Event combines art, science

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Tales of the sea . . . "Oku Moana (My Oceans)" art and science exhibition and community activity programme co-organiser Pam McKinlay (left) and performer Ahi Kaitahi-Mullane (18) are looking forward to the large-scale community event, which opens at the Dunedin Community Gallery today. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Art and science will meet in “Oku Moana (My Oceans)”, an exhibition and community event celebrating both Puaka Matariki and the New Zealand International Science Festival.

Co-curated by Dunedin artist Pam McKinlay and University of Otago Centre for Science Communication lecturer Dr Jenny Rock, “Oku Moana (My Oceans)” will include visual art, marine storytelling, workshops and hands-on art-based activities.

“We will take a paddle along the shores of the near future to see what influence 2-degree [C] warming will have on the everyday life of our marine neighbours in the Otago Harbour,” Ms McKinlay said.

Based at the Dunedin Community Gallery from July 9 to 13, the event was a collaboration between local artists, musicians, weavers, film-makers and scientists to merge scientific data with art, interactive displays and activities, she said.

Among the many fascinating facts about the ocean to be explored would be the story of the coccolithophores – tiny, single-celled phytoplankton that are vital to the earth’s atmosphere.

“Phytoplankton are more important to our atmosphere than the whole of the earth’s rainforests, and they are sensitive to global warming’s evil twin – acidification.

“So these coccolithophores will be our critters of the week, and will be the basis of stories and activities.”

A large team of volunteers, including students from the Centre for Science Communication and Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin School of Art, will be involved in running workshops and activities from 10am to 4pm each day.

“There are going to be a lot of opportunities for children and adults to be involved in creating community artworks – it’s going to be a busy space.”

There would even be a chance for children to have a go at telling their best fish jokes during an open-mic session.

The “Oku Moana (My Oceans)” artworks were responding to scientific research and also telling stories of scientists and their field work, McKinlay said.

While it would explore issues of concern, the event would aim to take a positive view and share a message of hope on how people could take action on the environment.

“We will be keen to give people options on how they can help, including beach clean-ups.”

Collected plastic would be gathered during the week and woven into a community artwork to be sent to Wellington as a message from Dunedin, she said.

For more information on sessions, visit the “Oku Moana (My Oceans)” Facebook page.