You Protest. It was the opposite of a protest complaining about something, and vaguely more in keeping with a Haight-Ashbury lovebombing ethos of thanks. It was such an incredibly sweet, warm fuzzy march up to New Brighton Pier and Library, better than Prozac, and repeated a little later when I travelled with Mark Amery, Mark Harvey and Tim J Veling to Freeville School for another Thank You Protest. The engagement was fantastic, more like a Wiggles concert than an arts project – but overshadowing the fun was the knowledge that the unique and progressive Freeville was one of the schools targeted for closure by Hekia Parata. In both cases the kids made their own signs announcing all of the things they loved and were grateful about New Brighton.

In and around lunch was another set of presentations, this time on social art and the “performance of democracy” by academic Graydon Diprose, and artists Heather Hayward and Tessa Peach, Richard Bartlett and Audrey Baldwin. I enjoyed Hayward and Peach, and Baldwins’s presentations – Heather and Tessa’s very much about social space interventions and relational aesthetics whereas Audrey’s inspired by more old school Abramovic-esque body/performance art applied to contemporary Christchurch situations like post-quake life, anti-rape culture protests and female sexuality.

Diprose’s thesis regarding the subjectivities of ‘work’ post the so-called ‘neoliberal consensus’ was very interesting, but I am not sure I agree with the premise that there is such a thing as a monolithic ‘neoliberal consensus’ in the first place, any more than I believed Francis Fukuyama was right about the triumph of capitalism. For one thing the political Left remains more or less Keynesian – interventionist even when donning the trappings of Third Way Blair/Clintonite neoliberal lite, which especially needs to be taken into account in an MMP system like ours. We are also beholden to countries like Saudi Arabia and China which are actually highly interventionist. Another factor is the ascendance of identity politics across the political spectrum (much like holy war replaced cold war). It also seems to me that the time banks and interventionist art groups he talks about as subverting neoliberal capitalism in some ways are inherently dependent on neoliberal capitalism for their raison d’etre in the first place and certainly for their autonomy, so it becomes quite difficult to understand them as independent of the system the operate in and respond to.  I’m being painfully reductive – I really need to read the thesis to get a full understanding.

I would have liked to have heard more about Bartlett’s involvement in Loomio – group decision-making software, an anarchist’s Facebook, but there was a bit of a random hijacking of the conversation which is par for the course.

In and around this, the truly wonderful rooster Phil Dadson perambulated around being Phil Dadson. A preeminent New Zealand sound artist, protean Dadson’s involvement took many forms, whether leading his bicycle choir around the New Brighton Mall, or popping up unexpectedly to deliver what sounded like Tibetan chants or Mongolian throat singing. The man is a national treasure.

The fantastic Mark Harvey was leading interactive collaborative performance pieces out in the street, and Thursday also saw the generous donation of a crane that lifted up the enormous tepee of Te o Marama – ‘The World of Light’, a collaboration between the inimitable Tim Barlow of Wellington and the formidable Te Urutahi Waikerepuru of Taranaki. The gigantic cone of cane struts and bioplastic and harakeke fibre skin acts as the omphalos/sacred navel of the TEZA site, anchoring it in place.

Kerry Ann Lee and Kim Lowe hosted another discussion about representation of identity in the media and methods the community can become their own media, which was a really empowering part of the day.

My evening concluded with another creative summit talk on how we value work, artistic practice as work, and ourselves. It included great projects like GapFiller and the New Brighton time bank. Time banks were a new concept to be – basically member-run labour exchanges that measure by time rather than labour. It was during this part of the evening that I started feeling a little uncomfortable. Here we were in New Brighton, one of the lowest rungs of Christchurch’s economic ladder, and it seemed to me that the issues and philosophies being discussed very much came out of a well-meaning, but relatively comfortable and middle class educated worldview with access to systems and knowledge that the folks outside the tent did not – poverty fetishism is always a risk. That’s not to undermine an important and worthwhile discussion, but I did question the relevance to the context of our host community. That’s just a minor cavil, and yet one that all such projects should be conscious of.

Can art/artists save the world? I don’t know and I doubt it, but they will contribute to that saving by opening minds and hearts and changing worldviews – no artist has ever been afraid of a blank sheet of paper. Events like TEZA are really important way of doing that. Goodwill should be considered a sustainable, renewable resource, and one rather suspects that TEZA was doing a better job of outreach than many of the politicians out there.

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TEZA 2013

#5 Day Three Thank You Protests in video and pictures

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Thursday began with a school coming to us, and us going to them. Entirely on their own initiative (having recieved the general invitation to participate) Central New Brighton School students arrived unannounced with Thank You signs.
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So we headed off down the mall on one of Mark Harvey’s Thank You Marches.

We ended up at the Pier only to find – you guessed it – some politicians.

Then it was in the van on a field trip to North New Brighton and Freeville School. Something like half of the families of the school have houses in the Red Zone and this is a school soon to close and be merged. Tim J Veling was our guide, having already spent extensive time here with the students developing works which see them consider the future of their school site. Here’s some of the more vacated surroundings.

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The result of a power workshop (highlighting how well these students work as groups with the seniors helping the juniors) was a Thank You March around the block, to a chorus of barking dogs.

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It was all over in 45 minutes with a rousing Thank You waiata and haka before we left.

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Images: Mark Amery and Bayley Corfield

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TEZA 2013

#6 The raising of Te Ao Marama – Day Three Continued

Lunch on Wednesday 27 November saw presentations from Gradon Diprose (recently arrived from Wellington to join us), Heather Hayward and Tessa Peach (Makeshift), Audrey Baldwin (The Social)  and Richard Bartlett (Loomio). Here are Heather and Tessa discussing their work.

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Afterwards Phil Dadson led everyone in a practise of his TEZA sonic cycle composition.

The afternoon was notable for the raising of Te Ao Marama (now clad) with the help of a crane (provided generously for free by Elevate).

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Proceedings were watched by quite a crowd including Labour candidate Poto and Audrey from the Community Garden.

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Here is some video of the raising.

Phil Dadson headed out on some solo vacant space aural performances

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And Tim J Veling, David Cook and their group of Canterbury students continued the mammoth effort of installing their collaborative work with Freeville School Students in a vacant space at the bottom of the mall.

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A highlight of the evening discussion on What Are You Worth? was Ash Holwell’s contribution of a red zone foraged salad and flowers, a parting gift as he left the zone.

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After dark things got busy with the light works with the first testing of Te Urutahi and Kiwi Henare’s AIO down by the pier, with a few friendly locals joining in. Images to follow, but it was magical onsite to come out of the discussion and see three lights piercing the cloud cover above.

Back on site Kura Puke and Stuart Foster’s Hinatore got a second night development on a wall. One simple word best describes it, as Andrew Paul Wood comments in our critical responses: ‘magical’.

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Images: Gabrielle McKone, Hannah Watkinson, Tim J Velling and Mark Amery

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TEZA 2013

Response#2: Mel Oliver

To reckon with the complex experience of social work means reckoning with its force as both support and constraint. What a pleasure; what a pain. Whether imagined in our ambivalent relation to kinship systems or our ambivalent relation to social institutions, all of these affects seem destined to accompany the choreography of the supporting act. But navigating that ambivalence seems necessary to perform our connection to the future now of people whom we may never know. Navigating that ambivalence on both intimate and public scales structures both the force and the provisionality of the promises we make to intimates and to strangers.[1]

New Brighton Mall was a happening place in the 1960s. It was the Saturday trading, the unique allowance for this block of shops to open on a few sacred weekend hours, that drew crowds from all around Christchurch. With the introduction of Saturday and then Sunday trading to the rest of New Zealand from the 1980s, the New Brighton Mall retail activity sharply declined and the area has since struggled to maintain its former vibrancy. Situating the Temporary Economic Zone Aotearoa (TEZA) project in the heart of this derelict shopping precinct thereby invokes a history of commercial exchange as the lure for people to come together, highlighting our traditional reliance on consumption as the means to create a sense of community.

TEZA occupies a patch of land in the middle of New Brighton Mall, adjacent to the Work and Income New Zealand office, a range of small businesses and empty shops. Various other organisations utilise this previously vacant lot for their activities and the setting is an alternative community hub of sorts. For this one week, Letting Space have claimed it as a small zone of respite from the financial systems that typically underpin society, facilitating a range of artist projects that endeavor to encompass and integrate other factors influential to an economy, such as happiness, indigenous knowledge or environmental concerns.

The first evening discussion, ‘Optimism without a permit’, failed to articulate much other than that this was a room of committed optimists, and I suppose was a warm up rather than setting of tone for the week. Hope is a beautiful thing, yet unless it is grounded in focused action, critical reflection and addressed to the issues at hand, a Pollyanna attitude is not necessarily constructive.

In contrast to this, the individual artist responses to the TEZA provocation have each developed specific projects with groups in New Brighton. For example, Tim J Veling and David Cook are working with Freeville School to create a new photographic mural; Kerry Ann Lee is putting together a zine; Phil Dadson is establishing a bicycle choir; Kim Paton is building a website for information on waste forecasting; and Mark Harvey is encouraging participants to make spontaneous interventions in the daily activities of strangers on the street. Given the nature of their works, the artists all face the particular difficulties of finding, creating or working with a new community, and must tackle the usual challenges for relational projects that demand flexibility in authorship, a collaborative outcome, and considerable energy to negotiate and engage with people. There is an openness and personal commitment to these small communities though, and as they develop the projects are following a series of threads that reflect the diversity of interests and individuals. The weather has put a dampener on activities, the rain and chill discouraging casual hanging out, but this hasn’t affected the spirits of those involved and there is considerable warmth inside the TEZA tent.

The debate that has arisen on Facebook seems focused on who can, is or should be associated with TEZA, revealing a disjunction between insiders and outsiders, intimates and strangers in relation to this event. Curated by Letting Space, the selection of community engagement projects were accompanied by an open invitation to the public, albeit with a specific focus in mind. However, simply dropping into the TEZA site, either physically or online, is not an especially fruitful way to experience any of the works or the project as a whole. Observing is not enough here, yet to participate requires slowing down – potentially frustrating for those accustomed to a certain way of encountering and spending time with contemporary art, and confusing for those who aren’t.

Instead of an easily digested moment, what TEZA seems to have successfully achieved is meaningful engagement with local organisations like Renew New Brighton and the Positive Directions Trust, acting to provide support, visibility, connection and recognition within a new context. A number of young men from PDT attended the Tuesday lunchtime speaking session, as well as the Labour Party MP Shane Jones. In addition to this, Metiria Turei and some Green party folk were on site in the afternoon, obviously expecting to find either good photo opportunities or a sympathetic audience.

Letting Space are known for their ability to work across disparate institutions and publics, embracing both social activism and visual arts to create projects that rethink how contemporary art can operate in relation to community. The appearance of these political representatives suggests that TEZA has here navigated institutional structures in a way that enabled their concept to be considered seriously beyond the frame of art, as both support and constraint.

With so much still in process, I’m looking forward to seeing the culmination of projects, relationships and talks at the end of the week – potentially a new kind of Saturday trading in action.


[1] Shannon Jackson, Social Works: performing art, supporting publics, Routledge: New York, 2011, p. 247.

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TEZA 2013

#4 Day Two in Pictures

tezawednesday-19Handy having some artists around in the sign department. Thanks to Kim Lowe, Kerry Ann Lee, Martin Trustrum and Artbox for the material.

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This morning we farewelled Letting Space co-producer Helen Kirlew Smith. You won’t have seen many photos of Helen thus far, that’s because she’s been the glue that has made this possible. Tirelessly working through the logistics that saw everyone arrive, accommodated, fed and the site looked after.

Also in the morning Mark Harvey launched his first ‘Thank You Protest’ for New Brighton

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Lunchtime we were blessed with a visit from Stuart Griffiths from Dunedin, a mentor to a number of our artists. We had  a great lunchtime session with Tim J Veling and David Cook on their Freeville Project, and then we welcomed to TEZA Wellington artist Kalya Ward, who discussed her current evolving work on the Avon/Okataro and its play with memory of Christchurch as a former resident now working at a distance.tezawednesday-36

Our final presentation was from Ash Howell on his work with a Natural History Museum in Europe. Ash also today launched a blog based work he is completing at TEZA: The Textural Noise Zone of Aotearoa.

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We have had no end of politicians of all persuasions, and its actually been something of a pleasure to have their ear (and us theirs) and for them to hang out. MP Shayne Jones joined us for lunch.

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And Greens Co-leader Metiria Turei with New Brighton candidate David Moorhouse hung out in the afternoon.

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Kim Paton meanwhile has been busy adding content to her new website  as part of her project Deadweight Loss.

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The muka-emplanted bioplastic coating for Te Ao Marama started to go on this afternoon and Tim Barlow also held a bioplastics workshop (these continue for the next three days).
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Our theme Wednesday, appropriately, was Nature Knows No Waste, the evening discussion involving Our Daily Waste, Spacecraft (Wikihouse), Free Store, Radbikes, New Brighton Community Gardens and others.

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We were delighted to welcome back after a day back in Wellington Stuart Foster and Kura Puke who trialled for the first time elements of their new work Hinatore in the Whare Toi – sound emitting trails of LED lights.

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Images: Gabrielle McKone, Kalya Ward and Mark Amery

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